If you’re in medical school or a recent graduate, it’s likely that you’ve accumulated an intimidating pile of student loans to pay the high costs of your extensive education. For doctors that graduated in 2013, 86% came out of med school with student loans and the average debt load per student was $170,000. Close to 80% graduated owing at least $100,000 and 63% owe $150,000 or more. Most didn’t come to medical school with debt – 65% had no student loans prior to beginning their advanced education.
And once you graduate, loan payments for doctors can be overwhelming. Data prepared by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that for a medical school graduate owing $175,000, monthly loan payments during residency will average $300 and post-residency will be $1,500-$2,300. That’s a staggering student loan payment to cope with even with ample earnings. Primary care doctors average $220,000 in earnings and specialists earn closer to $400,000 – but starting salaries are much more modest.
For a primary care physician, starting salary is closer to $150,000-$170,000, which means your student loan payments will consume, on average, 16% of earnings. That’s not too bad, all things considered, but if you could avoid that hefty student loan bill, wouldn’t that be even better? But unless you want to sign on with Uncle Sam for a stint in the military to get some loan relief or work for lower wages in public service to qualify for loan forgiveness, there aren’t many options for dealing with insurmountable debt.
But a recent program from a Wisconsin medical group – Ministry Health – will pay up to $200,000 in student loans for physicians that commit to serving in rural areas for a five year tenure. To qualify for this generous repayment program, you need not have graduated from a Wisconsin university, but must be willing to live and work there for a time. The communities that are served are rural areas, so this is not the gig for someone that thrives on the bright lights of the big city. But if you like peace, quiet and immense debt relief, it’s worth considering.
Here are the requirements for Ministry Health’s Medical Student Loan Repayment Program:
• Must have completed an education program that qualifies you to be licensed as a physician in Wisconsin
• Must specialize in primary care, which can include: family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics or pediatric internal medicine
• Must have completed internship and residency in your area of specialty
• Must be prepared to live and work in one of the rural areas where Ministry has a facility
The areas where Ministry Health maintains facilities and eligible positions may be found are: Amherst, Crandon, Eagle River, Iola, Laona, Merrill, Owen, Plover, Rhinelander, Rib Mountain, Stanley, Stevens Point, Thorp, Tomahawk, Waupaca, Weston and Woodruff. The program pays up to $50,000 per year on your student loans, maxing at $200,000.
This year’s deadline to apply for a position that offers student loan relief is March 3, 2014. The application can be found on the Ministry Health’s web page for the program – click on the Apply Now tab. That page also contains details about what is required to participate and contact information for the program.
If you come out of college with $100k or more in loans, it makes sense to look for alternatives to paying that much out of pocket even if your earnings are impressive. And the quicker you can get out of debt, the less interest you’ll pay and the quicker you can move on to a brighter financial future.
Sign up for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool to track all your student loans – federal and private – keep an eye on your payments and chart your progress toward payoff. Our Student Loan Help Center and our blog have tons of information on alternate repayment plans and strategies for getting out of debt faster, loan forgiveness and other tips.