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Your pharmacy degree likely cost you a bundle. Pharmacy school tuition can vary widely depending on what school you attend, and whether you qualify for in-state or out-of-state tuition. Data compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy pegs the low end of in-state tuition at just over $5,000, and around $84,000 on the high end.
Grants, scholarships, and federal student loans should be the first options you pursue to pay for pharmacy school. When you use federal loans, you have access to numerous benefits, including income-driven repayment plans, forbearance options, and student loan forgiveness programs.
Federal and state student loan forgiveness programs available to pharmacy students can save borrowers thousands of dollars.
Here’s what to know about pharmacist student loan forgiveness and how you may qualify for it:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- State-based programs
- National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Program
- Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program
- Health Resources and Services Administration Faculty Loan Repayment Program
- Armed Forces Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
- Refinancing your student loans
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work for a qualified organization in a qualifying job, the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program allows you to have any remaining federal student loan balance forgiven after you make 120 qualifying payments.
- Work for a federal, state, local, or tribal government, or a not-for-profit organization
- Have federal Direct Loans or consolidate your federal student loans to a Direct Consolidation Loan
- Be on an income-driven repayment plan (the U.S. Department of Education waived this requirement through October 2022)
- Submit a PSLF certification form each year or if you change employers.
If you took advantage of federal loan pandemic deferment while you were enrolled in the PSLF Program, the months in deferment will apply toward the total you owe. However, grace periods, in-school status, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses won’t qualify toward months paid.
When you’re applying for participation in the PSLF Program, you should pay extra attention to the requirements. A few essential things you’ll want to look out for include:
- Not all not-for-profit organizations qualify borrowers for repayment. If you want to utilize PSLF, make sure that the organization you choose to work with qualifies.
- Make sure your loan type qualifies. Only federal Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF. If you have a different kind of federal student loan (unsubsidized, for example), you can consolidate it into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan and qualify that way.
- Ensure that you’re up to date on your employer certification form, so you don’t unknowingly unqualify. You’ll need to resubmit paperwork annually or if you switch jobs.
- You need to make your loan payments through an income-driven repayment plan, like the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), or Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plans.
Keep track of all your payments and working time. Once you’ve completed 120 qualifying payments, you can apply to have your loans forgiven. Any loan amounts forgiven through PSLF aren’t taxable.
State-based programs allow student loan borrowers with federal loans to qualify for loan forgiveness on a portion of or all their student loans. The amount waived varies based on the state program.
If you don’t qualify for federal student loan forgiveness, you may be able to qualify for a state program.
The following table outlines state-based programs, including the program’s name and the amount borrowers may have forgiven. This table is just a sample of available programs. Other options may be available in your state.
|Federal||Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)||Borrowers with Direct Loans are eligible for forgiveness under the PSLF program after 10 years of repayment. The repayment timeline began in 2007, so only payments made after this date will contribute toward the 120 payments needed to ensure student loan forgiveness|
|Federal||The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC)||
|Federal||Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Researchers (LRP-CR)||Up to $50,000 per year for two years, maximum $100,000 payout|
|Federal||National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Program||Up to $50,000 per year for two years for a maximum of $100,000; may renew at the end of two years|
|Federal||Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program||Up to $50,000 for two years of full-time service or $25,000 for two years of part-time service|
|Alaska||Support for Service to Health Care Practioners (SHARP-1)||Up to $47,000 per year for two years|
|Arizona||Arizona State Loan Repayment Program||Up to $95,000 for six years of service in underserved communities|
|California||California State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)||Maximum of $50,000 for initial obligation year and up to $20,000 per year for the following two years|
|Colorado||Colorado Health Service Corps||Maximum of $60,000 for three years of service|
|Idaho||State Loan Repayment Program||$25,000 per year up to $50,000 maximum for two-year service agreement|
|Kentucky||Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program||Maximum of $100,000 for two years of service in an underserved area|
|Massachusetts||Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program||Maximum of $50,000 over two years|
|Minnesota||Minnesota Rural Pharmacist Loan Forgiveness||$24,000 per year for up to four years for a maximum of $96,000|
|Nebraska||Nebraska Loan Repayment||Maximum of $100,000|
|New Mexico||Health Professional Loan Repayment Program||Up to $35,000 per year with at least a two-year service agreement|
|North Dakota||State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)||Up to $50,000 per year for full-time or $25,000 for half-time service|
|Oregon||Oregon Health Care Provider Loan Repayment||Up to $50,000 per obligation year (required three years) for a maximum of $150,000|
|Rhode Island||Health Professional Loan Repayment Program||Varies per applicant|
|Washington||Washington Health Corps||Maximum of $75,000 for a three-year commitment|
National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Program
The National Institute of Health (NIH) offers repayment programs that allow borrowers to have up to $50,000 of their qualified student loan debt forgiven per year. Congress established the program to recruit talented professionals into biomedical and research careers.
The NIH programs offer loan forgiveness for four groups, including clinical research, pediatric research, health disparities research, and research in emerging areas critical to human health.
To qualify, borrowers may have federal or private student loans. This loan repayment program is better suited for pharmacists in lower-paying jobs as borrowers must have qualifying debt that totals 20% or more of their annual base salary. Borrowers must work in a qualified research role for at least two years to qualify.
Borrowers may apply each year they qualify.
Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps launched the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program to encourage professionals to work in medication and behavioral health counseling in underserved areas.
Qualified borrowers can have up to $75,000 of their student loans forgiven if they work in a qualified facility for three years. Borrowers who work part-time in a qualified facility for three years may have up to $37,500 of their student loans forgiven.
To qualify, borrowers must work as a provider that accepts Medicaid, Medicare, and state-based child healthcare programs. In addition, borrowers must work in an approved NHSC facility with a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) score too low to qualify for NHSC funding. In addition, qualified borrowers must actively work to improve their sites’ NHSC mental health or primary care HPSA score.
Health Resources and Services Administration Faculty Loan Repayment Program
The Health Resources and Services Administration Faculty Loan Program aims to increase qualified nursing faculty across the country. Eligible borrowers can have up to $40,000 of their student loans forgiven. Borrowers must work full-time for two years post-graduation at a health professions school.
Qualified borrowers must be from the United States or U.S. Territories. Additionally, borrowers must come from a disadvantaged background (based on economic and environmental factors). Borrowers must have a contract to work with an accredited school for at least two years to qualify for the loan forgiveness program.
Students in multiple medical programs (including pharmacy, osteopathic medicine, dentistry, optometry, and nursing) qualify for this loan forgiveness program.
Check Out: How to Pay Off $100K in Student Loans
Armed Forces Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
Students who borrow money for pharmacy school may have up to $120,000 in student loan debt forgiven through the Armed Forces Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program.
Borrowers can receive up to $40,000 per year for up to three years when they agree to serve on active duty in the military or serve in the Army Reserve. Only active-duty military members qualify for loan forgiveness through this program.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
Pharmacy school students can repay up to $40,000 with the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program. To qualify, borrowers must commit to working for two years in health facilities that service American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
All healthcare professionals are eligible for the loan repayment program, but the payments will only apply to education expenses directly related to your chosen medical program. Borrowers may reapply for the loan repayment program once completed, and priority is given to those seeking renewal over new applicants.
Refinancing your student loans
If you don’t qualify for any of the federal student loan forgiveness programs, refinancing your student loans could help you save money on the total cost of your loan.
Federal student loans have a fixed rate that Congress sets each year. If you take out a new loan each year, you could leave pharmacy school with multiple student loan payments, all with slightly different interest rates. You could consolidate all your federal student loans into one federal Direct Consolidation Loan (if you’d like to continue accessing federal student loan benefits), or you could refinance them into a private student loan.
Consolidating your payments will simplify your budget and make it easier to track your loan payments. However, you likely won’t save much money since the U.S. Department of Education will use the average of all interest rates on your student loans to determine the rate on your consolidation loan. This rate won’t change the entire time you have the loan.
Refinancing your federal student loans into a private loan allows you to combine multiple student loans into a new loan with one monthly payment and potentially a lower interest rate. Private student loan rates currently range from 1% to 13%.
But you should be aware that if you refinance federal student loans into a private loan, you can’t refinance back into a federal loan. Private loans don’t offer benefits that come with federal loans, like income-driven repayment plans, graduated repayment terms, or loan forgiveness programs.
No matter what route you choose, you have options to help you make your pharmacy school education more affordable.
The student loan consolidation companies in the table below are Credible’s approved partner lenders. Because they compete for your business through Credible, you can request rates from all of them by filling out a single form. Then, you can compare your available options side-by-side. Requesting rates is free, doesn’t affect your credit score, and your personal information is not shared with our partner lenders unless you see an option you like.
|Lender||Variable rates from (APR)||Fixed rates from (APR)|
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Jimmy Karnezis contributed to the reporting for this article.