Student Loan Forgiveness For Veterinarians

Your love for animals drove you to pursue a career as a veterinarian. But you’re less thrilled about your student loans, which are becoming increasingly common among those that work in veterinary medicine.

Outstanding student loan debt is growing 4.5 times as fast as incomes for new veterinary school graduates, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The average balance for all students was $157,146, while the average starting salary was $90,722.

If you’re struggling with your student loan debt, you may be eligible for veterinary loan forgiveness programs that can reduce or even eliminate your loans.

How Does Student Loan Forgiveness Work for Veterinarians?

Student loan forgiveness programs for veterinarians typically work as incentive programs. For example, in exchange for committing to work in areas with shortages of licensed veterinarians, a portion of your loans is forgiven.

Veterinarians can receive student loan forgiveness from the federal government, national agencies and individual states.

Although the requirements vary by program, you generally need to have:

  • Qualifying education debt: Typically, that means federal or private student loans from banks or credit unions. Other forms of debt, such as credit card balances, personal loans or home equity loans used to cover educational expenses aren’t eligible for veterinarian forgiveness programs.
  • A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree: Your DVM degree must be from a school accredited by the AVMA.

Federal Loan Forgiveness for Veterinarians

Individuals with federal student loans may be eligible for a federal loan forgiveness program. You can qualify for these programs even if you leave the field of veterinary medicine to pursue another career path.

Veterinarians often deal with intense stress and burnout and decide to transition to another industry, so taking advantage of these programs could reduce some of those stressors. There are two federal student loan forgiveness programs:

Income-driven Repayment

Eligible loans: Federal student loans

If you have federal loans, one option is to enroll in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. With an IDR plan, the government recalculates your payments based on a longer loan term. Your new payment is determined by your family size and discretionary income. Depending on your situation, your payments may be significantly lower than what you pay now.

If you have a balance at the end of your new loan term—either 20 or 25 years, depending on the IDR plan—the remaining loan balance is forgiven. You can enroll in an IDR plan by contacting your loan servicer or by submitting an application online.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Some veterinarians may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), but it depends on the type of loans you have and your employer.

You can qualify for PSLF if you have federal Direct student loans and work for a qualifying nonprofit organization or government agency full-time for 10 years while making 120 qualifying monthly pay,ments. Under the rules for PSLF, payments made under IDR plans count toward the 120 required payments.

As a veterinarian, you may qualify for PSLF if you work for a nonprofit animal welfare organization, shelter or government agency like the Department of Agriculture. Veterinarians in private practice, or those that work for for-profit companies, are not eligible.

Tip: Use the federal PSLF Help tool to find out if your loans and employer qualify for PSLF.

National Repayment Programs for Veterinarians

National repayment programs operate separately from federal loan forgiveness programs. They typically require a service commitment of one to five years and may provide assistance with private loans.

The three national student loan repayment programs are available from government agencies:

Active Duty Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program (ADHPLRP)

Eligible loans: Federal student loans

Veterinarians that enlisted in the Army may be part of the Veterinary Corps, a division that provides care to military working dogs, ceremonial horses and family pets.

Under the ADHPLRP, eligible veterinarians can receive up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance for each year of participation, for a maximum of $120,000. The active duty obligation is three years.

Faculty Loan Repayment Program

Eligible loans: Federal and private student loans

The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Faculty Loan Repayment Program provides eligible participants with up to $40,000 in student loan repayment assistance in return for a two-year service commitment.

To qualify, you must:

  • Work for an eligible school as a full-time or part-time faculty member
  • Come from an economically or environmentally disadvantaged background (for example, belonging to a low-income household or being the first in the family to attend college)
  • Have a DVM degree
  • Have an official agreement from your employer stating that they will participate in the program

Both federal and private student loans are eligible for repayment assistance through this program. However, it does not apply to parent PLUS loans.

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)

Eligible loans: Federal and private student loans

Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), you could receive up to $25,000 per year toward eligible veterinarian student loan debt. In return, you must agree to work in a designated veterinarian shortage area for at least three years.

To qualify, you must:

  • Work in a designated shortage area and spend a portion of your time practicing food supply veterinary medicine or public practice
  • Have a DVM degree
  • Have at least $15,000 in qualifying education debt

State-based Veterinarian Loan Forgiveness

Eligible loans: Varies by program

Many states are experiencing shortages of veterinarians, so some states operate their own loan repayment assistance programs to encourage licensed veterinarians to live and work in shortage areas. Here are a couple of examples of state programs:

  • North Dakota State Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program: In North Dakota, food animal veterinarians can receive up to $80,000 in student loan repayment assistance in exchange for working in a high-need, rural area. To get the full amount, you must work for four years for a qualifying employer. The program can assist veterinarians with both federal and private student loans.
  • Minnesota Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program: In exchange for a five-year commitment to work full-time in high-need, rural areas in Minnesota, eligible veterinarians can get up to $75,000 in student loan repayment assistance over five years.

Not all states offer loan repayment programs for veterinarians, but many do. You can find out if your state has a similar program by visiting your state veterinary medical association or state education agency.

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