In the halls of the Internet, there are whispers of excluding doctors from PSLF. Will it happen? The idea of a physician taking home six-figures in income yet participating in PSLF doesn’t seem fair, even to med school students. Students struggling with medical school debt fear exclusion from PSLF, but they shouldn’t.
Although there are no guarantees in life, making sure medical students are protected from the domino effect of student loans is a priority (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/22/help-stop-student-debt-domino-effect). Did you know that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is looking for ways to help doctors stay afloat? (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/students/helping-borrowers-find-ways-to-stay-afloat/)
The CFPB has evaluated medical school debt (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/student-debt-and-health-care/):
Last year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that his son is on track to rack up $400,000 in medical school debt. To put this in perspective, that is more than double the national median home price. Crushing medical school debt has forced students to feel forced to specialize, even though they want to be primary care physicians.
The United States faces a major shortage of primary care providers—and this shortage is expected to continue to grow into the next decade. Population growth and aging will drive the demand for increased primary care and recent estimates suggest that we will need as many as 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025.
But the share of new physicians working in primary care is declining. Primary care physicians often earn less than their peers pursuing medical and surgical specialties. Medical school graduates have identified student debt as a driver of their specialty selection.
For medical school graduates from middle-class families, student debt has been found to be a statistically significant determinant of specialty choice—student debt might cause medical students from middle class families to choose not to become primary care providers.
Is student debt limiting the ability of health professionals to start their own practices?
Many of us went to a local doctor in the community who had his or her own practice. To start a practice, health professionals need to take out a loan which they must personally back. But with high student loan payments, they may not qualify for these loans.
The average medical school graduate who borrows takes on more than $150,000 in student loans. Recent research suggests that over the past five years, graduates with six-figure debt are increasingly treated as high-risk applicants when seeking credit—this may be impacting access to personally-guaranteed small business loans to establish private medical practices.
Does student debt limit the ability of health professionals to practice in rural areas?
More than 20 million Americans live in rural communities that have a shortage of the healthcare providers required to meet their basic health care needs. Many primary care physicians in rural areas earn less than their counterparts practicing in major metropolitan areas.
For underserved rural communities, recent research suggests growing levels of student debt may be pushing newly-graduated professionals away—leaving these communities without adequate access to care.
In other words, student doctors are America’s future for health and America is looking out for their med school costs. Hold Fast to Dreams believes medical students are very much appreciated and will in turn be protected from the spiraling costs of medical school through PSLF.
What do you think should be done?
By April 8th, either:
The CFPB wants to hear from anyone that is affected by unmanageable student debt burdens, including:
- Student loan borrowers,
- Parents, and
- Business leaders
Here’s the full list of questions the CFPB is asking. After the comment period closes on April 8th, the CFPB will share what you told them.