Some student loan programs are tailored to physician assistants, dentists, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare providers who serve specific communities. Here are the most commonly known programs:
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC)
Certified Physician Assistants (PAs) working in adult care, family practice, pediatric care, women’s health, or geriatrics may be eligible for loan repayment assistance through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program.
The award amount varies depending on the length and type of service commitment, with a maximum award of $50,000 for full-time workers and half that for those who work part-time.
To qualify, recipients must work at least half-time or full-time for two years at a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), which is an area that lacks primary care, dental care, or mental health care. After two years, participants may reapply for additional support.
The NHSC also offers a Students to Service Loan Repayment Program for full-time PA students who commit to working for an NHSC-approved employer in an HPSA. The program provides up to $120,000 in loan repayment funds, distributed as $30,000 per year for four years. These programs provide significant financial assistance for PAs and help to address the shortage of healthcare providers in underserved areas.
Members who join this government organization can expect to be placed in their field of choice for work and receive help with any education loans. Physician assistants can expect to be placed in community organizations, nonprofits, and public agencies. After serving in the organization for 10 to 12 months, members can receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of up to $6,495 towards qualified loans. Employment with AmeriCorps also counts as qualified employment for PSLF benefits.
Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service
Physician assistants working as allied clinical care providers in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service may be eligible for loan repayment. These providers have access to many of the same benefits as those in the armed service, including access to education loan repayment programs.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (IHS)
This program provides up to $40 thousand in debt relief for medical professionals — including physician assistants — who commit to at least two years of service in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
PAs serving in the military have several programs for loan repayment assistance through the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. Active-duty PAs in the Army can receive up to $40,000 per year for three years. The National Guard offers their members up to $50,000 in loan payments through the National Guard’s Student Loan Repayment Program, with a potential bonus of up to $20,000.
PAs who have not completed their education and served in the military after September 10, 2001, may be eligible for more support from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The bill provides tuition assistance and money for housing and books.
State loan repayment programs
For loan forgiveness on the state level, a good place to start is with the State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). This program — which works with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 30 states — provides up to $50,000 a year towards education debt if they work in an HPSA for at least two years. Eligibility and specific benefits vary from state to state.
Some states have created loan forgiveness programs for PA student loan holders who worked and/or studied in the state. Here are a few:
New Mexico Allied Health Loan For Service Program: New Mexico residents of at least one year who have gone to college or graduate school in the state may be eligible for up to $12,000 in loan forgiveness for each year of service up to four years. This program is for PAs and other healthcare workers who are still in school.
Iowa Health Professional Recruitment Program: This program is specifically for PAs practicing in high-need areas of Iowa (defined as a city with a population under 26,000 over 20 miles away from a city with 50,000 people or more). Eligible parties will receive up to $12,500 per year for four years.
Alaska SHARP Program: PAs who have worked in an underserved area of Alaska for at least three years can receive $20,000 to $27,000 per year, depending on if they work full-time or part-time.
Virginia State Loan Repayment Program: PAs working in an HPSA in Virginia can earn up to $140,000 annually with a commitment of four years (and working at least two of those years).
Oklahoma Physician Assistant Loan Repayment Program: The state of Oklahoma’s loan repayment program through the Health Care Workforce Training Commission offers education debt assistance to PAs who commit to working in a Commission-approved site. They can receive up to $60,000 over three years.
If you work or study in these states but are ineligible for federal forgiveness, these student loan forgiveness programs are a great option.
For more state-based programs, you can check out the databases by the Association of American Medical Colleges or the Rural Health Information Hub for PAs in rural areas.