Student Loan Forgiveness for Physician Assistants

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Updated on February 15, 2023

Physician assistants have access to several student loan repayment and forgiveness options at both the federal and state level. If you provide healthcare services to the military or work for a small, rural, public hospital, there are several resources that PAs can take advantage of for help with student loan debt.

While Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a popular choice for physician assistants, borrowers should know that healthcare professionals have access to even more opportunities, including those that cater to students in specific communities, particularly those who work in areas of high need.

Many of these programs require a service commitment of at least two years, giving PAs and PA students a chance to work towards both their career and financial goals simultaneously. Keep reading to learn more about student loan forgiveness for physician assistants.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness for Rural Medicine Physicians

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program that offers student loan forgiveness to public servants. It’s a great choice for physician assistants who work for government organizations or nonprofits. To be eligible, a borrower must have:

  1. A federal Direct Loan.

  2. Work full-time for a qualifying government or non-profit employer.

  3. Be enrolled in one of four income-driven repayment plans (more on these later).

Any non-Direct Loans must be consolidated into Direct Loans before applying for PSLF.

Related: How to Consolidate Student Loans for PSLF

After making 120 payments, you can apply to PSLF and get the remaining balance forgiven. These payments need not be consecutive, so you’ll still be eligible even if you switch careers.

The application process is simple: submit the PSLF Employment Certification Form annually to let the federal government know you’re working for a qualified employer. Doing this can lower monthly payments while you work towards forgiveness. Completing this form ensures your employment and monthly payments count towards the 120 payments needed for forgiveness.

You can find more information on PSLF and how to apply at the PSLF Help Tool or

Related: When Did PSLF Start?

Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness

Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans are a great option for PAs who do not work full-time, don’t work for a qualified employer for PSLF forgiveness, or otherwise don’t meet the eligibility requirements for other education loan forgiveness programs. IDR forgiveness writes off any remaining balance after 20 to 25 years of payment under one of the income-based student loan repayment options.

Monthly payments are typically 10 to 20% of your discretionary income for these repayment programs. The U.S. Department of Education defines discretionary income as one’s gross, after-tax income for the year minus 150% of the poverty guidelines according to family size and state of residence.

Related: Pros and Cons of Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Here are the four IDR repayment plans and their terms:

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE): You pay 10% of your discretionary income each month for 20 years.

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE): You pay 10% of your discretionary income each month for 20 to 25 years, depending on whether your loans were used for an undergraduate or graduate program.

  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR): You pay 10% of your discretionary income for 20 years if your loans were taken out by July 1, 2014. If taken out before July 1, 2014, you will pay 15% of your discretionary income for 25 years.

  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): You pay 20% of your discretionary income or what a fixed payment would be on a 12-year plan (the lower of the two) for 25 years.

Completing any of these programs makes you eligible for IDR Forgiveness and the IDR Waiver.

Other PA student loan forgiveness programs

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.

Military opportunities

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.

Relief for private loans

There are no federal plans for complete private loan forgiveness.

Borrowers with private loans may want to refinance their loans to help with student debt. Refinancing is the process of getting a new private loan with different loan terms, ideally a lower interest rate or a longer repayment turn. Both federal and private loans can be refinanced.

Related: Refinancing Your Student Loans

Keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans, you will lose access to federal loan benefits and protections such as deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness plans.

Learn more: Can Private Student Loans Be Forgiven?

Could there be more forgiveness options for physician assistants?

Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is on hold after several challenges in the state courts. While the plan would be beneficial to many with student loan debt, including PAs, it is unclear when or if the applications will reopen.

Bottom Line

There are many opportunities for physician assistants or students in PA school to get all or part of their student debt forgiven. The right program for you will depend on your career and personal finance goals and where you plan to work.

If you need help developing a plan for your student debt as a PA, get in touch with me. Together, we can review your situation and come up with the plan that works best for you.

UP NEXT: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

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