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ADA, ASDA want Congress to support dental student borrowers

April 11, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — In an effort to improve the borrowing rate on dental student loans, the Association has joined forces with the American Student Dental Association and endorsed H.R. 4223, the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., has 21 congressional co-sponsors and would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to allow the government to make Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans available to graduate and professional students with a financial need.

In an April 11 letter to House Committee on Education and Workforce members John Kline, chair, R-Minn., and Robert C. Scott, ranking member, D-Va., ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays and Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin, and ASDA President Sohaib Soliman and Executive Director Nancy R. Honeycutt, urged the committee to support the bill. The legislation would allow students to take advantage of the same favorable borrowing terms and conditions of federal Direct Subsidized Loans that are offered to undergraduate students. According to the American Dental Education Association, in 2014 the average educational debt for senior dental student was $220,892.

"Today's graduating dental students face astronomical levels of educational debt, and many are reconsidering their postgraduate career plans because of it," stated the letter, adding that 61 percent of dental students who graduated in 2014 said that their debt influenced their decision to go into private practice immediately after graduation rather than public service, teaching, research, and/or administration.

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One way to help mitigate the alarming levels of dental student debt is to improve the borrowing terms on federal student loans.

"If enacted, H.R. 4223 would make graduate and professional degree students eligible to use Direct Subsidized Loans to finance a portion of their graduate education," wrote ADA and ASDA. "In any given year, eligible dental students could obtain a Direct Subsidized Loan with a borrowing rate that is 1.55 percent lower than the prevailing interest rate for Direct Unsubsidized Loans."

The bill also would forgive any interest dental students accrue while in dental school and six months following graduation.

"H.R. 4223 will not eliminate the significant burden of dental student debt, but it is an important step in that direction," the letter concluded. "We strongly urge the committee to report H.R. 4223 favorably so it may be considered for a vote by the full House of Representatives. We applaud Rep. Judy Chu for introducing this important legislation."