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ADA urges student loan reforms

April 07, 2014

By Craig Palmer, ADA News staff

Washington—The ADA and dental coalition organizations urged Congress to support student loan reforms proposed in separate bills. "It will not eliminate the significant burden of dental student debt, but it is an important step in that direction," the dental groups told House and Senate leaders.

The ADA, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Education Association and American Student Dental Association signed March 21 letters to the House Ways and Means and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee leadership. H.R. 1527 would expand the federal income tax deduction for student loan interest. S. 1066 would authorize any dental school graduate currently repaying Direct Loans (or a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan) to consolidate or refinance loans at a lower fixed rate.

"We are extremely concerned about the alarming levels of educational debt that dental students face upon graduation," the four dental organizations said in language common to both letters addressing the separate House and Senate student loan interest and repayment bills. "In 2013, the average educational debt per graduating dental school senior was $215,145," the letters said.

The ADA and other health organizations also seek cosponsors for H.R. 3391, which would amend the tax code to provide for tax- free awards to health care providers under the Indian Health Service loan repayment program. Award recipients, including dentists, agree to serve in underserved areas under IHS jurisdiction.

To avoid reducing awards by the taxed amount, the IHS picks up the tab to the tune of an estimated $7.21 million annually, which could fund an additional 105 awards. The Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act, with 22 cosponsors, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction for tax legislation.