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Dental groups offer student loan principles at Senate hearings

February 24, 2015

By Craig Palmer

Washington – The ADA, American Dental Education Association and American Student Dental Association urged Congress to prioritize student debt as the Senate education committee opened hearings on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

"We are extremely concerned about the alarming levels of educational debt that dental students face at graduation," the dental education, professional and student organizations told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in a letter.

"In 2014, the average educational debt per graduating dental school senior was $220,892," they told the committee, citing the annual American Dental Education Association survey of dental school seniors, 2014 graduating class. "Factoring out the 10.7 percent of dental school seniors who graduated with no debt, the average debt per graduating dental school senior was $247,227 ($216,437 for graduates from public dental schools and $289,897 for graduates from private and private state-related dental schools)."

Dental educational debt at graduation has been climbing since 1990 and was at the highest level last year, according to tabular data in ADEA’s 2013 survey of dental school seniors.  

As the committee began work on a ninth reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the dental organizations offered a set of principles for Congress to consider. The HEA provides statutory authority for most federal student loan programs to operate.

"The cost of dental education should not be a prohibitive factor for those wanting to enter the profession," the organizations' volunteer and staff leaders said. "The cost of dental education should not be a prohibitive factor for those wanting to enter the profession. For that reason, we urge you to prioritize the following when reauthorizing the HEA and considering other student loan legislation."

  • Lower federal graduate student loan interest rate(s) and the total amount of interest that can accrue on federal graduate student loans.
  • Enable federal graduate student loans to be refinanced more than once to take advantage of lower interest rates and better economic conditions.
  • Extend the period of deferment for repaying federal graduate student loans to the maximum extent practicable.
  • Simplify and add more transparency to the federal graduate student loan application process.
  • Remove the barriers that prohibit those with private graduate student loans from taking advantage of federal student loan forgiveness/service payback programs.

"Though not part of the HEA, we will also be calling on lawmakers to expand and enhance the federal income tax deduction for student loan interest," said the letter signed by ADA President Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA Executive Director Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, ASDA President Kristopher Mendoza, ASDA Executive Director Nancy R. Honeycutt and Dr. Richard W. Valachovic, ADEA president and chief executive officer.