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Organized dentistry urges Congress to let graduate students take out subsidized loans

October 22, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Organized Dentistry Coalition is asking the House Committee on Education and Labor to support student loan reform legislation that would alleviate some of the debt dental students face after graduation.

HR 3418, the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act, known as the POST GRAD Act, would reinstate eligibility for graduate and professional students, including dental students, with financial need to receive Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans. Currently, these loans are only available to undergraduate students. 

In an Oct. 15 letter to Chair Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the coalition told the committee that 85% of new dentists are starting their careers owing more than $287,000 in student loan debt, according to the American Dental Education Association’s annual survey of dental students.  

They also noted that more than two-thirds (64.4%) of 2017 dental school graduates said that debt influenced their post-graduation career choices, which could have an impact on their decision to practice in an underserved area, academia or public health.

“One way to help mitigate the extraordinary levels of educational debt is to reinstate eligibility for graduate and professional students in need to use federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans,” wrote the Organized Dentistry Coalition, which noted these loans were originally available to financially-eligible graduate and professional students and have “slightly better” borrowing terms than the educational loans currently available to graduate and professional students.

An example of better borrowing terms is the interest rates. For subsidized loans, the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest while the borrower is in school, during a grace period and during a period of deferment.

“Enabling graduate and professional students to access Direct Subsidized Loans will not solve the student debt crisis, but it will help offset the alarming levels of student debt that new dentists face at graduation — and may lead more highly indebted young dentists to practice in underserved areas,” the coalition said.

The dental groups concluded by thanking Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., for sponsoring HR 3418.