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Letters: Student loans

September 17, 2018

Once again, student loans are in the forefront of the news. A few years ago, one of the lobbying efforts at the leadership conference was to promote some debt relief for student loans. Unfortunately, at that time, nothing happened in Congress.

Now, we have an effort by a dentist congressman for deferred interest for residency program students. Hope this succeeds. A few years ago there was a great announcement by our leadership of a new arrangement with a bank to enable refinancing of student loans.
But there were initial problems with some trying to refinance.

In 2015, I made an unsuccessful attempt to be elected second vice president of the ADA.

As part of that experience, I had the privilege of not only addressing the House of Delegates but also addressing all 17 trustee districts and the American Student Dental Association.

In those presentations, I suggested the ADA start what I would call the American Dental Association Higher Assistance loan program using our own money, with terms that would be extremely favorable to our student borrowers.

This might include a cap of, say, 3 percent on interest rates; interest deferral and payment deferral for residency programs; interest deferral and some payment deferral for active duty military; or for some loan concessions for public heath assignments, just to name a few options.

Many of these features existed in the past but certainly can be consolidated if the ADA was acting as the bank. We can set the tone and take care of our own.

And, yes, I am familiar with the argument that many of the loans are "lifestyle" loans, but in today's world tuition alone ranges from $30,000 to $90,000 or more per year.

Then there is reasonable room and board and some lifestyle too. Maybe the American Dental Education Association could help here too.

Let's do for ourselves as a profession. Let's not have to rely on government to do what we can do for our own students. If we truly expect our new dentists to embrace the ADA, let's do something for them first.

Peter S. Trager, D.D.S.
Sandy Springs, Georgia

Editor's note: The ADA began an endorsed relationship with Laurel Road, previously known as DRB, in 2015. The program provides student loan refinancing and consolidation to members who qualify for refinancing an additional 0.25 percent rate reduction as long as they remain members.  More than 2,200 ADA members have refinanced with Laurel Road, totaling more than $485 million in loan volume and saving the average member $33,000 over the life of the loan. The ADA foregoes all compensation for the endorsement and returns the savings to members. Information on Laurel Road and other debt resources can be found at ADA.org/mydebt.