The ADA is supporting legislation that would allow graduate and professional students with financial need to receive Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans, which are currently only available to undergraduate students.
In an Aug. 17 letter to Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, D.M.D., thanked the lawmaker for introducing HR 4361, the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add Debt Act, or POST GRAD Act.
If enacted, the POST GRAD Act would reinstate eligibility for graduate and professional students in need to use federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans. These loans have slightly better borrowing terms than the educational loans available to graduate and professional students, such as the federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Grad PLUS Loans. The interest rates are generally lower, and the Department of Education pays the interest that accumulates while borrowers are in school, during a grace period, and during a period of deferment.
“The vast majority of dental students use federal student loans to pay for dental school,” Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin said. “Over 75% use federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, and another 72% use federal Grad PLUS Loans — either as a standalone financing mechanism or to make up the difference between what the Direct Stafford did not cover.”
According to a 2020 analysis by the American Dental Education Association, dental school graduates, on average, are starting their careers nearly $305,000 in debt ($270,125 for graduates from public dental schools; $349,730 for graduates from private dental schools).
“This bill will not solve the student debt crisis, but it will help offset the unprecedented financial challenges that these essential health care providers face at graduation,” Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin said. “Combined with reinvigorated public service loan forgiveness programs, it may also inspire more highly indebted young dentists to practice in underserved areas.”
For more information on the ADA’s advocacy efforts, visit ADA.org/Advocacy.