Health professions student loans: What they are and how to apply

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While many student loans are open-ended for a variety of degrees, there are some student loans that are geared toward students going into specific industries, including health care. Health professions student loans are loans offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, and they come with unique benefits like subsidized interest and longer grace periods.

Types of health professions student loans

There are several health professions loans offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, each of which has its own qualification requirements. In all cases, borrowers may have to work in an underserved area while paying off the loan, and they must demonstrate financial need.

Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL)

Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL) are for full-time or part-time college students pursuing higher education in one of the following fields of study:

  • Doctor of Dentistry.
  • Bachelor or Doctor of Science in Pharmacy.
  • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
  • Doctor of Optometry.
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)

Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) are for full-time students from a disadvantaged background seeking a degree in one of the following programs:

  • Doctor of Allopathic Medicine.
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • Doctor of Dentistry.
  • Bachelor or Doctor of Science in Pharmacy.
  • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
  • Doctor of Optometry.
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Nursing Student Loans (NSL)

Nursing Student Loans (NSL) are for full-time nursing students pursuing one of the following degree types:

  • Associate degree.
  • Baccalaureate degree.
  • Graduate degree.

Primary Care Loans (PCL)

Students who apply for Primary Care Loans (PCL) will need to commit to getting residency training in primary care and pursuing work as a primary care physician after graduation. They should also be pursuing a doctoral degree full time in one of the following:

  • Allopathic medicine.
  • Osteopathic medicine.

Benefits and drawbacks of health professions student loans

With a health professions student loan, borrowers can benefit from zero interest and no payments during school and for 12 months after graduation — a grace period six months longer than with most other student loans. These student loans also come with a fixed interest rate of 5 percent, compared to 5.28 percent for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and 6.28 percent for Direct PLUS Loans, and they don’t have any origination fees.

Loans in this program typically come with a 10-year repayment plan, though they can be consolidated with federal Direct Loans if you’d like to extend your repayment period or sign up for repayment programs like income-driven repayment plans.

With that being said, loans in this category are need-based, which means that not everyone will qualify, and in many cases you must commit to a certain career path in a high-need service area during repayment. You must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify for these loans.

How to apply for a health professions student loan

To apply for a health professions student loan, you’ll start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After you submit your FAFSA, you’ll receive your financial aid award letter from your school. If the school offers health professions student loans and you qualify for them, these options will be listed in your aid letter.

It’s worth noting that not all schools offer health professions student loans; they must meet specific requirements set forward by the federal government and send in applications to participate in the program. Reach out to your financial aid office before applying to confirm whether your school offers these loans and if there are any additional forms you’ll need to fill out to be considered.

Frequently asked questions about health professions student loans

Can health care workers get student loan forgiveness?

Health professions student loans aren’t eligible for income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) on their own. However, you can use a federal Direct Consolidation Loan to consolidate these debts (except for Primary Care Loans), which would make them eligible for both options.

Are health professions student loans federal loans?

Health professions loans for students are not the same as federal student loans — they’re offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration rather than by the U.S. Department of Education. However, they can turn into federal student loans if you consolidate them with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Do private lenders offer health professions student loans?

Private lenders may offer their own versions of health professions student loans, though these are not regulated by the U.S. government. However, there are some benefits to private loans; College Ave, for instance, offers health professions student loans with low interest rates and deferment options during residency.

Can you consolidate a health professions student loan?

You can use a federal Direct Consolidation Loan to consolidate health professions student loans, with the exception of Primary Care Loans.

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Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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