PA School Debt Repayment Strategies

By David Wolinsky · November 30, 2023 · 4 minute read

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PA School Debt Repayment Strategies

The decision to become a physician assistant, or PA, is a noble but big one. PAs work at hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, retail clinics, community health centers, and in the federal government.

Becoming a PA often means taking on student loans, which begs the question: Is PA school worth the debt?

Average Cost of PA School

In the 2019-2020 school year, the average cost of PA school was $56,850 for two years at an in-state school and $101,500 for an out-of-state school, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Before sticker shock sets in, the average salary of certified PAs in 2022 was $125,270 per year. Those working in outpatient care centers, one of the highest paying locations, average a mean annual salary of $137,040.

Once those salaries are claimed and regularly earned, there’s the matter of loan repayment. This guide will help readers consider strategies to handle PA school debt.

Recommended: How Much Does PA School Cost?

Physician Assistant (PA) School Repayment Options

Fortunately, there are options available for PAs who are mindful of interest and debt accumulating in their name. The big one is the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which kicks in “if you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization.” PSLF forgives the remaining balance on Direct Loans after 120 qualifying payments (a big number that can often boil down to 10 years’ worth of payments) under a qualifying repayment plan.

Another option for PAs is an income-driven repayment plan. There are four plans to choose from, including Income-Contingent Repayment, Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn, and Income-Based Repayment. Similar to Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the motivation for these plans is working toward student loan forgiveness — if PAs can’t qualify for PSLF, possibly because they work for a private employer, they could still receive loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of repayment under an income-driven repayment plan.

💡 Quick Tip: Some student loan refinance lenders offer no fees, saving borrowers money.

Other Payment Programs

There are also federal and state programs that reimburse health care workers in underserved areas, also called Health Professional Shortage Areas. The Health Resources & Services Administration offers a searchable online database of shortage areas by state and county, and a tool to check if a location has been officially designated as an underserved area.

Then there are State-based Loan Repayment Programs, whose financial incentive can vary depending on specialty. Colorado, for example, offers $90,000 for a full-time PA ($45,000 for a part-time PA), and PAs must “agree to work for a term of three years at an approved site, work part-time or full-time with a minimum of clinical contact hours, and also meet the hourly requirements during the entire service obligation.”

States vary in requirements and awards. The Health Resources & Services Administration also is of help in looking into SLRPs.

Planning for the Future

One way to minimize the shock of shouldering PA school debt is to build a budget — and stick to it. Although pretty much everyone knows that budgeting is a smart idea, few actually put it into practice: According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, more than half the population (56%) did not have a budget in 2021.

A simple way to create a budget is to list out all of your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses do not change month-to-month and include things like rent or mortgage payments, car payments, student loan payments, daycare costs, cell phone services, gym memberships, and more. Next, list out your variable expenses, which do change depending on the month. Variable expenses include food, gas, entertainment, utilities, clothing, and emergency expenses. If your income does not exceed your spending, create spending limits for your variable expenses. Make sure to budget for retirement, emergency savings, and other miscellaneous expenses that may crop up.

Refinancing School Debt

It’s no secret that pretty much any type of higher education career often means taking on considerable student loan debt. If it reaches a point where making real progress on repaying the loans feels nearly impossible, federal student loan repayment and forgiveness programs either don’t apply or aren’t the right fit, or personal loans are involved, then refinancing with a private lender might be a good option.

With refinancing, a new loan is used to pay off one or more existing federal or private loans. In addition to combining multiple loans into one, qualified borrowers may also land a better interest rate, reducing the amount they pay in interest over the life of the loan assuming the loan term does not change.

Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Calculator

However, refinancing federal student loans with a private lender means a borrower is no longer eligible for many of the state and federal programs mentioned above, or other protections and benefits extended to federal student loan borrowers. Those looking to combine federal loans only can consider a student loan consolidation.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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