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Pharmacy School Loans: Here's What You Should Know

By LeeMarie Kennedy · June 17, 2022 · 7 minute read

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Pharmacy School Loans: Here's What You Should Know

Pharmacy school student loans are one way for potential pharmacists to subsidize some or all of the costs associated with attending pharmacy school.

There are several pros and cons to taking out a pharmacy school loan, from the opportunity to receive student loan forgiveness to potential fees for late payments or a drop in credit score.

Keep reading to learn how much it costs to attend pharmacy school, a few different ways to pay for it, what a pharmacy school loan covers, and the ins and outs of pharmacy school student loans.

Average Cost of Pharmacy School

The average cost of attending pharmacy school spans anywhere from $65,000 – $200,000 .

It’s a wide range but, generally speaking, in-state, public schools are on the lower end of the scale, costing around $14,800-$82,000 per year, while pharmacy programs at private institutions can run between $74,800 and $160,000.

Average Student Loan Debt Pharmacy School

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)’s 2021 survey of pharmacy school graduates found that about 85% of PharmD degree holders had to borrow money to get through school.

And the average student loan debt for pharmacy graduates, according to that same report, is $173,561.

There’s good news, though: the return on investment can be promising for pharmacists, whose median pay is around $128,710 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Can You Use a Pharmacy School Student Loan on?

There are several ways a student loan can be used to cover the cost of a pharmacy school education:

Tuition

As evidenced above, tuition is one of the biggest pharmacy school expenses that can be covered by a pharmacy school student loan. Since it can cost upwards of $200,000 to complete a pharmacy program, student loans can be helpful in covering that cost.

Fees

The term “fees” can sound a little bit elusive, and you typically see it thrown alongside the word “tuition.” The fees associated with attending pharmacy college vary based on the type of program the student attends, how many credit hours the student completes, and whether or not they’re an in-state or out-of-state student. In some cases, a pharmacy school may charge “comprehensive fees” that cover tuition, fees and room and board.

Books and Supplies

Pharmacy school student loans can be used to pay for books, supplies and other education-related expenses. To acquire the funds for books and supplies, pharmacy school student loans are first applied to a student’s tuition, required fees, and room and board bills. Then, any remaining funds get refunded to the borrower, either in the form of a check or through direct deposit. From there, the money can be used to pay for books and supplies.

Recommended: How to Pay for College Textbooks

Living Costs

Room and board is another expense that can be paid for with pharmacy school loans. Students can use their borrowed funds to pay for student housing — whether that’s in a dorm room or an off-campus apartment with roommates.

Pharmacy School Student Loans: Pros & Cons

Pros of Using Pharmacy School Student Loans

Cons of Using Pharmacy School Student Loans

Help people pay for pharmacy school when they don’t otherwise have the financial resources to do so. Can be expensive to repay.
Open up more possibilities for the type of pharmacy school a person can attend, regardless of the cost. Can put borrowers into substantial amounts of debt.
Cover a wide range of expenses — from tuition and fees to school supplies, room and board. Borrowers might have to forego other financial goals to pay off pharmacy school student loans.
Paying off pharmacy school student loans can help build credit. Late payments or defaulting on a pharmacy school student loan can damage credit.

Pros of Using a Pharmacy School Student Loan

Using a pharmacy school loan comes with a few pros:

Student Loans for Pharmacy School Can Be Forgiven

In terms of pharmacists student loan forgiveness, there are several options for newly graduated pharmacists who need some help paying off their pharmacy school loans.

Typically, these forgiveness programs are available on a state or federal level.

A few different pharmacy student loan forgiveness options include:

•   Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

•   HRSA’s Faculty Loan Repayment Program

•   National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs

•   Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program

•   State-based student loan forgiveness programs

Salary

As mentioned above, the median pay for a pharmacist is around $128,710 per year. For a pharmacy school graduate with student loan debt, this salary range could mean the difference between paying off loans and still having money left in the budget for living expenses, an emergency fund, and other types of savings.

Credit Score

Paying off pharmacy school student loans can be one way for a borrower to boost their credit score. When building credit history, making on-time payments is a prominent factor, which can potentially have a beneficial effect on a borrower’s credit score. Although their credit score could face a minor dip right after paying off the loan, it should subsequently level out and eventually rise.

Pharmacy school student loans appear as “installment loans” on a person’s credit report, which can diversify the types of credit they manage, thus potentially improving their “credit mix.” Which could also help enhance their credit score.

Cons of Using a Pharmacy School Student Loans

Pharmacy school student loans can also come with a few cons:

Debt

Since a pharmacy school loan is an installment loan, it’s considered a form of debt. As such, potential pharmacists are signing a long-term contract to repay a lender for the money they borrow. Should they find themselves on uneven financial ground, they may end up missing a payment or defaulting on the loan altogether, which could have a damaging effect on their credit report.

Late Payment Penalties

Many pharmacy school student loan lenders dole out fees for late payments. The terms of the loan are outlined by the lender before the borrower signs the agreement, but it’s important to read the fine print because loan servicers can charge a late payment penalty of up to 6% of the missed payment amount.

Interest Rates

Student loans for graduate and doctoral degrees like pharmacy school have some of the highest interest rates of any type of student loan.

Even federally subsidized Grad PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.28% for the 2021-2022 school year, which could cause a pharmacy school student loan balance to climb high over time.

Recommended: Grad PLUS Loans, Explained

Average Interest Rates for Pharmacy School Student Loans

Pharmacy students have a variety of student loan options available to them. This table details the interest rate on different types of federal student loans that might be used to pay for a portion of pharmacy school.

Loan Type

Interest Rate for the 2021-2022 School Year

Direct Loans for Undergraduate Students 3.73%
Direct Loans for Graduate and Professional Students 5.28%
Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate Students 6.28%

Private student loans are another option that may help pharmacy students pay for their college education. The interest rates on private student loans are determined by the lender based on factors specific to the individual borrower, such as their credit and income history.

Paying for Pharmacy School

Before looking into an undergraduate student loan option or a graduate student loan option, potential pharmacists might be able to secure other sources of funding to help them pay for pharmacy school.

Scholarships

Scholarships are funds used to pay for undergraduate or graduate school that do not need to be repaid to the provider.

They can be awarded based on many different types of criteria, from grade point average (GPA) to athletic performance to acts of service, chosen field of study, and more. Scholarships might be offered by a college or university, organization, or institution.

For potential pharmacy school students, there are several available options for scholarships through their individual states and other providers. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is a great resource for finding a pharmacy school scholarship.

Grants

Unlike scholarships or loans, grants are sources of financial aid from colleges, universities, state/federal government, and other private or nonprofit organizations that do not generally need to be repaid.

The AACP breaks down grants and awards for health profession students and government-subsidized grants for pharmacy school students on their website.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

State Pharmacy School Loans

Some potential pharmacists may be eligible to participate in a state student loan program. The cost of attending a state pharmacy school will vary depending on whether or not the student lives in the same state as the school, so researching the accredited pharmacy programs by state can help them determine how much they’ll need to borrow.

Federal Pharmacy School Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans to undergraduate and graduate pharmacy school students. The school will determine the loan type(s) and amount a pharmacy school student can receive each academic year, based on information provided by the student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

PLUS Loans are another federal pharmacy school loan option, eligible to graduate or professional students through schools that participate in the federal Direct Loan Program.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Private Pharmacy School Loans

A private student loan is another way for students to pay for pharmacy school. When comparing private student loans vs. federal student loans, it’s important to note that because private loans are not associated with the federal government, interest rates, repayment terms. Benefits also vary depending on the lender. For these reasons, private student loans are considered an option only after all other financing sources have been exhausted.

When applying for a private pharmacy school loan, a lender will usually review the borrower’s credit score and financial history, among other factors.

Private pharmacy school student loans can help bridge the gap between other payment options like the ones listed above, and give potential pharmacists the opportunity to shop around for the option that works best for them.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-driven repayment plans in particular help borrowers qualify for lower monthly payments on their pharmacy school loans if their total debt at graduation exceeds their annual income.

Here are the four income-driven repayment plans available for federal student loans:

•   Income-Based Repayment (IBR

•   Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

•   Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)

•   Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

The Takeaway

Nearly 85% of pharmacy school graduates have student loans, according to the AACP. Pharmacy school loans can be used to pay for tuition and fees, living expenses, and supplies like books or required lab equipment. Federal student loans can be used in combination with any scholarships and grants the student may qualify for. If you find yourself still looking for a way to pay for your pharmacy school education after exhausting scholarships, grants, and federal student loans, a private student loan option might be an option to consider.

With SoFi’s private student loans, you get a six-month grace period post-graduation before you start thinking about repayment. Interested applicants can find out their rate in just a few minutes.

Learn more about borrowing a SoFi private student loan.

FAQ

How long does it take to pay off pharmacy school loans?

Depending on the type of pharmacy school loan you take out (private vs. federal) and when the funds were distributed, it can take between five and 30 years to repay a pharmacy school student loan.

How can I pay for pharmacy school?

There are several ways to pay for pharmacy school, including federal student loans, private pharmacy school loans, scholarships, grants, and personal savings.

What is the average student loan debt for pharmacy school?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the average student loan debt for pharmacy graduates is $173,561.


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