What Student Loans Are Available for Masters in Health Care Students?
If you haven’t already selected a program, you may be wondering how much a master’s degree in health care costs. Recent statistics cite tuition fees for a professional degree in health science at an average of $20,000. The total cost of health science degrees was quoted at $42,700 by the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2008*. While you can use these statistics as an average guideline, you should research individual programs to gain a more accurate net cost estimate.
Once you know how much your degree will cost, you can begin planning for financial aid. Before considering student loans, you should attempt to finance the bulk of your education with scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment. While loans are much easier to obtain than scholarships and grants, they usually require a long-term financial commitment.
If you need to take out a student loan to finance your master’s degree in healthcare, you should first explore low-interest options from the federal government. Similar to applying for grants or other need-based federal financial aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) to determine your eligibility.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan: Available to graduate students at a fixed interest rate of 6.8%, a direct unsubsidized loan has an annual limit of $20,500 and a total debt limit of $73,000.
- Federal Perkins Loan: In the Federal Perkins Loan Program, schools act as the lender, so you will need to check with your school’s financial aid office to find out if it participates in this program. Funds depend on financial need and resources, and the interest rate for this loan is 5%.
- Direct PLUS Loans: Although the U.S. Department of Education acts as the lender of this loan, it is only offered through schools that participate in the Direct Loan Program, which technically makes it a campus-based loan. The interest rate of a Direct PLUS Loan is fixed at 7.9%, and the maximum loan amount is the cost of attendance after all other financial aid has been applied. Check with your school to see if a Direct PLUS loan is available.
Choosing an online school that offers and disperses federal financial aid is beneficial for three reasons. Firstly, the schools receiving federal aid must meet criteria and standards established by Congress that promote quality education and protect students. You can rest easy knowing that a school dispersing federal financial aid has already received a stamp of approval from the government and is not simply a diploma mill. Secondly, receiving financial aid, even through student loans, has enormous financial benefits. In the long run, you will save a substantial amount of money with a federal loan vs. a private loan due to lower fixed interest rates.
Finally, participating in a federal student loan program offers students the chance for loan forgiveness. Many jobs requiring a master’s in healthcare have a public service element, which could make you eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Employees in government organizations, non-profit organizations, or private organizations that offer public services are eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years, or 120 payments, on a loan. In this case, giving back to your community literally pays off.
Private loans are easier to obtain and can have higher credit limits than federal loans, but they generally have higher interest rates as well. If you are ineligible for a federal student loan or find yourself with last-minute expenses, a private student loan could prove to be your best option. Some private loans offer various ways to save, with interest rate reductions and other perks. Ask your loan provider for details on repayment plans and discount options. You might be surprised to find that you can begin saving even before you graduate.
*2007-2008 statistics were found inconstant with 2009-2010 figures.