Dr. Nahid Maleki, president of the AAO, recently contacted the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, advocating for student loan policy reforms as the committee prepares to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).
A letter from Dr. Maleki to Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray (chairman and ranking member of the committee, respectively) outlines how young orthodontists are negatively impacted by current student loan policies. The letter explains that responses to a recent survey show the average debt for graduating orthodontists is more than $400,000, which impacts, among other things, where they practice and what opportunities they are able to pursue.
AAO policy principles for reauthorization, as listed in the letter, include:
- Ensure access to graduate and professional education for students from all backgrounds.
- Preserve protections for student borrowers with federal student aid.
- Ease the burden of student loan debt, which negatively impacts graduates’ important life decisions and our overall economy.
AAO recommendations for updating the HEA include:
- Preserve the in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate borrowers (which makes it possible for undergraduates to defer interest while in school);
- Eliminate loan origination fees and reduce rates so the federal government does not profit off of students;
- Allow borrowers to refinance their undergraduate and graduate federal student loans whenever borrowing rates are reduced, just as with the home mortgage market;
- Allow federal borrowers in dental specialty residencies to defer loan payments, due to the fact that many do not receive stipends or salaries while in residency;
- Reject the House of Representatives PROSPER Act cap on annual and aggregate loan limits for such borrowers. The proposed cap is much less than the amount that many orthodontic residents need to borrow. Instead, preserve the Direct PLUS Loan Program for graduate students, under which graduates and parents currently can borrow federally-backed student loans up to the cost of attendance.