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Student Loan Reform

Easing the burden of student loan debt.

While there are clear federal goals to increase the number of medical professionals in the United States, the current student debt crisis tells another story. After at least 10 years of higher education, the average first-year orthodontist carries $365,000 in debt.

We recognize this is a huge burden for our members. It also discourages students – particularly from underserved communities – from even considering the specialty. While the AAO is committed to general policies that make college more affordable, we have several areas of focus to help our members conquer their debt.

Support student loan refinancing.

While the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 provided a degree of certainty to borrowers, fixing loan interest rates for the life of the loan, it also caused a problem: Students now have limited refinancing options once they graduate.

We are working to enable borrowers to refinance their undergraduate and graduate federal student loans whenever rates drop, just as with the home mortgage market.

Reduce fees and rates for all future federal borrowers.

Currently, student loan interest rates are established at the 10-year Treasury note rate, plus a margin 2.05% for Undergraduate Stafford Loans, 3.60% for Graduate Stafford Loans, and 4.60% for PLUS Loans. Origination fees on Undergraduate and Graduate Stafford Loans are set at 1.069%, and for PLUS loans they are 4.276%.

We believe the marginal rates that are added to the market rate should be reduced on all federal Direct Loans, and the origination fees should be removed. Because orthodontists tend to borrow heavily to complete 6 to 7 years of graduate school, such rate reductions would be of great value to orthodontic students.

Preserve the Grad PLUS Loan Program for graduate students.

The Grad PLUS Loan is a federal loan available to students attending graduate school and professional school. The loans were included as part of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, which means their interest rates are tied to market rates and provide certainty over the life of the loan to graduated borrowers.

Grad PLUS Loans help pay for educational expenses up to the cost of attendance (minus all other financial assistance), which is crucial for many orthodontic students given the cost of our programs. They also come with additional protections (i.e., loan limits, terms, forgiveness opportunities, and repayment options, timing, and protections) since they are federal loans.

We are actively resisting efforts to cap borrowing amounts or even eliminate the program, as this would be devastating to future orthodontic graduate students.

How can you help?

The AAO Political Action Committee ensures orthodontists’ voices are heard in the federal government.