In Florida, the governor has signed legislation with an additional $8 million in recurring funding for the Dental Student Loan Repayment Program, which also has an application deadline extension to April 15.

In the U.S. Congress, the REDI Act has gained a new cosponsor following a meeting with AAO members.

Student Loan Debt Relief: Florida Program Gets Increased Funding
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 7016, also known as “Live Healthy” into law. This means that a total of $10 million is available in Florida for eligible orthodontists to receive reimbursements for up to $250,000 for their student loan debt by meeting specific program requirements.

The AAO, the Florida Association of Orthodontists, and the Florida Dental Association formed a coalition that worked together last year to ensure $2 million was added to the Dental Student Loan Repayment Program, and that the amount was designated as recurring program funding for subsequent years. 

The program was authorized prior to last year, but funds were never appropriated to activate the program until the coalition was formed and the AAO engaged proactively to support approval of these funds. In the 2024 Florida legislative session, AAO and the coalition worked to support increased funding through Senate Bill 7016 containing language appropriating an additional $8 million designated for the Dental Student Loan Repayment Program.

The program encourages dentists and orthodontists to serve the Medicaid population in dental health professional shortage areas and medically underserved areas throughout Florida. In exchange for the provider’s commitment to that mission, the Dental Student Loan Repayment Program provides $50,000 in financial assistance per year, for up to 5 years and up to $250,000, to go toward repayment of dental student loans. 

Too often, new graduates must prioritize financial concerns over serving underserved communities. The average student loan debt for orthodontists completing residency is over $560,000. The Dental Student Loan Repayment Program allows new orthodontists in Florida to consider service to the community ahead of the financial burdens of student loan repayment. This ensures opportunity for the doctor and improved access to quality dental care to Floridian communities—including rural and urban areas– that need it the most.

The Florida Dental Student Loan Repayment Program structure will serve as a model for efforts to enact similar programs in other states.

The AAO previously shared information for the 2024 program application and how to apply. The application deadline has been extended to April 15. The program is expected to reopen early 2025 with more funding available to cover student loan debt for eligible orthodontists in Florida.
Learn More about the Program

Federal Advocacy Helps Advance Student Loan Debt Relief Legislation
AAO Advocacy is committed to easing the burden of student loan debt, advocating for solutions at both the state and federal levels.

In February, 47 orthodontic residents met with over 60 congressional offices during the AAO 2024 Professional Advocacy Conference and shared how the growing burden of student loan debt is affecting their decisions on how and where to practice. They also discussed practical and legislative solutions to help ease student loan debt.

Among Advocacy Conference participants’ meetings was one with staff in Utah Senator Mike Lee’s office. A legislative aide in Senator Lee’ office later the AAO with good news: Senator Lee joined with his colleagues to sign on as a cosponsor the REDI Act.

The bipartisan Resident Education Deferred Interest Act (REDI Act), H.R. 1202 was reintroduced in the 118th Congress on the House side by Congressman Brian Babin, DDS (R-TX) and Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and its Senate companion, S. 704, was introduced by Senator Jackey Rosen (D-NV).

The REDI Act bipartisan legislation would provide interest-free deferment for all orthodontic students while in residency. As mentioned, graduating orthodontic residents today average over $560,000 in student loan debt. The REDI Act aims to address the growing doctor workforce shortage. It helps make medical education more affordable, and boost health care outcomes across the United States.

Passing the REDI Act is an AAO priority, and its need is highlighted even more as interest began accumulating again last fall, post Covid-19 pandemic exemptions.

Deferment of interest will prevent students from being punished during their residency with higher debt balances and make options for serving in underserved areas more accessible and affordable. It can also help address workforce solutions across the country, enhance the types of insurance a new provider may accept, and help accelerate financing options for new and younger residents interested in buying a practice.

Help Advocate for the REDI Act

Your voice matters. Please act now: Click here to ask your Members of Congress to sign on to cosponsor the REDI Act or to thank them for their continued support as a cosponsor in the 118th Congress.

Additionally, AAOPAC is helping to fuel our advocacy success not only in Washington, D.C. but in states throughout the country as well. Our bipartisan AAOPAC Pillars of Giving are working, and AAO’s advocacy influence continues to grow through AAO Member grassroots engagement.

Please help keep this incredible advocacy momentum going by making your 2024 30th Anniversary gift to AAOPAC now:!