Educational debt

There is both good news and not-so-good news regarding borrowing for dental school, but just remember two important principles when you start thinking about student loans for dental school:

1. Never borrow more than you really need.

2. Plan to pay back what you borrow.


  • Approximately one out of five dental school graduates in the Class of 2016 reported either no student loan debt or debt less than $100,000.
  • Average educational debt for all indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2016 was $262,119.
  • Average educational debt for all indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2016 for public and private dental schools was $238,582 and $291,668, respectively
  • Over 30% of indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2016 reported student loan debt in excess of $300,000.

Good news

  • Dental school graduates have a great reputation for timely repayment.
  • You can currently fund your entire COA (Cost of Attendance) with federal loans with a combination of federal direct unsubsidized and federal direct PLUS (formerly known as Grad PLUS), negating the need for private loans.
  • Dental school graduates typically enter the income stream after graduation faster than other health professions colleagues, which may allow for aggressive repayment.
  • It is easier than ever to track your federal student loans in the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
  • You may graduate with multiple federal loans, but they are likely going to be serviced by just one loan servicer, which negates for many the need to consolidate after graduation.
  • Refinancing at a lower rate with a private lender after graduation is now an option for many dental school graduates.

Not so good news

  • Your entire student loan portfolio may be unsubsidized, with interest accruing from time of disbursement—interest that will eventually be capitalized (added back to the principal).
  • Interest rates on new direct unsubsidized and new direct PLUS loans are fixed and change each year, and the maximum rates are high. Interest rates are going up July 1, 2017 for new loans.
  • Changes are likely coming to the income-driven repayment plans as well as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, all the more reason to never borrow more than you really need.