Types of loans

You may have to borrow to help pay for dental school, but the good news is that with smart budgeting and responsible borrowing, you should find repayment of your student loan portfolio manageable.  


  • Approximately one out of five dental school graduates in the Class of 2013 reported either no student loan debt or debt less than $100,000.
  • Average debt for all indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2013 was $241,097.
  • Average debt for all indebted dental school graduates of public and private dental schools was $209,150 and $283,978, respectively.
  • Over one in four indebted dental school graduates reported debt in excess of $300,000.

Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans 
Stafford Loans form the foundation for most dental school students’ loan portfolios. Your school may require some borrowing in this program before considering you for other types of aid.

Interest rate: The rate on new loans changes each July 1 and is then fixed for that loan throughout the life of the loan. The current rate for new loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2013 is 6.21% fixed; the maximum rate on new loans is 9.5%.
Terms: Up to $40,500 per year, with a cumulative maximum from all degree programs of $224,000. 

Federal Grad PLUS Loans 
These loans are used to supplement borrowing from other loan programs, including Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. 

Interest rate: The rate on new loans changes each July 1 and is then fixed for that loan throughout the life of the loan. The current rate for new loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2013 is 7.21% fixed; the maximum rate on new loans is 10.5%. 
Terms:  You may borrow up to your  COA (Cost of Attendance) each year with Grad PLUS, less other aid (including Stafford), thereby negating the need for private loans during school. These loans are based, in part, on the borrower being “credit ready.”

Federal Perkins Loans 
These are federal loans awarded by your school that are based on financial need (contact your Financial Aid Office [FAO] regarding availability and application).

Interest rate: There is a 5% fixed rate for the life of the loan.
Terms: Subsidized (interest free) during school and during a nine-month grace period (a period of time after a payment due date where no late fees will be charged for not submitting payment).

Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL) 
These are federal loans from the Department of Health and Human Services (called Title VII) awarded by the health professions school or dental school. The loans are based on exceptional financial need (contact your health professions school or dental school FAO regarding availability and application).

Interest rate: There is a 5% fixed rate for the life of the loan. 
Terms: Subsidized (interest free) during school and during a 12-month grace period.

Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) 
Similar to a Health Professions Student Loan, but awarded specifically to students from disadvantaged backgrounds (contact your FAO regarding availability and application). 

Institutional Loans 
Your school may directly provide loans with more favorable terms and conditions. See your FAO for details.

Private Loans 
Private loans often have limited repayment and postponement options. Always speak with your FAO before applying for a private loan.

Interest rate:   Rates may be variable or fixed, depending on the lender, with lower rates usually reserved for borrowers who secure a creditworthy cosigner. 
Terms: Unsubsidized with (in most cases) annual and cumulative caps on borrowing amounts. These loans are based, in part, on borrower being “credit worthy.” Private loans are not eligible to be repaid with income-driven repayment plans and are not eligible for forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness.