Financial Aid Advice

Tips on Financing Your Dental Hygiene Education

Posted by Paul Garrard, M.B.A. on April 26, 2022

Students enrolled in any degree program usually have many questions about financial aid, especially student loans, and whether there will be any changes to the programs and if those changes will impact their finances—either during school or later when they are repaying any student loan amounts they may have borrowed. 

When considering how to pay for your dental education, the following tips may help.

Establish contact with your school’s financial aid office (FAO):

  • Financial aid for dental hygiene and dental students may be handled in a main campus FAO, and if so, find out who there to work with when you have questions about financial aid.
  • Be sure to ask about any grants and scholarships (free gift assistance) that may be available, but don’t be surprised if all your financial aid comes from student loans.
  • Check with them about deadlines, but don’t wait to apply for aid until you’re accepted.

Find out your school or program’s cost of attendance (COA):

  • Usually available on the financial aid office website, the COA, also called the financial aid budget, is the itemized listing of all the anticipated expenses you will have each year.
  • This number determines how much financial aid you can receive from all sources combined (includes loans, scholarships, etc.).
  • Focus on those items in the COA that you have some control over, like living expenses.
  • Determine your monthly living allowance by adding your living expenses (room and board, transportation, etc.) and dividing that by the number of months you are in school that year.
  • Don’t forget that consumer debt cannot be included in your COA, so get rid of that before you start school. 

Carefully consider how much you need to borrow and what kind of loans you need:

  • Never borrow more than you need, even though you can borrow up to the full cost each year.
  • Federal loans are usually preferable to private loans because of their repayment flexibility.
  • Students in undergraduate programs may be eligible for subsidized loans, which are interest-free during school and have a six-month grace period after school, as well as direct unsubsidized loans.
  • Students in graduate programs can expect to borrow direct unsubsidized and direct PLUS (Grad PLUS), if needed, up to the full COA less other aid.
  • Work with your FAO to return any loan funds you find out you don’t need. 

Use trusted resources when gathering information about financial aid, especially loans:

  • Don’t rely on social media for information on financial aid, especially student loans.
  • Your FAO should always be your first point of contact with questions about financial aid.
  • Check out Money Matters at and Financial Resources for Students at under Information for “Current Students & Residents” for more information.

Remember, smart budgeting leads to responsible borrowing, and responsible borrowing leads to responsible repayment!

About Paul Garrard, M.B.A.:

Paul Gerrard

Paul S. Garrard, M.B.A.
Founder and President
PGPresents, LLC
Independent Student Loan Consulting
ADEA Senior Advisor for Student Financial Services

With more than 35 years of experience in higher education and student financial aid, Paul Garrard is one of the most well-known and in-demand educational debt management experts in the nation, especially in the health professions communities. Mr. Garrard currently serves as a consultant for the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) as their Senior Advisor for Student Financial Services.

He has extensive experience in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors of higher education. In 2008, he started his own consulting firm, PGPresents, LLC, designed to help promote responsible borrowing and responsible repayment.

His specialty is helping health professions graduates, including dental school graduates, manage their student loan portfolios by helping them develop repayment strategies that meet their career and financial goals. He also uses this expertise through ADEA to help inform incoming dental students about borrowing responsibly.

He is a nationally known speaker on financing a dental education and is a regular speaker at the ADEA GoDental Recruitment Event held prior to the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition. 

He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Samford University and an M.B.A. from the University of Georgia. Mr. Garrard works out of his home in Shepherdstown, WV.