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.


  • 17% of dental school graduates in the Class of 2019 reported no student loan debt.
  • Average educational debt for all indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2019 was $292,169, with the average for public and private schools at $261,305 and $321,184 respectively.
  • 19% of indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2019 reported debt less than $200,000.
  • 25% of indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2019 for public and private dental schools reported debt of $200,000 to $300,000.
    • 39% of indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2019 reported student loan debt of more than $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 at 9.5% and 10.5% respectively. 
      • Changes may eventually be made to the income-driven repayment plans as well as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which is all the more reason to never borrow more than you really need.