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 2017 reported either no student loan debt or debt less than $100,000.
  • Median educational debt for all indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2017 was $280,000.
  • Median educational debt for all indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2017 for public and private dental schools was $240,000 and $360,000, respectively.
  • Over 35% of indebted dental school graduates in the Class of 2017 reported debt in excess of $300,000.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans 
Direct unsubsidized 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, 2017 is 6.59% 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. The annual amount may be prorated higher based on budget length. These loans are not based on credit.

Federal Direct Plus (Grad PLUS) Loans 
These loans are used to supplement borrowing from other loan programs, including direct unsubsidized 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, 2017 is 7.59% fixed; the maximum rate on new loans is 10.5%.  Note this rate is always one percentage point higher than the rate on direct unsubsidized loans.
Terms:  You may borrow up to your  COA (Cost of Attendance) each year with direct PLUS, less other aid (including direct unsubsidized), thereby negating the need for private loans during school. These loans are based, in part, on the borrower being “credit ready,” meaning no adverse history of payments on other obligations, such as 30 or 60 day delinquencies.

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. Repayment is generally over 10 years with level payments. HPSL are not eligible for repayment with income driven repayment options plans and are not eligible for forgiveness.

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. Institutional loans are not eligible for repayment with income driven repayment options plans and are not eligible for forgiveness.

Private Loans 
Private loans have limited repayment and postponement options when compared with federal loans. 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,” with a borrower's credit score considered in both approval and pricing. Private loans are not eligible to be repaid with income-driven repayment plans and are not eligible for forgiveness, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness.