Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Opportunities

There are various federal student loan forgiveness opportunities available to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants who qualify. APTA also advocates for physical therapists to be eligible for additional student loan forgiveness programs in Congress. Learn more and take action via the Legislative Action Center.

Department of Veterans Affairs Educational Support Programs
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a variety of options to recruit, retain, and incentivize health care professionals throughout their career spectrum. It is important to understand that some incentives are only offered for certain positions, and it is at the discretion of each Veterans Health Administration facility whether to use these programs at all.

  • Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP) - This programs provides debt reduction reimbursements to employees with qualifying loans who are in health care professional positions providing direct-patient care services.
  • Employee Incentive Scholarship Program (EISP) - This is a scholarship awarded to full- and part-time VA employees who are currently enrolled in or accepted to an accredited education program.
  • VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) - VANEEP participants agree to work at their VA facility during academic breaks and receive full salary and payment for educational costs (including books and fees). It is specifically for VA employees who are enrolled full-time in an approved education program.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program - Since the VA is a Federal Government Entity, VA employees with Federal Student loans (William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans only) may be eligible for this forgiveness program.
  • Student Loan Repayment (SLRP) - Under this program, employees in certain occupations may be eligible to receive up to $10,000 per year with a lifetime maximum of $60,000 to help repay student loans. Check the availability of this program when submitting your application for employment.

Income Based Repayment
Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are eligible for income based repayment (IBR) through the Department of Education if they qualify through the federal government. Through IBR, borrowers are only responsible for paying 15% of their monthly income and after 25 years, the remainder of the loan is forgiven. Both physical therapists and physical therapist assistants can qualify for this repayment option if eligible.

Indian Health Service Student Loan Repayment Opportunity
The mission of the Indian Health Service (IHS) is to raise the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. The IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP) offers health professionals, including physical therapists, the opportunity to pay off qualified student loans to meet the staffing needs of Indian health programs. Opportunities are based on staffing needs and the availability of funds. The LRP awards up to $20,000 per year in exchange for a minimum two-year service obligation at an IHS LRP facility, plus 20 percent of federal income tax on the award. The LRP withholds the employee's portion of FICA taxes. Applications are accepted year-round beginning October 1 through the Friday of the second full week of August and are evaluated monthly beginning in January, or as soon as funds become available.

Faculty Loan Repayment Program
Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) administered through the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) is designed to increase the recruitment and retention of health professions faculty with the goal of preparing the next generation of health care professionals. Physical therapists from disadvantaged backgrounds can apply for up to $40,000 in student loan assistance through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP). Applications now are being accepted for the program, which offers health professions faculty, including physical therapists, the opportunity to pay off qualified student loans. In return for loan assistance, accepted applicants will provide 2 years of service at an approved health professions institution.

National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program
National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to encourage outstanding health professionals to pursue careers in biomedical, behavioral, social, and clinical research. Currently, eight loan repayment programs (LRPs) provide annual educational loan repayment for scientists, including DPTs, conducting such research. By participating in research, NIH may provide physical therapists up to $35,000 of qualified student loan repayment per year.

  • Extramural Programs: If you are or will commit at least two years of conducting qualified research funded by a domestic nonprofit organization or U.S. federal, state, or local government entity outside NIH, you may be eligible. Extramural applications are accepted annually between September 1 and November 15.
  • Intramural Programs: In order to qualify for intramural programs, applicants must: (1) meet general eligibility requirements of the Intramural LRPs; (2) engage in qualified research and; (3) must hold a three-year appointment at the NIH beginning in the fiscal year in which they are applying. Intramural applications are accepted annually between September 1 and February 1 for renewal applications, or April 1 for new applications.

Pay As You Earn
Similar to IBR, pay as you earn (PAYE) is another program for Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans as well as Federal PLUS Loans. For this program you must be a new borrower as of Oct. 1, 2007, and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011*. Under PAYE your monthly payment amount will be 10 percent of your discretionary income and any remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 years of qualifying repayment. PAYE also qualifies under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (below).

*On June 9, 2014, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Education to expand the PAYE plan to more Federal Direct Loan Borrowers by December, 2015. Details will be provided as they are available.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
By consolidating your loans through the Income Based Repayment Program or Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) was created to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs by forgiving the remaining balance of their federal loans after making 120 qualifying monthly payments (beginning after October 1, 2007) while employed full-time by a public service organization. Any individual, including physical therapists or physical therapist assistants, working full-time in a government setting, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, or a public health organization can take advantage of PSLF.

Forms for canceling the remaining debt are not yet available, since the program was developed in 2007, the soonest any borrower could obtain public service loan forgiveness is 2017. The Department of Education has provided guidance on how to keep track of your eligibility for this opportunity.

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