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It’s no secret that student loan debt is challenging millions of Americans – among them physical therapists and physical therapist assistants.

As outlined in APTA’s 2020 report on the impact of student debt, your debt could be affecting the life choices you make: where you work, where you live, and whether you start a family.

April is Financial Literacy Month — a good time to highlight our ongoing efforts to raise awareness about debt burden. Take our quiz to help you assess your understanding of the full size and shape of the problem, as revealed through APTA’s research. Many of the questions are based on a survey of PTs and PTAs we conducted in the process of developing the 2020 report.

Whatever your score on the quiz, check out the APTA-provided resources that can help you take more control over your financial outlook, including our award-winning Financial Solutions Center.

Answers are below the quiz.

1. What percentage of DPT graduates' debt is from PT education?

A. 44%
B. 50%
C. 73%
D. 80%

2. Including all sources of debt except mortgages, how much debt, on average, is being carried by more than 90% of early-career PTs?

A. $80,000
B. $123,000
C. $153,000
D. $167,000

3. What was the average amount of debt attributed to PT education?

A. $112,000
B. $114,000
C. $116,000
D. $118,000

4. On average, how long did PTs say it would take them to pay off their total student debt?

A. 16 years
B. 19 years
C. 23 years
D. 27 years

5. What percentage of respondents said that student debt was preventing them from working in their chosen area of practice?

A. 5%
B. 16%
C. 22%
D. 25%

6. How many respondents reported that their student debt caused them to experience "mid to high-level anxiety"?

A. 20%
B. 45%
C. 64%
D. 70%

7. What percentage of respondents reported having additional employment besides their work as a PT?

A. 15%
B. 28%
C. 33%
D. 40%

8. Which of the following states were found to have the highest average amount of PT education debt?

A. California
B. Maine
C. New Hampshire
D. Vermont

ANSWERS TO QUIZ

1. D
DPT graduates on average reported that 80% of their debt is from their PT education. Only 11% reported being student debt-free. Of those who no longer had debt three years after school, many were able to minimize debt due to family assistance. The debt-free cohort also reported that they used more scholarships, work-study income, and personal savings than did the average respondent with debt.

2. C
The actual number cited in the report is $152,882 in debt — and that doesn't count mortgage debt. As the report states, "for 90% of these PTs, that includes education-related debt — defined as the sum of reported undergraduate debt (federal and private loans), PT education debt (federal and private loans), and any other education debt — at an average amount of $142,489. And for 89% of those with education debt, most of that amount (80%) comprises federal or private loans for their PT education."

3. C
The average amount of debt attributed to PT education was $116,183. The problem is intensified by starting salaries that are typically below those from other professions whose education programs tend to generate comparable amounts of debt. The result, according to one study: PT graduates "have a high potential for obtaining unmanageable debt due to the costs of education and earning potential" early in their careers.

4. A
The average estimated time until student debt is paid off was 16.2 years, but the APTA report says that may be an optimistic projection, "given that according to the U.S. Department of Education, individuals take approximately 20 years on average to fully pay off debt between $20,000 and $40,000, indicating a longer payment timeline for a lower debt range than that of the mean APTA survey respondent."

5. C
Just more than 1 in 5 — 22% — of respondents said that their debt was preventing them from pursuing their chosen area of practice. But that wasn't the only constraint they reported: student debt was also preventing or delaying them from buying a home (60%), contributing to retirement savings (56%), starting a family (53%) and pursuing a specialization (38%).

6. D
Mid-to-high levels of anxiety over student debt were reported by 70% of respondents. When asked to choose a word they most associated with student debt, they most frequently said "burden," "unfair," "stressful," and "crushing."

7. B
About 28% of respondents reported having additional employment to supplement income, with Black or African American respondent 11% more likely than average to have additional sources of income.

8. C
At $227,000 in average PT education debt, New Hampshire was significantly above the other states in the top-five list: Maine ($137k), Vermont ($136K), California ($135k), and South Carolina ($128k). Excepting Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming, with survey reports of $0 in debt, the lowest five states in terms of average PT education debt were Wisconsin ($57k), Arkansas ($59k), Kansas ($65k), Oklahoma ($68k), and Mississippi ($69k)


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