ELFI is monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and following guidance from state and federal agencies. If you have been impacted by the Coronavirus, our Customer Care Center is available to help you.
Graduate School
Private Student Loans
Student Loans

The Reality of Dental School Debt and How to Manage it

September 23, 2019

Choosing to become a dentist is an admirable decision, no matter how you look at it – from helping improve patients’ appearance and self-confidence to teaching patients how to achieve oral health and prevent disease, a dentist’s work goes beyond the chair and impacts lives.


With this being said, the burden undertaken by dental professionals is often overlooked when considering the seemingly hefty salaries associated with the career path. By “burden”, of course, we mean the hefty amounts of student loan debt. According to the American Dental Education Association, the average debt per graduating dental school senior was $285,184 in 2018, with over 80% of dental school graduates facing over $100,000 of student debt. This average debt is over 4x higher than it was in 1990. 


This staggering level of debt may seem overwhelming at first, but rest assured that with a little research, planning, and use of resources, dental school debt can be tackled – but first, let’s look at how this debt impacts individuals pursuing a career in dentistry. 


Difficulty Choosing Career Path

Massive debt often makes it difficult for aspiring dentists to choose the career path they truly want. To begin with, the majority of dental schools require a bachelor’s degree to attend. Already carrying undergrad debt, full-time dental students can then expect to finish their dental degree within four years and become licensed. However, if they want to pursue one of the nine recognized specialties, they’ll have to undergo more schooling in addition to their general practice or specialty dental residency. Each of these decisions can be heavily affected by the anxiety of accumulating more debt, often leading students to settle in their career choice. 


Accumulating Interest

If you decided to take the route mentioned above and end up with the average amount of dental school debt (about $285,000), you’ll be facing monthly payments of $3,800 on a standard 10-year repayment plan, assuming a 6% interest rate (the rate for federal graduate unsubsidized student loans disbursed between July 2017 to July 2018). And it gets worse – if you paid your loans over this 10-year term, you would pay $171,000 in interest alone – making the total cost settle somewhere around $456,000. 


Difficulty Starting Career

Because of the overwhelming amount of debt new dentists face, starting their career isn’t a stress-free experience. New dentists often have to work through lunch, take more patients and take less time off to accelerate the repayment of their loans. This can lead to exhausting patterns that cause burnout. Not to mention, a large portion of dentists begin dental school with the end-goal of starting their own practice, and this cost can easily surpass $250,000. Recouping this cost while trying to pay off debt can be extremely burdensome. However, choosing the route of starting a private practice is the fastest way to start paying down debt. Private practitioners typically earn higher incomes and have more earning potential than dentists working for another organization. 


How Long Does it Take for Dental School to Pay Off?

When taking into consideration missed earnings, a dentist who graduated with the average amount of debt ($285,000) will have invested about $570,000 into dental school. This is assuming they would have made $55,000 per year that they were in dental school (the average pay for a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, which is common for pre-dental graduates). 


This table from Student Loan Hero shows that with a typical entry-level dentist salary of $118,800 and a five percent yearly increase in earnings, it would take about eight years for a dentist’s earning potential to offset the cost of dental school:


chart explaining the amount of time it would take for dental school to payoff vs. not attending dental school

Source: https://studentloanhero.com/featured/dental-school-debt-worth-it/


The bright side? That dental school investment is generating an extra $90,000 in income by that 8-year mark, and that differential will likely continue to increase.


Pay Off Dental School Debt Sooner

Despite the quantity of debt associated with dental school, the consensus is that paying it off is achievable. Depending on your situation, there are specific actions you can take to make paying off your dental school debt more manageable. If you can’t afford monthly payments and don’t mind paying for an extended period, you can apply for federal income-driven repayment. This will likely extend your payment term from 10 years to 20 or 25 years, but your remaining balance will be forgiven at the end of your repayment period. For dentists working in the public sector, specific underserved areas or non-profits, you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This program offers tax-free loan forgiveness to borrowers who pay on their loans for 10 years while working in one of these areas. Keep in mind that less than 1 percent of student loan borrowers who applied for the PSLF program have qualified, so it may not be as simple as it sounds.


Tackle Debt Quicker and Pay Less by Refinancing

If you’re in a position where you’re not happy with your interest rate, have solid credit, and want to reduce the amount you’ll pay monthly and over the lifetime of your loan, refinancing your dental school loans is probably your best bet. This is especially true if you’re having success in the dental field and want to pay off your loans quickly. While refinanced loans aren’t eligible for income-driven repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness, they can significantly reduce your interest rate, in turn reducing your monthly and lifetime payment. 


In clearer terms, let’s say you have $200,000 of student debt from dental school and are paying 6% interest on a 10-year term. Your monthly payment would be about $2,666 and you would pay $320,000 over the lifetime of your loan. 


Refinancing to a 10-year loan term at a 4% interest rate would save you $40,000 in total and reduce your monthly payment by $333. Your new monthly payment would be $2,333 and you would pay $280,000 over the life of the loan.


Education Loan Finance offers great rates when it comes to refinancing dental student loans – Check out our student loan refinancing calculator to see how much refinancing your dental school loans with ELFI could save you. 


Have questions? Our Personal Loan Advisors are available to guide you through every step of the refinancing process. Give us a call at 1-844-601-ELFI and see why we’ve been voted #1 in customer service for student loan refinancing. 


Prequalify Here




*Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. Interest rates current as of 9/16/2019. The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. Interest rates may be different from the rates shown above and will be based on the term of your loan, your financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.10 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.


NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites

Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How to Ask Your Employer to Help Pay Student Debt

These days, employers offer all kinds of benefits to keep employees, from kombucha on tap and innovative new office spaces to ping pong tables and video game rooms. The list of benefits seems to grow all the time.   When you think about it, though, how much do you really need that kombucha on tap? Instead, what many graduates need is help with their ever-mounting student loans. In combination with other methods of dealing with student loan debt, employers can play a valuable role in ensuring their employees’ financial stability.   Employers are beginning to recognize this trend, as well. That’s why some have begun to offer help to employees with student loan debt. While an uncommon practice at the moment, some companies now offer options to help employees pay back their student loans.   The practice is rapidly becoming more popular, and if you’re lucky, your employer may already offer a student debt relief program. Here are several ways employers are already helping to reduce their employees' student loan debt.  

Financial Education

Employers have begun to understand that their own financial success is tied to the financial success of their employees. As a result, some employers have begun to offer financial education opportunities.   These opportunities come in many forms, including workshops, webinars and even counseling. While many employees already have a firm grasp on financial concepts, these programs can still be incredibly beneficial to those weighed down by student debt as they often cover lesser-known tactics and reinforce familiar strategies.  

Student Loan Repayment Signing Bonuses

Another method of helping employees with student debt is the signing bonus. For example, some companies offer $1,000 towards student loans for new hires. This $1000 can drastically reduce the amount graduates pay in interest over the life of their student loans and is an effective way for companies to hire and keep dedicated, hardworking employees.  

Employer Repayment

The most exciting benefit employers are beginning to adopt is direct assistance with student loans. Now, in addition to savvy fiscal advice, some companies are backing up their support with dollars and cents.   A few companies now offer yearly bonuses to help pay back student loans. One of the most generous of these companies is Nvidia. Employees earn $6,000 a year towards their student loans up to a $30,000 maximum. Several companies offer comparable or lower amounts. Regardless of the repayment amounts, this innovative strategy provides a new way to fight back against student debt.   A variation of this policy is occasionally used, as well. In this variation, employees who don’t take their PTO can trade their PTO days for student loan assistance. With many in the United States not taking their PTO days anyway, this is a compelling option for student loan borrowers.  

Contributions to 401(k) Plans

It may seem strange for 401(k) contributions to go hand-in-hand with paying off student debt. You might even expect to have to choose between them.   If you’re employed by Abbott Laboratories, though, you don’t have to choose. Employees who contribute at least 2% of their pay toward student loans are eligible for the full 5% employer matching in their 401(k), even if they do not otherwise contribute to their 401(k). Abbott Laboratories is the first company to offer this incentive to help employees to pay off student debt, and hopefully many companies will follow in their footsteps.   Sadly, these types of programs are not as commonly offered as they should be, but that isn’t necessarily bad news for you.   If student loan assistance programs are something that you would like to see at your company, then make an appointment to speak with either your boss or to human resources. In this day ¬¬¬¬¬and age, the competition for the best employees is fierce, and employers are always looking for ways to keep employees happy. In some cases, it may even be cheaper than a raise.   It’s also worth mentioning your interest in such programs while negotiating your salary and benefits package for a new job. They may include it as an additional benefit.   If your employer already provides these benefits, that’s fantastic! You’re already one step closer to being unburdened by student debt. If you're curious about how to finish the job and free yourself from student debt completely, one great way to do that is Student Loan Refinancing. You can learn more here.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
calculator showing interest
Student Loans: What is the Difference Between a Principal and an Interest Payment?

If you’re planning on going to college, you should be prepared for potentially high costs. The average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year university for an in-state student is $10,440, while it’s $36,880 at a private school.    By Kat Tretina   While those numbers are pricey enough on their own, financing can add to the expense. If you borrow money to cover the total cost of attendance, you’ll end up repaying more than you initially borrowed because of interest charges — what lenders charge you in exchange for lending you money.    When dealing with student loans, it’s important to understand how student loan interest rates affect your repayment and how your extra payments are applied to your debt.   

How Student Loan Interest Rates Affect Your Loan Balance

Student loan interest rates can cause your loan balance to grow over time. The higher the rate, the more interest that accrues.    For example, if you took out $30,000 in student loans and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4% interest, you’d pay $6,448 in interest charges on top of the $30,000 you borrowed.    But if you qualified for a $30,000 loan at 5% interest — a difference of just 1% — you’d pay $8,184 in interest charges. The extra percentage point would cause you to pay over $1,700 more in interest charges.    However, you can cut down on interest payments by paying off your debt ahead of schedule. When you pay off your loans early, less interest accrues over your loan's life, allowing you to save money.   

The Difference Between Principal and Interest Payments

When you enter into repayment, your loan payments cover two different aspects: 
    • Interest: Interest that has accrued to date
    • Principal: The original loan amount
  When you make a payment, lenders typically apply the payment to any fees first, such as late fees or returned payment fees, then to interest charges. If any money is left over, they will apply the excess to the principal balance.   

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Repayment Options

If you take out private student loans from ELFI*, you can choose from the following repayment options: 
    • Immediate repayment: You make payments toward the principal and interest right after disbursement
      • Best for: You’re working while in school and can afford the payments. You want to pay the least amount of interest possible. 
    • Interest only: While you’re in school, you make payments that only cover the interest that accrues on the loan. 
      • Best for: You can’t afford to make full payments, but you want to minimize interest charges. You’re working part-time or have some income while in school. 
    • Partial payment: With partial payments, you make a flat-rate payment — typically $25 — while you’re in school. 
      • Best for: Money is tight while you’re in school, but you want to chip away at some of the interest that accrues. 
    • Fully deferred: If you opt for fully deferred repayment, you don’t make any payments at all while you’re in school. This is the most expensive repayment option, as more interest accrues over the life of the loan. 
      • Best for: You are in a rigorous academic program and need to completely focus on your studies, so you don’t want to make any payments while in school. 
  Use the private student loan calculator to see what your payment would be and how much you’d repay over the life of the loan under each repayment plan.*   

Student Loan Repayment Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt Faster

Once you graduate, there are ways to accelerate your debt repayment and reduce the amount of interest that accrues.   

1. Make Extra Payments

If you want to pay off your debt faster and are thinking about different student loan repayment strategies, consider increasing your minimum monthly payments.    More of your payment will go toward the principal each month, reducing how much you’ll pay in interest and allowing you to pay off the debt ahead of schedule.    For example, if you had $30,000 in student loans at 5% interest and a 10-year repayment term, your monthly payment would be $318 per month. If you only made the minimum payments, you’d repay a total of $38,192 by the end of your loan term.    If you increase your payments to $368 per month — an addition of just $50 per month — you’d pay off your loans 20 months early. And, you’d repay just $36,731. By adjusting your monthly payment, you’d save $1,461.   

2. Use the Debt Avalanche or Debt Snowball Methods

If you have multiple student loans, consider using either the debt avalanche or debt snowball method to tackle your debt.    With the debt avalanche method, you make extra payments toward the loan with the highest interest rate.    With the debt snowball, you target the debt with the lowest balance first.    Which is best for you? It depends on your goals and personality. Learn more in our breakdown of the debt snowball and debt avalanche method repayment strategies  

3. Refinance Your Debt

Student loan interest rates have a big impact on your overall repayment. By refinancing your student loans,* you can qualify for a lower interest rate so more of your monthly payment goes toward the principal. Over time, refinancing can help you save a significant amount of money.   

The Bottom Line

By understanding how payments work and how student loan interest rates affect your total repayment, you can pick a repayment plan that works for you.    If you still have questions, ELFI’s Personal Loan Advisors can walk you through the loan application process and answer any questions you have.*  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
woman reading new about student loans
This Week in Student Loans: July 31, 2020

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
white house

Trump: Student Loans May Be Suspended For “Additional Periods Of Time”

With a second stimulus package on the way, Trump has stated that student loan suspensions may be extended past the already in place deadline.  

Source: Forbes


GOP Coronavirus Relief Proposal

Here’s How the Latest GOP Coronavirus Relief Proposal Would Impact Student Loans

The GOP has released their coronavirus relief proposal, but experts claim that it is largely ineffective in helping student loan borrowers.  

Source: CNBC


student loan servicers

What to Know About Changes Coming to Student Loan Servicing

In an attempt to streamline student loan servicing, the US government has signed contracts with five companies to provide customer service and back-office support to federal student loan borrowers.  

Source: U.S. News & World Report


man researching whether to refinance student loans

Should You Refinance Student Loans? What to Consider as Legislators Debate New Stimulus Package

Refinancing rates are incredibly low, but due to the second stimulus package not yet being put in place, student loan borrowers are unsure of when the best time to refinance will be.  

Source: Newsweek

  That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.