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Understanding Student Loans for Medical School

4 min read / Medical School


Becoming a doctor is a big commitment. Not only will you need to invest years of training, but the financial investment is just as significant. Fortunately, there are a number of different ways to pay for medical school. After pursuing avenues like grants and scholarships, many future doctors who are US citizens or permanent residents rely on federal student loans. 

But when it comes to student loans for medical school, you likely have a list of unanswered questions. Join us as we unpack some of the most common queries about federal student aid for medical students. 

How to pay for medical school: Using federal financial aid 

Most medical students will need to finance at least a portion of their education through the use of federal aid. Read on for answers to your questions about student loans for medical school. 

Why are federal loans preferred over private loans?  

Generally speaking, federal student loans offer advantages that you won’t typically find from most private loans. These include things like lower fixed interest rates and various repayment options such as income-based repayment or Pay As You Earn plans 

Who has access to federal student loans for medical school?  

All medical students who are US citizens or permanent residents attending qualifying institutions will have the opportunity to apply for federal financial aid. It’s helpful to note that this doesn’t mean you have to attend a US institution. As long as the program you’re considering is among the approved international medical schools listed by the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office, you will be eligible to participate in the financial aid application process.  

What should I look for in an international medical school if I want to utilize US federal financial aid? 

If you’re looking into attending a medical school outside the US but you still want to benefit from the United States’ federal financial aid program, you’ll need to be sure the US Department of Education has approved the institution to participate in the Federal Direct Loan Program.  

For example, the St. George’s University (SGU) School of Medicine is accredited by the Grenada Medical and Dental Council (GMDC), the chosen accreditor of the country of Grenada. GMDC has been reviewed by The National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), a panel of experts organized by the U.S Department of Education, which has determined that GMDC uses standards that are comparable to the standards used to accredit medical schools in the United States.  Based on its accreditation from GMDC, SGU can participate in the U.S. Department of Education Federal Direct Loan Program and eligible SGU students can receive such federal loans.  

In other words, if you want to go to a Caribbean medical school—or any other international medical school—you’ll need to confirm that the NCFMEA has made a comparability determination of the foreign country’s accreditation standards and that the school has been approved by the US Department of Education to participate in the federal student loan program.  

Will I be able to pay off my medical school loans? 

This fear sits at the forefront of many medical students’ minds. The good news is, if you’re thoughtful about how you choose where you go to school, your medical school financing options, and your eventual employment positions, you’ll be in a great position to pay off your loans once you graduate from medical school.  

Federal loans provide a variety of repayment plans, which is especially important when in residency. Borrowers can select a repayment plan based on their income instead of their overall loan debt. This makes repayment very manageable during residency. 

Check out our article for firsthand insight on this: “SGU Alumni Dish on What Paying for Medical School Is Really Like.” 

Funding your future 

When it comes to financing your medical degree, there are several ways to make ends meet. Now that you have a better understanding of student loans for medical school, you can decide if taking advantage of this option is the right move for you. 

For more information, visit our article “How to Pay for Medical School: Doctors Share How They Did It.” 


April 12, 2022