How Veterinarians Can Better Manage Student Loan Debt

How Veterinarians Can Better Manage Student Loan Debt
April 15, 2019

A majority of Americans struggle with student loan debt. In fact, according to Student Loan Hero, the average college student graduates with almost $30,000 in student loan debt.

Unfortunately, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that that number is typically much higher for veterinary students, who graduate with an average of almost $167,000 in student loan debt.

Veterinary students are the future of veterinary medicine and we want to make sure they’re able to thrive while simultaneously managing their loan debt.

If you’re a recent veterinary school graduate, consider these three tips for managing your student loan debt:

Refinance your loans

Refinancing involves getting your original loan paid off and taking out a new one (for the same amount) but with a better interest rate. Because student loans provided by private student loan servicers, such as Sallie Mae, often come with higher interest rates than federal loans or bank loans, it’s helpful to refinance them to save money on interest.

However, you should consider your situation carefully since refinancing your loans can remove some protections afforded to you by utilizing federal loans.

Utilize loan repayment and forgiveness programs

Check to see if you qualify for loan repayment programs. Some programs, such as the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, offer up to $25,000 a year to eligible veterinarians who commit to working in an area with a designated veterinarian shortage for three years. Others, such as the F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program, will pay the full cost of tuition in exchange for your service.

Check out these student loan repayment and forgiveness programs:

And last, but not least, is perhaps the least attractive (but most doable) option...

Be realistic about your budget

A lot of people think budgeting is synonymous with missing out on fun activities and giving up their social life but that does not have to be the case. If you want to budget correctly, you should create a spreadsheet or download a budgeting app, such as Mint, and list your monthly income and expenses. From there, spend some time tracking how you spend your money.

Once you’ve identified where your money is going, you can start to create change. Approach the process with a positive attitude and set a realistic budget. Unfortunately, there is no “perfect” budgeting formula that will work out well for everyone. Instead, you should deduct the fixed payments you have to make each month, decide how much you’d like to save (or put toward your student loans), and give yourself a set amount to spend on things you want but don’t necessarily need, such as dining out, vacationing, and shopping. You can learn more about how to use a spreadsheet to create a budget here.

We know that managing student loan debt can be stressful and we hope these tips will allow you to see the light at the end of the tunnel and create a plan to tackle it.