Organized dentistry continues to prioritize student loan reform in order to alleviate the financial hardship for many dentists.
In a July 19 letter to House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Robert C. Scott, D-Va., and Ranking Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the Organized Dentistry Coalition - which includes the ADA - asked lawmakers to advance the following student loan reform bills out of committee for consideration by the full House of Representatives:
The dental groups also urged members of the House Committee on Education and Labor to cosponsor the following bills, which have been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and/or the House Committee on Energy and Commerce:
"Graduate student debt has been rising at abnormally high rates for decades, even after adjusting for inflation," wrote the coalition, which noted dental school graduates are now starting their careers nearly $305,000 in debt ($270,125 for graduates from public dental schools and $349,730 for graduates from private dental schools) according to a 2021 analysis published in the Journal of Dental Education.
The coalition reminded lawmakers that federal student loan interest rates can reach as high as 9.5% or 10.5%, depending on the type of loan, and interest begins accruing immediately.
"Educational debt is a particular challenge for the 37% of dental school graduates with debt who pursue (or are required to complete) several years of a low- or non-paying dental or medical residency program," the groups wrote. "Those who are unable to begin paying their student loans immediately may qualify to have their payments temporarily halted or reduced through a deferment or forbearance process, but the suspended/reduced payments are not automatic. And the interest accrues regardless, adding tens of thousands of dollars to their debt.
"We applaud your committee for considering this meaningful legislation," the letter concluded. "These reforms will not eliminate the financial hardship for early career dentists, but they will help offset the unprecedented financial challenges these essential health care providers face at graduation."
The ADA also sent a letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor asking for support on these student loan reform bills.
For more information about the ADA's advocacy efforts in student loan reform, visit ADA.org/HigherEd.