ADA calls on dentists and dental students to press Congress on student loan reform

New video features two dentists speaking out on need for reform

The ADA has posted a new video featuring new dentists speaking out on student debt and also sent out a Sept. 7 grassroots alert to members on the issue. Both communications pieces urge dentists and dental students nationwide to contact their members of Congress in support of support student loan reform.

In the video, Jon Vogel, D.D.S., a 2018 graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry, said paying back his loans had a "significant impact" on every single decision in his life, from where he decided to live and practice to giving back to his community.

"Starting dental school, the moment that you sign your loan, interest starts accumulating," Dr. Vogel said. "Upon graduation, I had already accumulated over $30,000 in just interest debt. We have to start doing something, and [Congress has] to take action instead of just talking about it."

On average, new dentists start their careers owing nearly $305,000 in educational debt, with that number averaging $270,125 for graduates from public dental schools and $349,730 for graduates from private dental schools, according to the 2020 American Dental Education Association's Survey of U.S. Dental School Seniors.

This debt can also impact a new dentist's future career choices such as pursuing an associateship or corporate career, pooling resources to purchase a dental practice, or practicing in underserved areas. It can also affect other areas of life, including decisions about starting a family.

"Many students might pursue other paths in dentistry or something they're truly passionate about, whether that's public health or increasing access to care or academics like myself," said Roopali Kulkarni, D.M.D., past president of the American Student Dental Association and 2019 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

In the alert, the ADA urged dentists and dental students to tell their congressional representatives to support eight student loan bills. These bills also align with current ADA policies on student loans, which can be found here.

"These bills will not achieve all of the student loan reform needed, but they will make educational debt more manageable until broader solutions are found," the alert concluded.

The eight bills ADA is asking Congress to support are:
- HR 4631, the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act. This bill, known as the POST GRAD Act, would reinstate eligibility for graduate and professional students with financial need to have their student loan interest subsidized while attending school.
- HR 4122/S 3658, the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act. This bill, known as the REDI Act, would allow medical and dental residents to defer payments on their federal student loans - and delay the point at which interest begins to accrue - until after completing their residency.
- HR 2160, the Student Loan Refinancing Act. This bill would enable borrowers to refinance their federal student loans on multiple occasions to take advantage of lower interest rates.
 - HR 1918, the Student Loan Refinancing and Recalculation Act. This would provide a chance for borrowers to refinance their federal student loans when interest rates are lower and would also eliminate loan origination fees and allow medical and dental residents to defer payments until after completing their residency programs. Additionally, it would delay the accrual of interest for many low- and middle-income borrowers while they are in school.
 - HR 4726, the Student Loan Interest Deduction Act. This would double the student loan interest deduction from $2,500 to $5,000 and eliminate the income limits that disqualify those with higher incomes from reaping the benefit.
 - HR 7539/S 2874, the Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act. This would allow dentists participating in the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program to deduct interest and principal payments from their federal income taxes, as well as certain benefits received by those in the Indian Health Service Health Professions Scholarship Program.
 - HR 1285/S 449, the Dental Loan Repayment Assistance Act. This would allow full-time faculty members participating in the Dental Faculty Loan Repayment Program to exclude the amount of the loan forgiveness from their federal income taxes.
 - HR 2295, the HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program Act. This bill, known as the HELP Act, would offer up to $250,000 in educational loan repayment to dentists, physicians, and other health care professionals in exchange for up to five years of service at Ryan White-funded clinical sites and in health profession shortage areas.

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