ADA advocates for dentists in debt

Association supports income-driven repayment adjustments, relief for various loan types

The ADA is supporting several of the U.S. Department of Education’s proposals to amend student loan debt relief regulations for borrowers throughout the country. Some areas of ADA support include various proposals like providing relief across different loan types, offering debt relief to borrowers who have been in repayment for extended periods and income-driven repayment adjustments.

According to the ADA, more than two-thirds of new dentists in 2022 began their careers owing $293,000 in student loans for their dental education. 

“Staying ahead of student loan interest can be a challenge for the 38% of new dentists pursuing — or who are required to complete — several years of a low- or nonpaying dental or medical residency program,” the ADA said in a letter signed by ADA President Linda J. Edgar, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S. “Those who are unable to begin paying immediately may qualify to have their payments temporarily halted or reduced but the deferment is not automatic. And the interest accrues regardless, adding tens of thousands of dollars to their debt.”

The Department of Education is proposing to exercise its discretionary authority to waive repayment of certain loans under the Higher Education Act, according to a notice in the Federal Register. Among other things, the agency is proposing to provide automatic relief to certain eligible borrowers; forgive the full amount by which certain eligible borrowers saw their balance grow after entering repayment; and provide one-time automatic student debt forgiveness of graduate school debt for those who entered repayment 25 or more years ago.

The ADA letter goes on to state the specific areas of ADA support. These include the approach to providing relief across different loan types like direct, federal family education loans, Perkins and health education assistance loans; the proposal to offer debt relief to borrowers who have been in repayment for extended periods; and the initiatives to waive additional debt accrued due to income-driven repayment plans for those whose incomes do not cover accumulating interest. 

The letter also urged the Department of Education to extend debt relief to the 76% of dental school borrowers with outstanding Grad PLUS loans, which allow graduate and professional students to borrow money to pay any costs not already covered by other financial aid or grants, up to the full cost of attendance. 

According to the Association, in 2022, 76% of graduating seniors reported using federal Grad PLUS Loans to finance their dental education — either as a stand-alone financing mechanism or to supplement what direct loans did not cover. The interest can be as high as 10.5%, depending on market conditions. 

“The ADA is particularly supportive of the broadened debt relief options that aim to address the growing financial burdens on new dentists, many of whom begin their careers with significant debt,” the letter reads. “The proposed rule recognizes the unique circumstances under which student loans accrue excessive debt, especially for those enrolled in [income-driven repayment] plans and reflects a critical understanding of the economic realities facing our members.”

The ADA also lauded the agency for creating a new income-driven repayment option, known as the Saving on a Valuable Education Plan. 

“This new [income-driven repayment] plan uses a smaller portion of a borrower’s adjusted gross income to calculate their monthly student loan payment,” the letter said. “Moreover, it prevents the borrower’s balance from growing due to unpaid interest — by eliminating any remaining monthly interest after the borrower makes each full scheduled payment.”

Attorneys general in Kansas and Missouri have filed lawsuits to prevent the SAVE Plan from being implemented. 

Additional information about the current proposal, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available at

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts, visit

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