Debt Management and Financial Literacy
Managing both your student loan debt and your personal finances is essential to your successful experience as health professions student. Below are some of the many resources available to assist you in this process. Excellent materials are also available to medical students at the AAMC FIRST website, and to dental students at the ADEA website.
You can also visit the Student Loan Repayment Modules on our homepage for more information.
Entrance and Exit Seminars
We are committed to providing our students with extensive budget and debt management counseling. During your time at Columbia we offer several group sessions:
1) At the Entrance Seminar, held during Orientation, we help you review your academic year cash flow using sample award packages and school bills.
2) During your final year our Debt Management Seminar for Graduating Students will feature small group seminars that help you plan for life after graduate school by helping you understand repayment plan options and with the preparation of your own calendar of loan repayment events. Several personal finance topics of particular interest to graduating students are also reviewed.
3) For medical and dental students, during the fall term of your first year, we will also meet in small groups to for a Debt Management Seminar to review good debt management practices, projected debt in relation to projected income, and to establish good record keeping techniques to track your educational loans.
The purpose of all of our seminars is to provide a framework for effective debt management. Debt management helps you to understand how student loans will affect finances, goals, and lifestyle both now and in the future.
New students and first-time borrowers must complete the required “Entrance Counseling” on-line after receiving detailed instructions with your award letter. New students are still required to attend the Entrance Seminar during Orientation, even if you have completed the on-line counseling. Similarly, students who have borrowed federal or institutional loans must complete required on-line “Exit Counseling” prior to graduating, dropping below part-time status, or withdrawing from the University, and will still be required to attend the in-person seminar prior to graduation.
National Student Loan Data System
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's central database for student aid. It receives data from schools, agencies that guaranty loans, the Direct Loan program, lenders and loan servicers. NSLDS provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans, tracked through their entire cycle - from aid approval through final payment. Title IV loans include Staffords (subsidized and unsubsidized), Perkins, Consolidation, and Graduate PLUS loans.
If you are a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident and have borrowed any Title IV loans, we strongly recommend that you log on to the NSLDS web site and select ‘Financial Aid Review.’ If you filed your FAFSA electronically, you already have an FSA ID. This website uses the same FSA ID. You can also log on to request an FSA ID if you have forgotten it or never received one.
The NSLDS site is a useful tool if you are not sure who owns or services educational loans taken prior to your matriculation here and you will need to file “student” deferments for these loans. The website shows the type of each federal loan you’ve borrowed, such as a Stafford loan or Perkins loan. For each loan listed, you’ll see the date you took out the loan, the amount originally borrowed, the amount you owe now, the interest rate and the approximate amount of interest that has accumulated. You’ll also find the status of each, such as whether the loan is in repayment, paid in full or delinquent.
Please note that this web site will not include any private loans you may have borrowed while enrolled at your college or university, nor will it include other “alternative” loans. In addition, it will not include any federal loans administered by the Department of Health & Human Services (HPSL, LDS, NSL, PCL, or HEAL).
Other educational loans not tracked on NSLDS may be found on your credit reports. Once a year you are entitled to free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and follow the instructions.
We ask new and graduating medical and dental students to review their NSLDS record prior to the 1st Year Debt Management Seminar and final Year Debt Management/Financial Literacy Seminar.
Programs to Assist With Loan Repayment
Federal Loan Consolidation
A Federal Direct Consolidation Loan (FDCL) is a loan that you can borrow to pay off some or all of your existing eligible federal student loans, both graduate and undergraduate. The FDCL has a fixed interest rate with a repayment term of up to 30 years, depending on your total student loan debt. It also has IBR, PAYE, and REPAYE repayment options. Loans eligible for Consolidation include Staffords (subsidized and unsubsidized), GradPLUS, and Perkins, Loans to Disadvantaged Students (LDS), Nursing Student Loans (NSL) and Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL).
There is no fee for an FDCL. The interest rate is fixed and is the weighted average of the interest rates of the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent. It was capped at 8.25% if the application was submitted prior to 7/1/13. There is no cap for applications submitted on or after 7/1/13.
There is no prepayment penalty, and deferment and forbearance options are the same as for Stafford loans.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 established the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), which forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. The ‘forgiven’ amount under PSLF is not taxable, as opposed to the taxable forgiven amounts after 25 years of repayment using the IBR and REPAYE plans, or 20 years of repayment under the PAYE plan for borrowers who are not employed full time in public service job.
You may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if:
1) You have federal student loans in the Direct Loan program. Covered loans include Staffords, GradPLUS, and Consolidation loans. If your eligible federal loans are not in the Direct Loan program, you can consolidate them under the FDCL Program. Perkins, HPSL and LDS loans can also be included if refinanced under a Direct Consolidation Loan.
2) You work full time in a qualifying public service position. ("Full-time” means an annual average of 30 hours per week or the standard for full-time used by the employer, whichever is greater.)
3) While working for an eligible employer, you make 120 qualifying payments (which do not have to be consecutive). These payments can be made through the Standard (10-year) repayment, and/or Income Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plans. IBR, PAYE, or REPAYE would be the best choice. You may pay the 120 payments through a combination of the above eligible repayment plans; however, were you to pay for 10 years under the Standard 10 year plan, there would be no balance left to forgive.
4) You must be working full time in an eligible job at the time you apply for cancellation, and have debt remaining after the 120 qualifying payments.
Loan Repayment Programs
When you are near completion of your training, you may want to investigate these programs. There are three main types of loan repayment programs:
(1) Sponsored by the federal government
For medical and dental students, federally authorized and appropriated programs include the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, the Indian Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, several NIH Loan Repayment Programs, and the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and Navy Financial Assistance Program for Resident Physicians/Dentists Program. The Indian Health Service is looking for both primary care physicians and dentists, as well as certain specialists. We have more information about specific programs available in our office and links on our website. DPT students are also eligible for the NIH Loan repayment programs.
(2) Sponsored by state governments or municipalities
A number of states, including New York, also have loan repayment programs. . Most of the state-funded programs, as well as the NHSC programs listed above, are looking for primary care practitioners. Even if you do not pursue a primary care residency, you should still investigate these opportunities, as they seem to be expanding.
(3) the "Is There a Community Who Would Like to Adopt Me?" type of arrangement
Check availability with individual counties, individual hospitals, and specific residency programs.
Links to many of these programs are on our website, under the Recent Graduates area. The AAMC and ADEA also maintain lists of these options for medical and dental students.