Taking action now to influence the future of dentistry

April 21st, 2015
Student Loan Debt Infographic

Source: American Dental Education Association

TAMBCD students discuss school loan debt with lawmakers during national lobby day

As dental student loan debt continues to climb, concerns regarding repayment rank high among the priorities of soon-to-be graduates, who owe on average more than $247,000 upon completing dental school. The sum can influence young dentists’ decisions about where to practice, a group of Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry students told lawmakers April 14 during National Dental Student Lobby Day in Washington funded by the American Student Dental Association.

“Due to this significant financial burden, graduates are less likely to begin practicing in underserved, rural areas because they first have to focus on making ends meet for themselves,” says Neema Dad, a third-year dental student who attended the event. “As a result, this directly affects access to care as graduates forgo serving the less fortunate because they have loans to pay.”

Students discussed several recourses with lawmakers, including loan forgiveness programs for those who opt to treat underserved populations in public health and nonprofit settings as well as the Student Loan Refinancing Act, says Lynn Miller, a third-year dental student.

“Students realize this is a problem that will only worsen; even during my time in undergrad the tuition rose more than 50 percent,” Miller says. “They are not letting the cost dissuade them from pursuing a profession they are passionate about, but they realize this will greatly affect their future choices on how they practice.”

Miller and Dad were among four TAMBCD students to attend the two-day ASDA event, which included workshops, networking and opportunities to meet with representatives and their staff on Capitol Hill.

TAMBCD attendees in front of a sign depicting National Dental Student Lobby Day

Left to right: TAMBCD students Jacob Keller, Lynn Miller, Neema Dad and Stephanie Ganter

The lobby day is important, says third-year TAMBCD student attendee Stephanie Ganter, not only because it offers the chance to speak with lawmakers but also because it allows dental students to connect with their peers nationwide, of which a record 380 were in attendance.

“These are the people you will continue to communicate with as you go into private practice,” says Ganter. “As a student you are representing the future. From a national perspective, we are showing legislators that we are organized, engaged and passionate about what happens to our profession.”

Infographic Description

The Rising Cost of Dental Education

  • $247, 227 — Average educational debt among graduation dental students in 2014

Average U.S. Dental School Tuition and Fees

  • non-resident, 2003-2004 school year – $32,716
  • non-resident, 2013-2014 school year – $56,795
  • resident, 2003-2004 school year – $21,141
  • resident, 2013-2014 school year – $41,015
  • 32% of dental graduates have $300,000 or more in student loan debt
  • 28% of dental graduates have more than $200,000 in student loan debt
  • 11% of dental graduates have no student loan debt

Source: American Dental Education Association

— Jennifer Fuentes