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How to Finance Your Health Sciences Education

The past few months have seen numerous articles and reports asking the age old question: “Is a college degree really worth it?”

These articles show up every spring when students are graduating and every fall when a new class of students start school. The question is an important one, but the only person who can really answer that question for you, is you!

The good news is that one of the many benefits of a health sciences education is the solid return on investment that health sciences graduates continue to see year after year. So, while you should ask yourself that question, there is no reason to be overly concerned about the cost as long as you take some personal responsibility and start planning now how to pay for school.

Your responsibility, more than ever before

As you may know, Congress recently passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 to help address our country’s budget and borrowing challenges, and it includes a number of provisions which could mean higher costs for students, including health sciences students:

  • Elimination of interest subsidy on student loans for graduate and professional students
  • Elimination of discounts for paying your loans on time

In addition, the recent downgrade of the federal government’s credit rating could mean higher rates on student loans in the future and even changes to the tax provisions that currently contain some help for students and their families. What does this all really mean? Perhaps it means a gradual shifting of responsibility of paying for school away from the government and to students and families, but it most certainly means that more than ever before, you need to take personal responsibility for figuring out how to pay for school.

What You Can Do Now

This year’s Tour de France, the world’s most prestigious professional bike race, was marred by an unprecedented number of accidents. When asked about any concern for his safety in the Tour, one of the bikers responded by stating that there were many things in the Tour out of his control, such as the weather and even the numerous media cars all along the way that cover the race (one of which ran into the riders causing a horrific accident). He said the only thing he could do was to focus on what was under his control, meaning his own riding.

The same approach applies to you as you consider how to pay for your health sciences education. The decisions you make now and during school about your budget and possible borrowing needs will necessarily impact the career and lifestyle decisions you make later.

As you consider how to pay for your health sciences education, the following tips may help:

  • Talk to the important people in your life and ask for help From help with living expenses to help paying the interest on some of your loans as it accrues, talk with your family, your significant other, your partner, anyone who may have an interest in your health sciences career.
  • Start early investigating sources of financial aid Contact your school’s Financial Aid Office early regarding financial aid. They should prove to be an important resource for you throughout school, and thus the earlier you engage with them the better, especially to be sure you do not miss any important deadlines.
  • Grants and scholarships beat student loans any time, all the time Grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, so every dollar of free money you get is a dollar you do not have to borrow and repay. Explore Health Careers has a Find Funding database to help students and parents find funding sources for grants, scholarships, loans and loan repayment programs.
  • Budget wisely and borrow responsibly Your have no control over your tuition and fees, and probably little control over the costs of your books and supplies. However, you do have some control over your living expenses, so start now to learn to not only develop a budget, but to stick to one. Like the Tour de France rider said, control what you can control and don’t obsess about the rest.