(July 8, 2005) - If you are planning to attend naturopathic medical school, you'll be glad to know that the financial picture has just become more rosy, thanks to an extended loan program recently announced by the US Department of Education (ED). In effect, this program increases your borrowing power in low-cost federal loans, and decreases the amount of supplemental loans and income you'll need during your education.
If you are — or are about to become — a naturopathic medical (ND) student at a US-accredited (AANMC-member) school, this program now allows you to borrow the full cost of education, up to $38,500 for a nine-month (three-quarter) academic year. For naturopathic students such as yourself, this represents a $20,000/year increase over the previous graduate-student-loan limit. The cumulative loan ceiling for an individual borrowing through the Stafford loan program also climbs to over $189,000 — an increase of more than $50,000.
As of May 1, 2005, US-accredited naturopathic medical schools are now included among the list of recognized institutions and professions who can offer their students eligibility to borrow additional unsubsidized funds from the federal Stafford student loan program.
This is a welcome relief — putting you in a much better position to handle the financial aspect of your naturopathic medical training.
It helps to know a little history.
From the 1960s to the 1980s the federal government ran a loan program called Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) that provided additional loan funds to students studying a health profession. When HEAL was phased out, many of the professions that had been supported by the HEAL program were given extended borrowing authority under the Stafford loan program. The listing of eligible professions was frozen at that point, but the naturopathic medical profession was not on the list at that time. So for federal lending purposes, ND students have since been considered as typical graduate students.
And for the last 10 years, the standard graduate-student-loan limit has been capped at $18,500. During this time educational costs have increased but federal loan maximums have not, forcing a significant number of students to resort to higher-interest private loans for additional funding. Some students have not been able to pursue a naturopathic career or have had to drop their studies altogether because they were not eligible for supplemental loans and could not meet their educational costs through existing Stafford loans.
With the new regulations now in place, ND students should now be able to obtain all the funds they need from the Stafford loan program without having to rely on more costly private loans. All Stafford student loans are granted at a lower federal interest rate and carry much more favorable terms for federal deferral, extended repayment and loan consolidation. This means that having a naturopathic medical education financed through federal loans is now within reach for every US student.
Revised regulations acknowledge ND schools, and profession.
It's taken strong and devoted efforts on the part of naturopathic-medicine advocates over the past several years to help educate and persuade the ED to change their classification of the naturopathic medical profession. Their inclusion of the ND profession on this list represents further federal acknowledgement of the accredited (AANMC-member) naturopathic medical colleges, and the growing importance of licensed naturopathic physicians in the health care system. With this success, inclusion under other federal programs will likely be easier in the future — and the future looks bright indeed.
Freelance editor/marketing communications consultant Katherine Gantz Morse has been writing for Bastyr University and other natural health publications for 12 years. She lives and works in Seattle, Washington.