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Looking for Loan Help?

Pile of dollar bills on white background representing student loan repayment
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In addition to the programs listed below, be sure to ask if loan repayment assistance is part of the compensation package. If it isn’t a standard offering, it might be something you can negotiate. It’s a good time to ask while you’re job-hunting or actively in negotiations with a potential employer. Another option is to bring it up at an annual review. 

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Federal Loan Payment Programs

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a U.S. government program. It allows borrowers at qualifying nonprofit organizations and government entities to have their Federal Direct Loans forgiven after 10 years of repayment (or 120 qualifying payments), typically while enrolled in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan. Learn more about the PSLF program

The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program helps employees repay their eligible health profession education loans — up to $50,000 — in exchange for an initial two-year service commitment to practice in health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Learn more about the Indian Health Service program

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers the Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP). This program provides loan repayment assistance to health care professionals, including optometrists, who work in VA facilities. Learn more about the VA program.

Learn whether an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) payment plan that might work for you. There are currently four different IDR plans available. After 20 or 25 years of qualified payments using one of these plans, the remaining loan balance can be forgiven. Note: the amount forgiven is considered  taxable income. Learn more about IDR plans

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ODs Not Included in Key Programs

Optometrists are excluded in student debt programs run by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). HRSA, among other things, seeks to support programs that increase equitable access to healthcare and grow and diversify the health care workforce.

The American Optometric Association, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry and the American Optometric Student Association have been working on this issue. The groups recommend reincluding optometry in HRSA health profession shortage area designations, noting that optometric care is primary care. They also recommend expanding grants to states to support optometry workforce activities and reincluding ODs in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program. 

Connect with the AOA on this issue.

State Programs

Some states also offer loan repayment programs to ODs who commit to working in the state for a period. 

Here’s one for North Carolina, for example.

Employer Programs

MyEyeDr provides a student loan repayment program. The website states that the program can pay up to $1,000 per month for up to three years.

National Vision optometrists may be eligible to participate in an employer-provided student loan repayment program that awards qualified doctors up to $12,000 annually toward their student loan payments. 

Vision Source announced in April that it is launching the Associate OD Placement Program, that enables participating Vision Source members may be eligible to provide up to $150,000 in student loan repayment incentives for associates. 

VSP Vision Student Loan Repayment Program is open to optometry students, recent graduates and other practicing professionals burdened with student debt. The program offers selected ODs up to $200,000 in debt relief if they commit to working in a VSP-owned location or private practice for up to four years in an underserved or high-need community. 

 This list is not exhaustive; WO will update as new information comes in. 

Special Programs

While some opportunities are not specifically loan repayment programs, the industry does offer different kinds of financial assistance. The inaugural Golden Opportunity Awards will be announced at 2024 Optometry’s Meeting in Nashville. The awards honor David Golden, OD, co-founder of the Professional Eyecare Resource Co-Operative Alliance (PERC) and an EssilorLuxottica employee. Dr. Golden passed away after a long-fought battle with cancer in September 2021.

The Golden Opportunity Award is a collaborative effort between Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation and PERC Alliance. It will present up to three applicants who wish to achieve the dream of owning their first independent practice an award of $50,000 each. Priority goes to individuals from an underrepresented group within the optometric community or someone who seeks to build a practice in an underserved area or population of need. Read more.

Scholarships for Students

Leverage the resources within your optometry school and network to learn about scholarship and assistance programs that could help offset tuition and other expenses. Here are some programs that can help defray the cost of an optometric education.

Health Professions Scholarship Program offers this program through the military.

EssilorLuxottica offers a Financial Freedom Program, open to second- and third-year optometry students. Qualified students have the opportunity for their remaining tuition to be fully funded upfront through a partnership with Stride Funding. Tuition repayments come either directly by EssilorLuxottica or through arrangements with independent optometry practices that operate within its retail stores.

National Vision associates who are going to optometry school can be reimbursed up to $5,000 annually for up to four years, for a total of $20,0000. And National Vision has a program for third- and fourth-year optometry students as well. 

Statewide programs such as this one in Virginia’s Optometry Loan Grant Program.

This list is not exhaustive, WO will update as new information comes in. 

VIEW THE TOP GRADS IN ALL THE REGIONS HERE

 

 

Featured photo: iStock/Getty Images

This article was created using several editorial tools, including AI, as part of the process. Human editors reviewed this content before publication.

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