Chiropractors dealing with the burden of student debt do have opportunities for loan forgiveness. Loans taken out to complete schooling and residency may be substantial and take years to be repaid under conventional loan repayment conditions. During the recent decades, public and professional attitudes toward so-called "alternative" medicine have become more positive, and chiropractors have benefited from this recognition. Chiropractors should stay abreast of pending federal legislation, which may allow additional loan forgiveness options.
National Health Service Corps
For most of its existence, the National Health Service Corps did not consider chiropractors eligible for membership and possible student loan forgiveness. As of the time of publication, this is still the case, but pending legislation in the U.S. Congress may change that. The NHSC places health care professionals in areas throughout the United States deemed "Health Professional Shortage Areas." In return for service, practitioners receive medical student loan forgiveness, based on the amount of time served. NHSC members serve in federal health centers, rural clinics, prisons, tribal health clinics, department of public health clinics and approved primary and managed care practices.
NSHC Loan Repayment
As of October 2011, eligibility for up to $60,000 in the NSHC loan repayment program requires full-time practice for a minimum of two years or part-time practice for at least four years at a site approved by the NSHC. Those practicing part-time for at least two years may receive up to $30,000. Service for a minimum of five years results in $170,000 of loan repayment, and six years of service repays the entire loan.
Public Service Loans
Once a chiropractor has paid down at least 10 years of student loan debt, the government forgives the loans if the doctor is serving in a public service position. There is a trade-off, as public service jobs tend to pay less than private practices. Public service work includes not only working for government agencies, also but non-profit organizations, tribal health services and certain teaching appointments; this does not include the establishment of chiropractic private clinics in underserved areas.
Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program
The NSHC was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1970. It did not include chiropractors, optometrists and certain other health-care providers for eligibility. In 2008, the U.S. Senate passed the S. 901 bill, which would have allowed chiropractors to participate in the NSHC. However, the legislation did not pass when introduced in the House of Representatives. In 2011, a bill establishing a Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program, similar to the NSHC program and including chiropractors, was introduced in the House of Representatives as HR 531. No action has been taken on this bill as of the time of publication.