Ouch! Dentist Has $520,000 in Student Loans: Where to Begin

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A patient's view of their Dentist
Flickr RF/Getty Images

By Christine DiGangi

A new dentist posted this question on Reddit: where should he start with his $520,000 debt for student loans?

Six-figure student loan debt is not entirely unreasonable for a dental student, if you go by the rule that you should graduate with no more debt than your starting salary. But he is starting with a $129,000 salary, so his debt load is more than four times his salary.

Dentists' salaries range from $75,003 to $229,091 and rise rapidly during the first five to 10 years of their careers, according to PayScale. Four years of dental school roughly runs from anywhere between $23,000 to $275,000 just for tuition, costhelper.com says, and there are a lot of additional expenses. The average debt load of a dental student who took out loans was $200,111 in 2010, according to research by the American Dental Education Association.

He has all federal loans, which tend to be less expensive than private loans, but graduate and graduate PLUS loans carry higher interest rates than undergraduate loans. This borrower (whose total debt includes some from undergrad) wrote he'd pay about $38,000 in interest annually.

A situation like this Redditor's would shake out something like this, according to the student loan payment calculator on Finaid.org: A $520,000 loan balance with an estimated interest rate of 7.4 percent would result in a $6,145.39 monthly payment if the loan term is 10 years. Over that term, the borrower would pay more than $200,000 in interest, resulting in an education bill upwards of $730,000.

Live Like a Student as Long as Possible

Any way this dentist can accelerate his payment schedule will mean huge savings. Options for doing so may sound really unappealing, but that's the reality of massive debt. (A lawyer did it.) As a 20-something, this dentist could could move in with his parents or split the cost of housing with other debt-ridden dentists. He could also look into consolidation.

"Continue living like a college student as long as you can to pay off as much debt as you can," suggested Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com's director of consumer education. "Don't live like a high-salaried dentist; you're not there yet."

Even small student loan balances can have a large impact on your finances, so it's crucial to stay on top of payment, especially if you're dealing with massive debt. Late payments will result in fees (as if you need to pay any more), and missed payments will be reported to credit bureaus, show up on your credit reports and damage your credit score. Student borrowers should check their credit scores as soon as possible, preferably before they borrow or enter repayment, so they can track how their debt affects their credit standing. Credit.com has e tools that allow you to check two of your credit scores for free, with updates every 30 days.


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53 Comments

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Leonard Thomas

Over 170,000 US law school graduates have not been allowed to practice law, due to purely arbitrary political decisions, which are discriminatory.They have similar debts to the dentist in this article, but even minimum wage employers are afraid to hire people with a law education. This discrimination in employment should be summarily eliminated, and the people denying the law graduates work should be prosecuted.

June 11 2014 at 1:30 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Leonard Thomas

Over 170,000 US law school graduates have not been allowed to practice law, due to purely arbitrary political decisions, which are discriminatory.Tthey have similar debts to the dentist in this article, but even minimum wage employers are afraid to hire people with a law education. This discrimination in employment should be summarily eliminated, and the people denying the law graduates work should be prosecuted.

June 11 2014 at 1:28 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Pat

I put in 11 years in college and earned degrees in microbiology and dentistry. My total student loans for 11 years? 25K. I don't know how dentists are amassing such huge student loans now. The dentist who just bought my practice owes $750,000 in student loans, then the cost of my practice and the cost to remodel it. So, in total, she owes well over $1.4 million! I could never allow myself to get in that much debt before I even had a job. I can't even understand how a bank would loan her that much, without a job.

June 11 2014 at 1:06 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pat's comment
vlady1000

I have rented housing to many dental students. The highest balance I have seen was $240k, but on average much, much lower. Med students about the same. But like most things, some can do it with a lot cheaper than others. My daughter graduated med school with $60k student debt. If u are selling your practice, I would guess u graduated some some time ago. Schooling costs are much more now, but still no reason to have that kind of debt. I would be concerned about how someone can run a business (of any kind) if they can not even manage their own personal finances.

June 11 2014 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
raidrmik67

Why did it cost so much? yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy7yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyo

June 10 2014 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mtkatahdinchips

He is even out more money in that he could of made at least $30,000 each year that he was in school. That's at least another $150,000 or more.

June 10 2014 at 11:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
hispddrill

I went to college and then dental school from the late 60's to the mid 70's. Undergrad was at a branch of the City University of NY- back then school was free if you were a NYC resident.Dental School was at NYU when a special 3 year curriculum was instituted. My total tuition was $10,500.The total dental experience ran about $20,000.

I don't understand anbody's desire to attend college and then dental school, at least in the northeastern U.S. NYU estimates $400,000 just for dental school , not counting undergraduate studies. And then opening a one chair dental office is at least $100,000.00 For those of you who think dentistry will make you rich, think again. The golden days of dentistry are long over.

June 10 2014 at 10:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hispddrill's comment
vlady1000

And unfortunately, true for many other professions.

June 11 2014 at 10:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jpark377

The charlatans like Obama and Senator Warren like to take everyone's eye off the ball: it's what they do best. Rather than ask " How come it's so frigging expensive to get a real education in this country", they demonize the student loan program itself as a problem in our society. And the lackies in the media never call any of them out on it! Hey Warren and Obama: how about a full investgation on why college tuition increases every year at rates two to thee times the cost of core inflation in our economy? Oh yeah, I forgot: you and your minions are subservient to the education industry, and it's all about just keeping the gravy coming! No problem here: it must be that annoying student loan program that's screwing everything up.

June 10 2014 at 10:11 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
cjjoe55

He might know the ins & outs of teeth but he's an idiot regarding realistic financial responsibility.

I guess his smart phone couldn't run his financial life. Dope

June 10 2014 at 8:48 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Fred

The only one making any money is these little nobody colleges who aren't qualified to give out a diploma. These students go to in good faith only to find out theres not a market for there new talent and they are stuck with a big bill due to a big scam.

June 10 2014 at 7:26 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Tom

I went to school by serving during the Vietnam war and getting the GI bill. I went to community college, then a state school because I could afford it. I worked full time and went to college at nights. It took me ten years, but I graduated with highest honors and no debt. In my eyes, this guy is a jerk. You know he's planning on making a mint as a dentist. I wouldn't want to be one of his patients.

June 10 2014 at 7:06 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply