The Students to Service Loan Repayment Program (often abbreviated S2S LRP) offers Student Loan Forgiveness Benefits to Doctors and Dentists.

This program is provided by the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and promises up to $120,000 in loan forgiveness to any medical (MD or DO) or Dental (DDS or DMD) students in their last year of school willing to work in communities that need expanded access to medical and dental services.

The program offers $120,000 in student loan forgiveness benefits for agreeing to serve 3 years, full-time, as a primary care provider in an approved NHSC facility within a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) of greatest need.

There’s also a potential opportunity to re-up the service contract in annual increments, which allows participants to qualify for additional benefits until their entire loan is paid off. This part of the program is complicated, but I’ll detail everything you need to know about it below, so keep reading!

What Benefits Does the NHSC S2S LRP Provide?

As I mentioned above, the biggest benefit is the potential max payout of $120,000 for three years of service in a high-need HPSA, but this page provides a complete breakdown of what you stand to get by participating in the program.

There are three main benefits to singing up for the NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program, including not just financial opportunities, but also life opportunities.

And while you may only care about the monetary value of the program now, once you’ve started your service commitment, you might just find that to become the least important part of the process.

Here are the three main benefits to enrolling in the S2S LRP:


1. $120,000 of Loan Forgiveness Benefits

First, you’re going to get a huge financial reward in return for your service, qualifying for up to $120,000 in forgiveness benefits, all of which are exempt from Federal Income and employment taxes (unlike virtually all other student loan forgiveness benefits, which typically do need to be counted as taxable income).

Pay close attention to that last bit – because being exempt from IRS income tax requirements is a huge deal, and likely to mean you’ll get significantly more from this program than you would from anything else that offers a similar (or even greater) total amount of money, but which comes with income tax liabilities.

Just imagine having to pay 20-30% taxes on that $120,000 and you can see how quickly the tax-exempt status of the S2S program makes a huge impact on the actual amount of loan forgiveness you’re going to receive.

2. Potential Annual Re-Ups for Additional Loan Forgiveness

Second, if you still owe money at the end of your 3 year service commitment, there’s a potential option that allows you to re-up with the program to qualify for additional funds via “one-year continuation service contracts”.

The program guidelines do stipulate that there’s no guarantee the one-year re-up will be available to all program participants, so don’t bank on this being available to you, especially if you choose to serve in an area barely qualifies for the designation of being a high-need HPSA facility.

However, the rules do stipulate that if you still have unpaid, qualifying education loans, that you’ve applied all previously received NHSC S2S LRP payments to toward your existing loans, and that you agree to continue serving at an NHSC-approved site, then you’ll be considered for a contract extension.

Worst case scenario: it may be possible for the NHSC to simply relocate you from one HPSA to another, allowing you to continue serving a high-need community, and continue qualifying for additional loan forgiveness benefits.


3. Participating in a Vital Public Service

Finally, by joining the S2S LRP you’ll get the satisfaction of serving a needy community by offering critical healthcare services to them.

And while it’s true that you may have to sacrifice some short-term income, and recreational or lifestyle opportunities while serving in a high-need HPSA, keep in mind that this is only a short-term, 3-year-long sacrifice.

Don’t underestimate the value of this benefit, as doing good feels good, and sacrificing a little bit of money or lifestyle to enrich the lives of others may feel like a big deal now, but is likely to be looked back on as one of the best times of your life in the long run.

Don’t forget that doing good feels good, and that being of service to a bigger community leads to more fulfilling, satisfied mental states- which you may very well need so soon after completing Medical or Dental school.


Why Should You Apply for S2S Loan Repayment Benefits?

That’s simple… this program offers a huge forgiveness benefit, and one that’s able to be achieved far faster than other similar programs.

For example, it’s way faster than the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the gold standard for Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Benefits.

3 years of service for $120,000 additional dollars is not a bad trade, because it’s not like you’re volunteering during that time (you still get to take a full salary for your position), and while many newly graduated Doctors and Dentists have trouble finding solid employment immediately after graduation, there are tons of openings around the country in Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Enrolling in this program pretty much guarantees two things: first, that you’ll get a significant amount of your student loan debt relieved from the $120,000 forgiveness benefit, and second, that you’ll be able to secure a full-time position practicing medicine or dentistry (which is nowhere near a given for most Medical and Dental school graduates).

Also, keep in mind that serving in a Health Professional Shortage Area makes it far more likely that you’re doing serious work, and that you’ll have a greater role to play in your community. There’s a good chance you will be in charge of wherever you end up, rather than taking orders from Doctors or Dentists who’ve been operating in the area for decades.

Anyone looking to really test their leadership skills and their medical abilities will find an easier time doing that in an HPSA than they will in a plush, comfy, elitist suburb. Just ask the Peace Corps volunteers how much responsibility they get handed when they arrive at their service destinations.


When is the Deadline to Apply for the S2S Loan Repayment Program?

The application submission deadline for 2017/2018 is October 19th, 2017, at 7:30pm EST.

Anyone who doesn’t get their application completed, and submitted before that minute will be ineligible for the benefit, and since this program is only available to students in their final year of Medical or Dental school, that will mean you won’t be eligible to receive it ever.

Make sure you pay close attention to the Application submission instructions below, because you don’t want to screw anything up if you’re going to apply at the last minute.


S2S LRP Program Eligibility Requirements

Like any other Federally-funded Student Loan Relief Program, there’s a plethora of requirements you must satisfy in order to become a participant.

To qualify for S2S LRP participation, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal U.S. National
  • Be pursuing an M.D., D.O., D.D.S., or D.M.D. degree at an accredit school in a U.S. State, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory
  • Be pursuing that degree in a school or allopathic medicine accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, OR a school of osteopathic medicine accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, OR a school of dentistry accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation
  • Be enrolled as a full-tim estudent in the last year of medical school or dental school, with a graduate date before July 1, 2018
  • Be eligible for Federal employment, even though most participants should anticipate serving their commitments as salaried, non-Federal employees of a public or private entity approved by the NHSC

In addition to the general requirements above, there are also requirements specifically created for Medical students, and Dental students.


Requirements for Medical Students

Any Medical student who wants to participate in the S2S Loan Repayment Program must complete postgraduate training in an NHSC-approved specialty before beginning to service. Approved postgraduate training programs and time periods are:

  • Family Practice – 3 Years
  • General Internal Medicine – 3 Years
  • General Pediatrics – 3 Years
  • General Psychiatry – 4 Years
  • Obstetrics-Gynecology – 4 Years
  • Internal Medicine/Family Practice – 4 Years
  • Internal Medicine/Pediatrics – 4 Years
  • Family Medicine/Psychiatry – 5 Years
  • Internal Medicine/Psychiatry – 5 Years

You’ll also need to provide proof of participation in one of these NHSC-approved postgraduate training programs before any of your loan repayment installments are approved or disbursed.


Requirements for Dental Students

Dental Students who want to participate in the S2S Loan Repayment Program are NOT REQUIRED, but are “encouraged” to complete accredited postgraduate training in an NHSC-approved specialty. Approve postgraduate training programs and time periods are:

  • General Practice Dentistry – 1 Year
  • Advanced Education in General Dentistry – 1 Year
  • Pediatric Dentistry – 2 Years
  • Public Health Dentistry – 2 Years
  • Public Health Dentistry – 2 Years
  • Geriatrics Dentistry Fellowship – 2 Years

Application stipulations state that the NHSC won’t approve any other postgraduate training programs for dental students, but remember, since this is only a suggestion, and not a requirement, you can pretty much ignore this.


Additional Selection Factors for Hopeful Participants

In addition to those requirements listed above, the NHSC also requires that potential participants are able to demonstrate that they:

  • Have passed the first component of required licensing examinations
  • Have a history of honoring prior legal obligations
  • Are not in breach of any other service obligations
  • Do not have existing service obligations and will not incur any other service obligations that would overlap with the S2S LRP obligation
  • Are not excluded, debarred, suspended or disqualified by a Federal Agency
  • Submit a complete application for the program (on time!)
  • Are committed to providing primary care service in an HPSA

There are additional details to each of the points listed above, but this will give you the gist of what the NHSC requires. To find the specifics for each of these points, check out the official NHSC S2S Application Guidance PDF document here.


Why Was the S2S Loan Repayment Program Created?

The National Health Service Corps created the S2S Loan Repayment Program to encourage new Doctors and Dentists to start their careers in Health Professional Shortage Areas, meaning areas that do not have enough Doctors and Dentists to go around.

This program offers incentives to work in places that most recent graduates wouldn’t necessarily want to practice, typically because Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) tend to be low-income urban or rural areas, rather than the high-end suburbs we all dream of living within.

Anyone pursuing a degree in allopathic or osteopathic medicine or dentistry is eligible for the program’s benefits, as long as they’re willing to serve in the highest need HPSAs.

The primary purpose of the program isn’t to help graduates pay down their student loans, but to provide important health care services to populations who wouldn’t be able to access them otherwise.


How do I Actually Apply for the S2S Benefit?

This is the easy part – once you’ve decided you want to participate in the program, simply point your browser to their official Application here right here.


Where Can I Go for Questions About the Program?

Feel free to ask questions in the Comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer anything that comes up.

Or, check out the official Application Guidance PDF, which details all the legal mumbo jumbo, and will take you hours to read through in it’s entirety by clicking here.

However, the best way to get questions answered in a timely fashion is probably to going to be calling the NHSC’s Students to Service LRP Q&A hotline which you can reach at: 1-800-221-9393.

This hotline is staffed Monday through Friday, from 8am to 8am EST. Do not they are shut on Federal holidays.


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Tim's experience struggling with crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on paying off student loans as quickly, and cheaply, as possible. His new website Forget Tax Debt, offers similar advice to people with back tax problems.

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