I Want to Go to Physician Assistant Training But I Can’t Afford It


Dear Steve,

Student loan debt started with Sallie Mae. My parents paid during college and the debt kept growing despite them paying monthly. One day it switched over to Navient.

After graduation, I’m in a situation where I cannot make over 35k per year. I need to work a lower end job in order to attend the Physician Assistant Masters program.

I do not make enough to pay the over $1000/month payments they want and pay for basic needs.

What should I do if I cannot pay my Navient student loans and I won’t be making enough money for the next few years due to my current job and hopefully being in a master’s program? Depending on if I get accepted to a masters program where I would eventually be making 100k per year.



Dear Alyssa,

I am completely sympathetic to your situation, but you are probably not going to like my answer.

It’s not clear what type of student loans you have that Navient is servicing. Worst case scenario these are private student loans.

Even though your parents were making minimum payments, it was less than was necessary to pay down the principal balance of the loan(s).

Just because a lender is willing to accept a “minimum” payment that does not mean you will make any progress to pay down the debt at all.

Private student loan offers of forbearance or deferment only make the balances larger.

Hopefully, these are federal student loans that can give you a lower payment based on income. And while this might give you a lower payment, even the federal student loan Income-Driven repayment plan can be a trap and increase your balances.

The part of my answer you may not like is where we apply math to the situation.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Unless your parents can make your student loan payments so you can go deeper in debt for Physician Assistant education, it might just be that you can’t afford to go for Physician Assistant education.

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As I remember it takes two to three years of training to become a Physician Assistant. During that time you will need to focus on your education, time in a clinical setting, and then about six months of studying to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).

It is very hard to do the math and realize that it might not be possible to follow your dream or continue your education because of the undergraduate debt that is now dragging you under.

The worst-case scenario here is you just blast ahead without doing the math. While the average salary of a Physician Assistant is $80k-$130k a year, you will emerge from your training with a lot of debt you will have to pay on top of the current obligations.

Please post more information about your current student loans in the comments section below so I can figure out if there are some special programs that might assist.

What I need to know is if these are private or federal student loans and how much you currently owe.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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