"It helps that I know there's a little bit of leeway there that I can pay off the loan debt, or knock them down a little bit, then focus on something else," he says. "Either getting a house over my head, or buying some equipment that will help out in whatever cases I'm seeing and help provide better medicine around here."
Kentucky's program pays up to $18,000 toward outstanding student loans for veterinarians who work with large animals or those bred for food, such as cattle, pigs and sheep. Veterinary technicians who graduate from a two-year program may also apply for the incentive. Preference is given to state residents, according to the program's website, but new graduates who want to work in the state can also apply.
Minnesota has a similar program for graduates of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Graduates must work for five years in rural areas designated by the state. As with many programs, limited funds are available, so graduates must apply for the loan forgiveness.
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In addition to state-based programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program will pay qualified vets up to $25,000 per year. Graduates must work for at least three years in a designated vet shortage area, such as northeastern Montana, Sioux County in Nebraska or Steuben County in New York.
Seventy-five veterinarians, with an average debt load of nearly $110,000, received funding through this program for fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program awarded $7.25 million in loan repayment assistance during that time frame.
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Maryland residents can also get help through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Program if they work for the state government, a local municipality or a nonprofit agency in the state. To be eligible, applicants must work with low-income and underserved residents. The program also has an income restriction.
Borrowers in any state who took out a Perkins loan can have some or all of the debt canceled if they work in a qualified area for up to five years. Firefighters, speech pathologists, librarians and special education teachers are just a few of the professions eligible for the Perkins program, which typically designates graduates work in low-income or underserved areas to qualify.
Loan forgiveness is never a guarantee, so students shouldn't rack up debt in the hopes the slate will eventually be wiped clean, advise the authors of the American Student Assistance e-book. "Always borrow the bare minimum you need, and think of any potential forgiveness benefits as a (very) happy bonus."
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