Federal Student Loan Debt in Public Health and the Opportunities for Loan Repayment Programs

Margaret E Tait, Emily Burke, Tim Leshan, Adriane Casalotti, Heather Krasna, Jonathon P. Leider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: A need persists for graduates with public health training in government public health roles; however, earnings for these positions tend to be lower when compared with earnings for people with undergraduate or graduate training who are working in other sectors, such as private health care or pharmaceuticals. This study assessed federal student loan debt associated with education for public health, with an aim to quantify the need that may be met through the federal Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program (PHWLRP), which is one tool that policy makers have proposed to incentivize people with public health training to pursue employment in government public health. Methods: We analyzed federal student loan data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics College Scorecard for the 2018-2019 academic year. We merged these data with the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to estimate the number of degrees awarded. We used Spearman rank correlation to compare associations between debt and annual earnings by award level (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees). Results: Across all award levels, the median level of federal student loan debt associated with education for public health was $33 366. The median annual earnings 1 year after graduation were $80 687 for graduates with doctoral degrees and $33 279 for graduates with bachelor’s degrees. Conclusions: As policy makers attempt to strengthen the public health workforce with a focus on funding and implementing the PHWLRP, the existing levels of student debt should be considered to ensure that programs such as the PHWLRP are funded and reflect the needs of graduates and government public health employers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPublic health reports
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.

Keywords

  • health policy
  • public health practice
  • public health workforce

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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