Essential Financial Tips for Prospective Dentists

In an earlier post, we briefly discussed the cost of attendance for dental schools in the United States. We outlined costs according to university website estimates from the NYU College of Dentistry (about $504K) and UCLA School of Dentistry (nearly $330K). We quickly learned there is a wide range of cost between schools, specifically private and public universities. While we believe the quality of education should be the primary consideration in program selection, cost of attendance should never be discounted. Dental school prospects should consider the following ways to minimize expenses.


Apply to Schools with Cheaper Tuition

Private schools are expensive. Consider applying to public schools or those with more affordable tuition/fees. According to the American Dental Association’s 2015-2016 Survey of Dental Education, these are the top ten schools with the LOWEST cost (based on the total cost of tuition, mandatory fees, instruments, textbooks, other fixed costs and health services):

Resident Non-Resident
1. University of Puerto Rico 1. University of Puerto Rico
2. Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry 2. East Carolina University
3. UT Health Science Center at San Antonio 3. Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry
4. East Carolina University 4. UT Health Science Center at San Antonio
5. UT Health Science Center at Houston 5. UT Health Science Center at Houston
6. University of Mississippi 6. Howard University
7. University of Oklahoma 7. Meharry Medical College
8. Dental College of GA at Augusta University 8. University of Michigan
9. University of Alabama 9. LECOM School of Dental Medicine
10. LSU Health New Orleans 10. Harvard University


For comparison, these are the top five schools with the HIGHEST costs:

Resident Non-Resident
1. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC 1. Medical University of South Carolina
2. Midwestern University – Illinois 2. Ohio State University
3. University of Pennsylvania 3. University of Illinois, Chicago
4. Midwestern University – Arizona 4. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
5. University of the Pacific 5. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Consider prioritizing your applications around lower cost schools and accepting a position at one of your more affordable options. The financial burden of student loans will affect the next 5-25 years after graduation.

Student Loan Hero also recently identified the 15 Best Dental Schools to Avoid Six-Figure Student Debt. They ranked the 54 U.S. dental schools based on the following factors: average student loan balance, tuition cost for the four-year period, how many students were granted student loans, and how many students received federal grants or scholarships.


Student Loan Hero’s top 5 dental schools and their respective tuitions:

1.              East Carolina University  $98,454
2.              Texas A&M University  $73,152 (in-state)
3.              LECOM School of Dental Medicine  $198,800
4.              UT Health Science Center at San Antonio  $84,600 (in-state)
5.              University of Connecticut  $122,668


Choose a School in a City with Lower Cost of Living

It’s no surprise to see the locations of the low-cost schools listed above. Choosing a program in a city with lower cost-of-living can save attendees substantial money on housing, food, entertainment, etc.  Living in states such as Texas, Mississippi, or Oklahoma, for example, could lower the amount of financial aid needed for living expenses.  Furthermore, consider living at home! If you have family near school, living with them may be a no brainer.


Join the Army (or an equivalent)

The army can help you leave school debt-free. The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) provides the following benefits:

  • Full tuition (up to 4 years, depending on specialty)
  • Books, equipment, and other fees
  • $2200+ monthly stipend
  • $20,000 sign-on bonus
  • Officer’s pay during school breaks
  • Monthly allowance for food and housing

**you can apply during dental school as well and get the remaining semesters covered


Seek Out Scholarships

The National Health Service Corps pays for school in return for working at an NHSC-approved site in a medically underserved community. The NHSC scholarship provides:

  • Tuition and eligible fees
  • Other reasonable costs (Books, instruments, etc)
  • $1363 monthly stipend

There are many other scholarships worth pursuing. Apply to as many as possible and don’t hesitate to inquire with your prospective schools about additional help and school-specific scholarships.


Take as Little Financial Aid as Necessary

Take the bare minimum of student loans need. During school, it’s tempting to use financial aid to fund your lifestyle. The more federal money, the more you can afford to go out on the weekends or travel during breaks, right? You forget that every dollar spent is much more to pay back after compounding interest. Live like a student and avoid excess spending!


Pay Interest During School

If possible, pay the interest on your student loans during school. Otherwise the unpaid interest will accumulate and get added (capitalized) to the principal loan. Essentially you will be paying interest on your interest! We wish we had found ways to pay our loan interest during dental school, either through a side hustle or an intra-family loan. Get creative to pay whatever you’re able to before graduation—it will reduce your stress after school.


In the End

Dental/professional school can be stressful. We went through school without enough consideration for our financial future. Minimizing expenses and student loans can greatly reduce your financial/mental burden after graduation. Try to be proactive to set yourself up for financial success.


Do you have any tips for prospective dentists? How did you minimize expenses during school? Leave comments below!

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