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J Rural Health. 2001 Summer;17(3):160-4.

The effects of payback and loan repayment programs on medical student career plans.

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  • 1Tacoma Family Medicine, WA 98405, USA.


Many states have considered implementing payback programs on state-subsidized medical education to increase the rate of graduates returning to those states to practice. An alternative is for states to offer and expand loan repayment programs to entice medical school graduates from rural states to return to their home states. The goal of this study is to determine and contrast the impact these two types of programs might have on medical school choice and students' intentions to return to their home states. Two hundred twenty-nine medical students were surveyed (response rate 80 percent). The questionnaire collected background information on the students and addressed the possible impact of payback and loan repayment policy proposals on student plans. Forty-seven percent of students reported that they would attend a different medical school if a required payback program were in place. Students who were more competitive at the time of admission to medical school were significantly more likely to say they would attend another medical school than were less competitive students. In contrast, 48 percent of students reported that they would be more likely to return to their home states if expanded loan repayment programs were available for service in areas of need. The findings suggest that payback programs may dissuade more competitive students from entering medical schools with such requirements, compromising the pool of students most likely to return to rural areas. Conversely, medical students appear willing to consider loan repayment programs upon completion of their training.

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