High Cost of Professional Degrees Leave Many With Unpayable Debt

High Cost of Professional Degrees Leave Many With Unpayable Debt

Many nonmedical professional degrees, such as in dentistry and veterinary medicine, leave students with large amounts of debt, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data.

What to know:

  • About 76% of professional programs left students with higher debt than their salaries 2 years later, the analysis of nearly 500 programs found. Medicine was excluded because of the requirement for graduates seeking medical licenses to complete a residency program, which are often low paid.

  • In chiropractic medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine, every professional program that was evaluated had median debt loads that exceeded median earnings 2 years after graduation ― numbers that most debt counselors would caution against before taking out a loan.

  • Debt often topped $200,000 for the degrees. In 2020 across the country, dentists earned a median of $164,000; veterinarians, $99,000; and chiropractors, $71,000.

  • Many professional associations and professors are concerned about how the high costs of the degrees are harming the professions. They point to statistics showing that rural areas are short of dentists and veterinarians in part because pay in those areas is generally lower.

  • Despite the widespread high costs, there were some exceptions. Graduates of the dentistry program at East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina, have a median debt of around $131,000, which their median income of $120,000 after graduation nearly matches. The dean of the program said that this is because of the intention to have graduates serve people in poor and rural parts of North Carolina.

This is a summary of the article, “Some Professional Degrees Leave Students With High Debt but Without High Salaries,” published by The Wall Street Journal on December 1. The full article can be found on wsj.com.

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