Average Dental School Debt

Report Highlights. The average dental school debt peaked in 2020 at $318,500 but has decreased to $286,200 since then.

  • The average dental school graduate owes $293,900 in total student loan debt.
  • Augusta University has the cheapest dental school program for residents totaling $140,850 for the entire program.
  • East Carolina University has the cheapest program for non-residents totaling $146,620 for the entire program.
  • 66% of dental school graduates from 2022 took out loans to fund their dental education.

Related reports include Average Medical School Debt | Average Student Loan Debt | Student Loan Debt by State | Student Loan Debt by Year | Student Loan Debt by Race       

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Rising Costs of Dental School

Since the 1980s, state governments have been cutting back financial support for dental school budgets. As a result, dental schools have steadily passed on the expenses to the student by increasing the tuition rate.

  • The average dental school graduate owes $293,900 in student loan debt.
  • The average public school graduate debt was $261,230.
  • The average private school graduate debt was $354,900.
  • From 2004 to 2011, dental schools raised tuition and fees every year by 5% to 10%.
  • The average amount of dental school debt has risen by $178,090 since 1996.
Dental School Debt Timeline
(In 2022 Adjusted Dollars)
Year Average Debt Change
1996 $103,350 N/A
1997 $140,380 $37,030
1998 $148,980 $8,600
1999 $177,640 $28,660
2000 $151,080 -$26,560
2001 $177,250 $26,170
2002 $177,290 $40
2003 $191,700 $14,410
2004 $192,270 $570
2005 $196,710 $4,440
2006 $212,610 $15,900
2007 $225,140 $12,530
2008 $231,740 $6,600
2009 $239,670 $7,930
2010 $243,060 $3,390
2011 $237,520 -$5,540
2012 $253,610 $16,090
2013 $274,140 $20,530
2014 $276,760 $2,620
2015 $280,090 $3,330
2016 $271,550 -$8,540
2017 $294,660 $23,110
2018 $281,050 -$13,610
2019 $281,440 $390

Dental Schools

There are 68 accredited dental schools in the United States. 66 of those schools are represented in the American Dental Association annual education report. The two missing schools have yet to start enrollment.

  • The University of Puerto Rico has the cheapest program on the list at $120,290, but only for residents.
  • Augusta University has the cheapest program in the mainland United States totaling $140,850 for the entire program.
  • East Carolina University has the cheapest program for non-residents totaling $146,620 for the entire program.
  • Midwestern University has the most expensive program for residents at $424,420.
  • The University of Illinois has the most expensive program for non-residents at $453,200.
School Total Costs
Dental School Total Costs – Resident Total Costs – Non Resident
University of Puerto Rico  $120,290  $316,290
Texas A&M University $146,540 $189,740
University of Alabama $147,980 $306,530
Augusta University $140,850 $290,030
University of Mississippi $174,920 $174,920
The University of Texas at Houston $168,920 $232,110
University of Oklahoma $189,740 $353,840
UT Health San Antonio $141,690 $184,890
East Carolina University $146,620 $146,620
University of Kentucky $177,450 $343,500
University of Louisville $184,580 $342,050
University of Connecticut $205,660 $360,880
University of Missouri, Kansas City $212,150 $375,240
Southern Illinois University $185,630 $185,630
LSU Health Sciences Center $198,670 $313,580
University of Michigan $226,730 $297,590
Indiana University $222,450 $429,250
University of Colorado $212,060 $313,270
University of Tennessee College of Dentistry $210,330 $365,370
University of Nebraska Medical Center $203,860 $373,520
University of Utah $207,910 $359,330
Howard University $223,350 $223,350
University of Florida $188,650 $294,570
West Virginia University $198,590 $372,930
University of North Carolina $224,720 $377,600
Ohio State University $230,370 $453,200
University of Minnesota $239,570 $403,920
Stony Brook University $225,310 $329,510
University of Iowa $249,640 $350,190
Rutgers School of Dental Medicine $254,940 $392,110
Marquette University $251,830 $286,470
University of Pittsburgh $292,610 $333,720
Oregon Health & Science University $253,560 $366,000
University at Buffalo $238,040 $344,760
University of California, San Francisco $259,790 $308,770
University of Maryland $236,270 $388,130
Virginia Commonwealth University $231,220 $363,130
University of California, Los Angeles $265,260 $309,800
University of Nevada, Las Vegas $260,440 $406,170
LECOM College of Dental Medicine $275,750 $275,750
Medical University of South Carolina $266,090 $399,420
Temple University $287,540 $318,890
University of Washington $277,470 $414,030
Meharry Medical College $278,440 $278,440
University of Illinois, Chicago $289,480 $446,170
Touro College of Dental Medicine $314,800 $314,800
Harvard University $337,990 $337,990
Nova Southeastern University $337,860 $341,160
University of New England $335,300 $335,300
Creighton University $337,970 $337,970
Case Western Reserve University $375,440 $375,440
Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health $343,050 $343,050
University of Detroit Mercy $363,670 $363,670
Boston University $373,290 $373,290
Western University of Health Sciences $370,060 $370,060
Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health $379,620 $379,620
Columbia University $405,400 $405,400
Roseman University of Health Sciences $384,070 $384,070
Tufts University $407,220 $407,220
New York University $407,220 $409,340
University of Pennsylvania $380,710 $380,710
Loma Linda University $383,130 $383,130
University of the Pacific $407,580 $407,580
Midwestern University – AZ $414,170 $414,170
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC $424,170 $424,170
Midwestern University – IL $424,170 $424,420

Paying For Dental School

The American Dental Education Association surveyed the graduating class of 2019. In their survey, they found that the majority of respondents funded their education through student loans.

  • For 44.6% of respondents, student loans covered 91% to 100% of their dental school expenses.
  • Part-time employment only managed to cover 1% to 10% of dental school expenses for 81.3% of respondents.
  • For 58.3% of respondents, grants and scholarships covered 1% to 10% of dental school expenses.
  • Savings or earned income from a spouse accounted for 1% to 10% of dental school expenses for 65% of respondents.
  • For 32.2% of respondents, gifts and financial support from others covered only 1% to 10% of dental school expenses.

Average dental school debt 11172022 on Education Data Initiative

Types of Loans

Federal Stafford loans, Federal PLUS loans, and Health Professional Student Loans (HPSL) remain the most popular loans among dental school students. The Stafford loans are direct, unsubsidized loans available for a majority of majors. Federal PLUS loans are usually taken out by parents or graduate students and used in conjunction with other federal loans. HPSL loans are eligible for students in a healthcare profession with demonstrated financial need.

  • 66% of dental school graduates took out loans to fund their dental doctoral education.
  • Standard loans have a repayment period of 10 years, for dental school loans, this may be extended to 25 or 30 years given the size of dental school debt.
  • At the end of the repayment term, if there are still payments left on the debt, federal student loans can be forgiven at this time.
Loan Categories
Loan Type Percent of Graduates with the Loan
Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan 85%
Federal Grad PLUS 76%
Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL) 17%
Private Loans 9%
Personal Loans 5%
Institutional Loans 4%
State Loan Programs 1%

Paying Back Loans

Studies found that dentists with higher education debt were more likely to enter into private practice over government service, teaching, or advanced education. Increased loan debts made it less likely for dentists to enter specialist fields.

  • 18.7% of graduated respondents stated that their level of debt would influence their primary professional activity.
  • The majority of Whites, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and other races stated that they planned to pay off their loans with an aggressive repayment plan – overpaying on the most expensive loan whenever possible.
  • The 2nd favorite option among all races was to minimize monthly payments – to protect income and help with monthly cash flow.
  • 33% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives favored using a service commitment program like the National Health Service Corps or the military to pay off their debt.
  • Interest rates for dental school loans vary on average from 5% to 8% a year.
  • Graduates that favor a monthly repayment plan strategy must be aware if their payments are only covering the interest rate and not the principal amount.

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Debt by Race/Ethnicity

The vast majority of respondents to the ADEA survey were white. American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders accounted for less than 1% of survey respondents.

  • 35.8% of non-resident aliens graduated with no debt, the largest majority for non-resident aliens.
  • 21.3% of Asians graduated with no debt, the largest majority of Asians.
  • 15.4% of Whites graduated with no debt, the largest majority of Whites.
  • Among the respondents in the two or more race category, 21.1% of them graduated with no debt – the largest majority for them.
  • 10% of Asians owed around the national average of $292,169.
  • 18.7% of Black or African-Americans owed in the range of the national average of $292,169.
  • 9.0% of Hispanics/Latinos were indebted close to $292,169.
  • 13.1% of Whites/Caucasians were indebted in the range of the national average.
  • Among the respondents in two or more race categories, 5.6% of them owed close to $292,169.
  • Among the nonresident Aliens and those who did not report their race/ethnicity, 17% were indebted close to the national average.

Sources

  1. American Dental Education Association (ADEA): Educational Debt
  2. ADEA: Seniors 2022 Summary Report
  3. ADEA: Latest Debt Report, Dentists of Tomorrow 2021
  4. ADEA: 2019 Graduating Class Tables Report by Race Data
  5. U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook Dentists
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education: Analysis of Educational Debt and Income Among Pharmacists and Other Health Professionals
  7. Academy of General Dentistry: Student Debt
  8. Wiley Online Library, Journal of Dental Education: “Advancing Dental Education in the 21st Century”, Current State of Dental Education Executive Summary
  9. American Dental Association, Health Policy Institute: Education
  10. American Association of Endodontists, Finance Corner: The Quickest Way to Eliminate Dental School Debt.
  11. Doctor of Dental Surgery | University of the Pacific