Average Dental School Debt

Last Updated: June 7, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Report Highlights. The average dental school debt increases almost every year – from 2018 to 2019 it increased by $6,985.

  • The average dental school graduate owes $292,169 in student loan debt.
  • Texas A&M University has the cheapest dental school program for residents totaling $115,729 for the entire program.
  • The University of Mississippi has the cheapest program for non-residents totaling $150,148 for the entire program.
  • 83% of dental school graduates from 2019 had student loan debt.
  • More than 70% of dental school graduates had a federally backed student loan.

Percent of Student debt on EducationData

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 $292,169 in student loan debt.
  • The average public school graduate debt was $261,305.
  • The average private school graduate debt was $321,184.
  • 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 $207,922 since 1996.
Dental School Debt Timeline
Year Average Debt Change
1996 $84,247 N/A
1997 $94,182 $9,935
1998 $97,961 $3,779
1999 $105,150 $7,189
2000 $105,969 $819
2001 $115,951 $9,982
2002 $122,491 $6,540
2003 $132,532 $10,041
2004 $135,721 $3,189
2005 $141,521 $5,800
2006 $162,155 $20,634
2007 $172,627 $10,472
2008 $187,394 $14,767
2009 $189,678 $2,284
2010 $197,366 $7,688
2011 $203,374 $6,008
2012 $221,713 $18,339
2013 $241,097 $19,384
2014 $247,227 $6,130
2015 $255,567 $8,340
2016 $262,119 $6,552
2017 $287,331 $25,212
2018 $285,184 ($2,147)
2019 $292,169 $6,985

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.

  • University of the Pacific program is only 3 years long.
  • The University of Puerto Rico has the cheapest program on the list at $113,886, but only for residents.
  • Texas A&M University has the cheapest program in the mainland United States totaling $115,729 for the entire program.
  • The University of Mississippi has the cheapest program for non-residents totaling $150,148 for the entire program.
  • Midwestern University has the most expensive program for residents at $411,385.
  • The University of Illinois has the most expensive program for non-residents at $436,435.
School Total Costs
Dental School Total Costs – Resident Total Costs – Non Resident
University of Puerto Rico  $113,886  $241,886
Texas A&M University $115,729 $158,929
University of Alabama $140,995 $293,079
Augusta University $142,849 $276,250
University of Mississippi $150,148 $150,148
The University of Texas at Houston $154,641 $206,058
University of Oklahoma $156,657 $314,449
UT Health San Antonio $161,769 $204,969
East Carolina University $167,415 $167,415
University of Kentucky $172,858 $332,658
University of Louisville $181,324 $331,212
University of Connecticut $181,968 $333,002
University of Missouri, Kansas City $187,298 $335,991
Southern Illinois University $188,352 $188,352
LSU Health Sciences Center $195,784 $310,696
University of Michigan $198,511 $282,854
Indiana University $198,581 $379,053
University of Colorado $198,812 $300,024
University of Tennessee College of Dentistry $200,532 $355,572
University of Nebraska Medical Center $201,425 $375,103
University of Utah $202,975 $347,807
Howard University $208,818 $208,818
University of Florida $210,531 $316,451
West Virginia University $215,133 $386,007
University of North Carolina $220,253 $375,158
Ohio State University $221,948 $249,054
University of Minnesota $230,669 $387,470
Stony Brook University $231,791 $335,991
University of Iowa $236,589 $340,141
Rutgers School of Dental Medicine $241,107 $365,539
Marquette University $241,610 $276,250
University of Pittsburgh $244,840 $284,952
Oregon Health & Science University $245,054 $354,454
University at Buffalo $246,902 $296,488
University of California, San Francisco $247,508 $296,488
University of Maryland $247,567 $392,195
Virginia Commonwealth University $250,314 $377,154
University of California, Los Angeles $253,827 $294,599
University of Nevada, Las Vegas $257,034 $402,729
LECOM College of Dental Medicine $262,914 $262,914
Medical University of South Carolina $267,092 $400,417
Temple University $269,328 $299,888
University of Washington $277,367 $413,931
Meharry Medical College $281,311 $281,311
University of Illinois, Chicago $282,557 $436,435
Touro College of Dental Medicine $286,595 $286,595
Harvard University $315,126 $315,126
Nova Southeastern University $316,176 $319,348
University of New England $319,196 $319,196
Creighton University $322,376 $322,376
Case Western Reserve University $342,530 $344,530
Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health $343,050 $343,050
University of Detroit Mercy $345,052 $345,052
Boston University $352,470 $352,470
Western University of Health Sciences $355,211 $355,211
Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health $369,646 $369,646
Columbia University $372,918 $372,918
Roseman University of Health Sciences $373,703 $373,703
Tufts University $379,809 $379,809
New York University $382,562 $382,562
University of Pennsylvania $383,217 $383,217
Loma Linda University $385,382 $385,382
University of the Pacific $390,301 $390,301
Midwestern University – AZ $401,156 $401,156
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC $402,788 $402,788
Midwestern University – IL $411,385 $411,385

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.

How Respondents Paid on EducationData

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 health care profession with demonstrated financial need.

  • More than 70% of dental school graduates had a federally backed student loan.
  • 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 75.4%
Federal Grad PLUS 71.5%
Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL) 18.3%
Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) 3.1%
Institutional Loans 8.3%
Private Loans 11.6%
Residency and Relocation Loans 1.8%
State Loan Programs 4.7%
Personal Loans from Family 7.0%
Other Loans 1.2%

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 6% 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.

Debt repayment plan on EducationData

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 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 the two or more race category, 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. U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook Dentists
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education: Analysis of Educational Debt and Income Among Pharmacists and Other Health Professionals
  4. Academy of General Dentistry: Student Debt
  5. Wiley Online Library, Journal of Dental Education: “Advancing Dental Education in the 21st Century”, Current State of Dental Education Executive Summary
  6. American Dental Association, Health Policy Institute: Education
  7. American Association of Endodontists, Finance Corner: The Quickest Way to Eliminate Dental School Debt.