Financing an Optometric Education

Students who are considering a career as a Doctor of Optometry may be concerned that they do not have sufficient personal resources to cover all of the educational costs. The cost of attendance generally includes tuition, fees, books, equipment and supplies, and living expenses such as rent, groceries, insurance, and transportation. The majority of students finance their education by a combination of personal and family contributions, scholarships, low- and high-interest loans, and work-study opportunities.

As the overall costs of optometric education continue to increase, it is important that prospective optometry students begin to investigate potential financial aid sources as early as possible. Because outside employment during optometry school is a limited option for the majority of students, and university sources of funds are also often limited, accepted applicants should contact their school’s financial aid office early to explore their options and understand the school’s financial aid policies and procedures.

Sources of Financial Aid

Accepted applicants should be aware of loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study, which provide the majority of aid to optometry students.

Loans, which are the primary source of financial aid for optometry students, must be repaid after graduation. Scholarships, which are merit-based or need-based, do not require the recipient to repay the award. Work-study gives students the opportunity to work part-time. In addition, there are state contract programs, which pay a portion of a student’s tuition, and U.S. Armed Forces’ scholarship programs, which require a service commitment following graduation.

The following list presents an overview of the most commonly used federal sources of assistance. Applicants are cautioned that requirements for the various loan programs may change or programs may be eliminated based on actions of the government.

Loan Programs

  • Federal Direct Loan Unsubsidized
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)
  • DHHS Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL)
  • Federal Graduate PLUS loans
  • Private alternative loans
  • Institutional loan programs (limited)

Scholarship Programs

  • DHHS Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS)
  • State contracts
  • Military Health Professions Scholarship
  • Institutional scholarship programs

Managing Educational Indebtedness

The majority of optometry students borrow to pay for the cost of their education. Borrowing means the student has the benefit of using someone else’s money now in exchange for paying it back with interest at a later date. Students are legally obligated to repay their loans. Defaulting on a student loan has financial and legal consequences that can have negative personal and professional effects. The vast majority of optometry graduates repay their loans either on time or early. The financial aid office at a specific college can provide information on management of a student’s debt.