Student Debt Relief in the Face of a Pandemic

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

We have created a letter template for healthcare professionals who wish to write about student debt relief. Student debt continues to be a serious barrier for many wishing to enter the medical field or primary care specialties - and creates a breakdown in public health many times. We have included a template draft, as well as potential specifics at the end of this letter for you to format in the way that you wish. This letter template is tailored towards a resident physician, but can of course be adjusted and individualized to meet the specifics of other healthcare professionals. Please let us know in the comments if you chose to use this template!


[DATE]


[PERSONAL/BUSINESS ADDRESS]


The Honorable [SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE’S FIRST NAME, LAST NAME]

U.S. Senate OR House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515


Dear Senator OR Representative [LAST NAME]


I am a [PROFESSION/ROLE/TITLE] at [INSTITUTION NAME]. I am writing to urge your support for the [SELECT ANY OF THE BILLS LISTED BELOW OR MAKE A NON-PARTISAN GENERIC STATEMENT] given the massive hardship Covid-19 has inflicted on the U.S. population, particularly on our frontline healthcare workers and even more especially on our resident physicians.


Second only to the United Kingdom, average graduate education tuition costs in the U.S. are greater than that of almost every other country. Student loan debt has more than tripled since 2006, and in 2019, it reached over 1.6 trillion dollars. Graduate students are especially affected by this burden after losing eligibility for federal loan subsidies and interest-free debt deferments in 2012.


Although healthcare professions only represent 5% of total graduate level degrees, they disproportionately account for almost 30% of U.S. graduate student debt. Total student debt for graduates of medicine and health sciences programs averaged $161,772 in 2019, and many recent studies suggest at least 45% of medical students owed more than $200,000 upon graduation. This is a striking disparity considering the average student debt of all other master’s programs is around $51,400. Meanwhile, according to the 2019 Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report, resident physicians earn an average of just $61,200 per year.


Though the CARES Act has provided an effective short-term relief option for many, the stress of the massive debt burden still looms for resident physicians, medical students, and other frontline healthcare workers who suffer through decades of mandatory schooling and training, work up to 80-hours per week with many shifts exceeding 12 hours, and now put their own lives and families at further risk by working in hazardous conditions in a massive pandemic with negligible compensation. Optional addition: My personal debt burden is $[x], and as a [x]-year resident I only earn $[x] per year despite working an average of [x] hours per week while on the front lines fighting Covid-19.


On top of the mental and physical fatigue, pre-existing physician burnout, emotional trauma of witnessing countless lives lost due to a surging pandemic, stress of bringing harm to our families, and extensive schooling and testing it took to get here, the overwhelming and disproportionate burden of medical school loans should not add to the affliction of fighting this battle. Again, I pleadingly urge you to support the [SELECT ANY OF THE BILLS LISTED BELOW OR MAKE A NON-PARTISAN GENERIC STATEMENT] to help alleviate the countless burdens we carry during this time.


If you or your staff would like additional information, please feel free to contact me directly. I am happy to talk further and look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sincerely,

[NAME, TITLE, INSTITUTION]




Examples of generic, non-partisan statements:

  • I am writing to urge your support for […] given the massive hardship Covid-19 has inflicted on the U.S. population, particularly on our frontline healthcare workers.

  • the forgiveness of federal student loans

  • the forgiveness of federal student loans for frontline healthcare workers

  • the forgiveness of federal student loans for essential workers

  • extended deferment of federal student loan payments

  • extended deferment of student loan interest accrual

  • waiving (or reduction) of federal student loan interest


List of specific proposed plans to promote in your letter:

A succinct breakdown and link to each plan can be found here (source: Forbes magazine)

  • “Opportunity for Heroes Act” sponsored by Representative Ann Kuster

  • “Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Healthcare Workers Act” sponsored by Representative Carolyn Maloney

  • “Student Debt Emergency Relief Act” sponsored by Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar

  • Senate Democrats’ proposal to aid federal student loan borrowers during coronavirus crisis

  • Joe Biden’s proposal for student loan forgiveness in light of Covid-19


General tips for writing your Congressperson (source: American Psychological Association):

  • Direct: state your subject clearly in the e-mail subject line and/or letter introduction

  • Factual: personalize the issue and support your stance with facts

  • Helpful: offer to provide additional information and provide your contact information

  • Informative: identify yourself, your views, and the bill number(s) of relevant legislation

  • Constructive: remain positive and offer recommendations without personal attacks or blame

  • Appreciative: thank the policymaker for their attention

  • Inquiring: ask for the policymaker’s viewpoint on the legislation

  • Specific: provide specific facts, data, examples, and write in the first-person

  • Concise: do not exceed one page or 500 words


More tips, sample e-mails, sample letters, and links to your state’s Congresspersons’ contact information can be found at this page created by the American Psychological Association.


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