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Reducing Debt While Doing Research: Applications to NIH Loan Repayment Programs Open Soon
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Omar McCrimmon


It’s no secret that a college education is expensive. A postgraduate education can be an even bigger expense. Recent estimates of the average education debt for biomedical research graduates is reported at $175,000. Towering educational debt is an issue for many early stage investigators—in fact, significant student loan debt is the most reported barrier to beginning and sustaining a biomedical research career. In exchange for a commitment to conduct biomedical or behavioral research, the NIH will repay up to $70,000 of student loan debt over two years through the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs). In 2017, applications to NIH LRPs will be accepted September 1 through November 15.


The objective of the LRPs is to recruit and retain highly qualified health-related professionals to careers in biomedical and behavioral research. If you are a qualified investigator who is engaged in NIH mission-relevant research for at least 20 hours per week at nonprofit or government institution, you may be eligible to apply to the one of the five extramural LRPs:

To qualify, applicants must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, possess a doctoral-level degree (with the exception of the Contraception and Infertility Research LRP), and have educational loan debt equal to or exceeding 20 percent of their annual institutional base salary.


Approximately 1,500 researchers benefit from the $70 million NIH invests each year through extramural LRPs. On average, nearly 50 percent of all LRP applications are funded, and these awards are competitively renewable (for a one- or two-year period) until all educational debt is repaid. To take a closer look at award data, visit the newly launched LRP Interactive Data Dashboard for easy access to downloadable information. The LRPs are unique programs with tremendous benefit to early stage investigators, so we strongly encourage researchers that were not successful in getting their applications funded to apply again.


Interested in Applying? Here are some helpful resources that will help you get started:

Visit for more details and to apply. For additional assistance, call or e-mail the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 (Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST) or You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter and Facebook for more information and cycle updates.


Get started on your application today!


Omar McCrimmon, MA, is communications specialist for the National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment.

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