Primary Care Loan (PCL) for Medical School

  • name: Primary Care Loan
  • interest rate: 5%
  • interest type: subsidized
  • maximum repayment term: 25 years (and at least 10 years)
  • grace period: 12 months
  • maximum loan amount: tuition and living expense

Advantages of the PCL

If you qualify for this loan, then you are golden. Your financial burden from medical school will be less than most people. Why? Because it has a combination of low interest rates, subsidized interest (government will pay the interest on the loan while you are in school or when the loan is deferred), and can cover the full cost of medical school and living expenses. In addition, you get a year for grace period. During grace periods, the interest is still subsidized.

Disadvantages of the PCL

primary care loan - primary care physician

To take out the PCL, you must become a primary care physician.

But the downside of the loan is that it is very hard to qualify for:

  • You must show you have financial need, which is not hard for most medical school students.
  • You must also show that your parents have financial need, which is very unlikely for most medical school students.
  • You must practice in primary health care. To figure out what primary health care means, check out University of Minnesota’s page regarding PCL. You must choose a primary health care residency and practice in the field until the loan is paid, which will take at least 10 years.

You cannot pay the whole loan in full; it must be stretched out for at least 10 years and at most 25 years. That means you will be stuck paying the interest even if you have extra money to pay off the loan. This is the only government loan that I am aware of which requires a minimum repayment period.

Who Should Take Out the Loan?

So who is it good for? If you and your parents are poor and you are absolutely certain you want to pursue primary medicine, this is the loan for you. That pretty much rules out most of the medical school students.

This article is part of the Medical School Loans series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about borrowing money smartly.


  1. Thank you so much for the commentary on this loan type. I’m currently looking into pursuing this family practice (not yet in med school, although accepted), and have been pondering how I will best pay for this process. It looks like this loan opportunity could be very worthwhile. However, I’m curious as to what “living expenses” consist of under this loan. Is it the same as other definitions or is it exclusive to some degree? Also, I wonder if it is possible to pay off most of the loan during the first few years in order to minimize interest up to the 10 year mark. Curious to know if anyone has had experience with this funding type.

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Luke,S

      Sorry about the late reply. Just found your comment in my spam comments.

      Regarding your question, the living expense is determined by your school. This is from the government’s website:

      The financial aid office at the participating school where you are enrolled will determine how much you can borrow based on your eligibility, the amount of PCL funds available at your institution and other criteria. The maximum award for first- and second- year students is cost of attendance (including tuition, educational expenses, and reasonable living expenses). Amounts beyond this may be awarded to third- and fourth-year students.

      I’m actually not sure if you can pay off most of the loan. If I had to guess, you can. The most important thing about the minimum of 10 years is that the government want you to be in primary care for the length of the loan. So if you paid off most of the loan and let a small amount sit there for the 10 years, that should be on target with the spirit of PCL.

      It would be best to confirm with an official source though. The official website is:

      • Thank you for the reply, Alex!

        I had another quick (though loaded) question: I’m currently exploring whether or not to take this admission to med school. I’m looking at possibly pursuing graudate nursing (e.g. Family or Psych NP, as that’s where interest lies) as it seems it may allow for more wife/family and personal interest time, not to mention cost savings overall. Do you think pursuing medical degree is ultimately worth the time and financial commitment at this point in your training? My biggest concern is not having enough time, energy, etc. to spend with my wife during this 7-8 year stretch.

        I’d love to hear your thoughts, or if you’ve answered this elsewhere, be directed to your answer.

        Thank you and God bless!

        • Alex Ding says:

          For me, becoming a doctor was not worth the time and financial commitment. I wrote a bit about the financial commitment here:

          As a doctor, you will work much harder than nurses. It is very possible that you will not have enough time for the wife. I don’t know how that compares to nursing school, but I would assume medical school requires more work. I have met lots of doctors that are divorced or never married.

          From my experience, there were days where all I did was sleep and work. I hardly had time to spend building up relationships. So if time with family is important, I would not recommend you to become a doctor. The culture of doctor is to work, work, and work.

          • Alex,
            Thank you for the response yet again. I’m in the process of applying to nursing school currently (1 yr accelerated BSN). However, I’m looking at PA programs as well. What is your take on the PA’s and NP’s? Which do you feel offers better education, experience, pay, job growth, etc. from your current understanding?

            Thanks again!

          • Alex Ding says:

            Hey Luke,

            I think overall PA’s and NP’s are very similar in the amount of medical care they can give. PA’s have an even split between men and women. NP’s are usually female. PA’s also make a bit more than NP’s.

            If I had to choose between PA and NP, I would choose PA. I know that PA’s can have their own practice (but they will need to hire a doctor to review the work). I’m not sure if NP’s can have their own practice.

            Either way, there isn’t much difference between them.

  2. Thanks for the response, Alex! God bless!

  3. Per my school’s financial aid department, you may pay off the Primary Care Loan as soon as possible. The 10 year minimum is the minimum time your loan provider is required to offer you to repay, not the minimum amount of time you must wait before paying the entire loan.

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