A state program that repays up to $120,000 in student loan debt for primary care clinicians who agree to work at least four years in medically underserved areas of New Jersey is having success recruiting and retaining healthcare workers in communities where they are needed the most. The student loan repayment provided by the state is over and above the salary clinicians negotiate when they go to work in an under-served area.
State law created the Primary Care Practitioner Loan Redemption Program of New Jersey in 1992. Applicants are expected to commit a minimum of two years to the program, which is overseen by the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.
The program is succeeding at its ultimate goal, which is to increase medical care in underserved areas, according to a 2007 report on the program’s first 15 years. That report found that 222 primary care clinicians enrolled in the program through 2007, and that 85 percent continued to work in underserved areas of New Jersey after completing their work requirement. Of the 222 clinicians, there were 110 primary care physicians, 100 dentists, four nurse practitioners, two nurse midwives and, six physician assistants.
Sharon W. Bryant is director of the loan redemption program, which is based in Newark at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Since the program’s inception, it has been able to award loan repayments contracts to clinicians each year, even through the level of funding from the state budget has fluctuated, she said.
In fiscal 2010, the program received $2 million in funding. The following year, fiscal 2011, no new money was appropriated, but Bryant said the program still had sufficient funds to continue making new awards. In the current fiscal year, new funding of $1.125 million was provided, and for fiscal 2013, Governor Christie is recommending $1.5 million: $1.125 million for primary care practitioners and $375,000 for student loan redemptions for nursing school faculty.
NJCTH continues to advocate the legislature to restore funding to $2 million to create a more robust program that reaches more graduating residents. Read more...