Topic 2: Cost of Education and Student Loans

Cost of Education and Student Loans

“Are the cost of chiropractic education and the burden of student loans negatively impacting the chiropractic profession and if so, what can be done to improve the situation?”

Future Perceptions Survey respondents identified the high cost of education and student loan debt as major threats to the growth and development of the chiropractic profession. Please share your thoughts on what you think should be done to address these impacts over the next five years and beyond.

We would love to hear your thoughts!

“What can be done to address the high costs of chiropractic education and student debt?”
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Student loans are necessary ,and like anything we purchase , they need to be affordable.
The borrowing rate must be minimal for longer period of time ,while the colleges become less expensive .

For an unsecured debt, current rates are considered low (when compared to a personal loan). But assume a rate is 3% but the debt is $200k (probably on the low end for current graduates). That loan is currently spread over 30 years and the debt obligation is $843.21/month. Push the debt to $250k, the monthly payment goes to $1,054.01/month. How do we expect graduates to survive financially, stay in the profession, give back to the profession financially, and continue to advocate for the profession with those kind of numbers?? What’s the answer? I do not advise anyone to go into chiropractic because the debt burden outweighs the income (based on Bureau of Labor Statistics income numbers, not a survey where people can say whatever they want to, essentially, impress themselves). So what can be done so the colleges don’t price the profession out of existence? Medical colleges are shortening their programs for 4 yrs to 3. Is it time for a DC program to go to 2.5 yrs from 3.5?

With students graduating with such large debts incurred by paying tuition at the chiropractic colleges Dan entering into a job market that will not support enough income to make the student loan payments. Chiropractic colleges are not turning out chiropractors that have a financial income that is large enough to cover the debt incurred to get their degree. I believe that the value charged for the chiropractic education is much greater than a degree warrants. The colleges are all built huge monuments to themselves and their administrators have taken very healthy salaries, they have all forgotten who is Paying the Bill!

The Federal Health Education Loan (HEAL) program was enacted under Public Law 94-484 and took effect in October 12, 1976. In 1981, Public Law 97-35 made chiropractic, health administration, and clinical psychology students eligible to borrow up to $12,500 per year for four years, immediately colleges increased the price of chiropractic education and we were on our way to becoming slaves of the loans.
By the 1980s, student loan defaults were already becoming a problem. In 1990, the Department of Education followed the lead of a handful of states, like Texas and Illinois, which had already started imposing laws to restrict borrowers’ licenses if they fell behind on payments. “Deny professional licenses to defaulters until they take steps to repayment,” the department said in its lengthy guidance entitled “Reducing Student Loans Defaults: A Plan for Action.” A chiropractor with a revoked license is expected to continue making payments, this doesn’t make much sense.
Tuition for one full year (three academic quarters) at Life Chiropractic College West totaled $45,549 in 2012. Multiply that by four years and the result is new student loan debt of $182,196, add living expenses during college at $32,000 annually and you get the picture. How much does a new graduate make?
The average earnings of a chiropractor in 2015 $64,440. Conclusion, price of education and potential earnings do not add up.

These poor grads are lucky to make $50k. They have to drive there old beat up Camry and live in mom and dad’s basement. I’m glad I graduated in the 90’s

I think that’s part of the problem. Doc’s who graduated pre-2000’s and were able to make their money during the “Mercedes 80’s”, don’t realize what new grads are facing. I see associate ads offering $24k/yr + “bonuses” with the highest ads around $50k. You don’t need a DC degree (and debt burden) to make $50k with a bachelor’s degree. Chiropractic college is financial suicide today for most graduates. Yeah, you will get a couple that do well but a lot will exit the profession. I advocate for students who are dead set to be a DC to get their BSN first to have a fall-back if it doesn’t go as well as they think it will. Any other options/thoughts?

Given the current financial climate, it does not benefit the profession to require 90 credit hours of prerequisites. This raises the debt required to enter the profession, making repayment of chiropractic college loans more difficult, while adding little to the quality of our students.

Given that many states require a bachelor’s degree as part of the licensing process, this isn’t really a plausible suggestion. The one thing that the chiropractic schools are doing that is good is to add a 3+1 where you can finish your bachelor’s degree in the first year of chiropractic school. About the only thing that is being done right to help financial situations.

I advise all young students who want to pursue chiropractic to get an BSN degree first. At least they have something to fall back on if the DC route doesn’t pan out. It also opens up a lot more doors of opportunity in the long run. The leadership at chiropractic educational institutions have yet to realize that they will contribute to the profession’s demise by churning out students with boat loads of debt that they will struggle to pay for when insurance is pay $30 for an adjustment. Eventually those endowments will evaporate b/c no one will be able to afford contributing. Students today are having their student loans (now in excess of $250k with undergrad costs) being amortized over 30 yrs. The ROI on the cost of education is not there which is why a BSN is the safety net I advise for. We are long overdue for this frank discussion with those at the chiro colleges.

Much like the others who are commenting on this, I agree that there is a massive divide between the cost of school and the average salary of the profession. As a recent grad, it’s astronomical and extremely defeating. College costs being around 160K, not including living expensive or the cost of undergrad is insane. On top of colleges constantly raising the costs, our interest rates are close to 8% (yes, through the government) interest that begins immediately. We also get taxes taken out of them as well. So I am paying on interest on taxes that the government took out of the loans that they “let” me borrow. I know this is more of a government issue that it truly is a chiropractic problem but I think it’s important for people to realize that they are trying starting associates at 30k a year knowing that starting a practice with these kind of loan debts is extremely difficult.

Respectfully, I can only speak from my personal experience. Ultimately, I believe that the answer is found somewhere between holding the colleges accountable, educating the students, and lobbying the Federal Government. Loans are a necessary “evil” (for lack of a better term). The colleges must do a better job of pricing their programs compared to current inflation, job availability, and the growth potential for the specialty/degree in the real world. The student must make better choices on borrowing the lowest amount possible even if this means working a part-time job and living the simple life (ex. forgoing upgrading to the newest iPhone). Students must move away from the mentality that a professional education is owed to them in some way. And most importantly we must come to the understanding that the Federal Government is not responsible for picking up the tab for every student who attends college. However, it should be responsible for subsidizing the interest for every student who takes out a loan while they are attending school and than give them a grace period to begin payback of at least one year after graduating. This would allow students to graduate owing the same amount as they borrowed and give them the opportunity to enter the job market and start earning a living. The Federal Government should also cap student loan interest rates permanently somewhere between 2-3%. Given the current interest rates this would equate to tens of thousands of dollars in savings for the student and eliminate some of the heavy burden while still placing the responsibility on the student to pay back, not a debt, but a necessary investment in their own futures.

Assume a rate is 3% but the debt is $200k (probably on the low end for current graduates). That loan is currently spread over 30 years and the debt obligation is $843.21/month. Push the debt to $250k, the monthly payment goes to $1,054.01/month. Still not a very rosy picture for a new grad who is looking at a $36-50k/yr job.

The only true way the profession expands and the educational costs are drive down are to transform or integrate the educational process from private to public universities. There was an opportunity to do ten years ago at Florida State University I believe, but the lobbyists and politicians for the private schools popped the balloon, thus continuing the indentured servitude of the Chiropractic students via private tuition fees.

There certainly needs to be more international colleges. For example, I have been trying for over 6 years to get a school started in Israel, the first in the middle east. Without a local school, only the economically privileged elite can afford to travel to north america, europe, south africa or australia to become a DC. Furthermore, without a local school, chiropractic will cease to exist in the next 25-30 years in underserviced countries.

It is doubtful that the private chiropractic colleges will resolve the student loan issues that are mentioned in this discussion. Hence, offering chiropractic education in State funded universities is a solution, albeit a long term solution. The short term solution is student loan forgiveness programs similar to those used by medical providers including MD, DO, APRN, and PA providers. Currently, chiropractors have access to only the 2007 student loan forgiveness program by former President G.W. Bush, which requires the DC to work for a non-profit organization for 10 year without defaulting. One other solution that is available today involves proper financial training, which enables the graduate to retire the student loan debt successfully.

The return on investment does not make a chiropractic degree a good investment, compared to the cost of student loans. Also, a dozen other medical specialities qualify for some student loan forgiveness, for example, for practicing in a rural area. Chiropractors have been excluded from these programs, which is an issue. I also find it difficult to recommend that someone pursue a D.C. degree, since the loan burden is so onerous.

As a current student, the cost of school is a HUGE barrier. Undergrad was hard enough to where I was working 3 jobs and sleeping 4-5 hours a night. With the rising cost of school, I am worried about the cost of school. The economic barrier is impossible for many students, and especially for those who come from historically disenfranchised people who do not have general wealth, or people in their families to look up to and see how they did it. The rising cost for any education is going to negatively effect its field, chiropractic being no different. More than just how the costs impact the profession, if you look at diversity tables of the profession (which are nearly impossible to find), you will see that it is extremely lacking in diversity, and I believe that costs are going to be your biggest factor in that.

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For more information about the Future of Chiropractic strategic visioning and planning project, please contact:

Elizabeth Klein, Executive Director
Congress of Chiropractic State Associations
Phone: (503) 922-2933
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