NIH Helps Pay Student Loans for Clinical Researchers in Psychology

Exciting news! The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is offering student loan repayments for clinical researchers, including psychologists. Among other things, the program should help stem the loss of clinically-trained scientists who might otherwise feel compelled to go into practice in order to pay off their educational debts.

There are a number of specific eligibility requirements, but in general, eligibility extends to doctoral-level recipients of NIH training or research support who conduct clinical research.

“The program was developed mainly to encourage MD clinical researchers,” said APS Executive Director Alan Kraut. “However, it became clear that clinical psychology students and researchers could benefit from this, too. For example, it turns out that many clinical students who are funded by their departments or by another fellowship or stipend still take out educational loans to carry them through.”

As the program was being created, said Kraut, “We worked with those at NIH who were developing the program to make this clear. Under certain circumstances, these students now would be eligible for loan repayment.”

The NIH loan repayment program has the potential to provide much needed relief for clinical psychological scientists. A quick survey of one clinical science training program in psychology found that 80 percent of the respondents have educational debt, and of those, the average anticipated debt at the time of graduation was about $40,000, with the range being $15,000 to $90,000.

The program offers a maximum of $35,000 a year toward educational debts, with the actual amount being dependent on your total eligible debt. The quid pro quo is that participants will be contractually obligated to conduct research for a minimum of two years.

Details on the program are available online at the loan repayment program web site: and in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts at:

A Quick Note
For the loan repayment program, qualifying clinical research is defined as: “patient-oriented clinical research conducted with human subjects, or research on the causes and the consequences of disease in human populations involving material of human origin (such as tissue specimens and cognitive phenomena) for which an investigator or colleague directly interacts with human subjects in an outpatient or inpatient setting to clarify a problem in human physiology, pathophysiology or disease, or epidemiologic or behavioral studies, outcomes research or health services research, or developing new technologies, therapeutic interventions, or clinical trials.”

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