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Medical Students Committed to Practicing in Underserved Communities Eligible for Student Loan Repayment Program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission is now accepting applications for the Health Sciences Service Program, which provides loan repayment for students in health professions who want to practice in underserved communities in West Virginia.

“Through this vital program, students who are gearing up to graduate and are interested in serving the health needs of some of West Virginia’s most needy communities are eligible for much-needed funding to help cover their college loans,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor for Higher Education.

This year’s award is available to students who are enrolled in their final year of a health professions graduate program at a West Virginia higher education institution.

“Persistently, and especially now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see rural areas of our state in great need of health professionals. This program is a terrific way to connect these front-lines providers with people who need care the most,” said Chancellor Tucker.

The Health Sciences Service Program provides loan repayment for students who commit to work in an underserved community at sites like federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and outpatient primary care sites for at least two years after graduation. Medical and dental students are eligible for a $30,000 award, while all other disciplines are eligible for a $15,000 award.  

Qualifying students are those studying to become:
• dentists,
• nurse practitioners,
• nurse educators,
• nurse midwives,
• occupational therapists,
• pharmacists,
• physical therapists,
• primary care and emergency medicine physicians,
• physician assistants,
• public health practitioners,
• doctoral clinical psychologists, and,
• licensed clinical social workers.

Awards are made by the Commission’s Division of Health Sciences, based on a competitive review process and recommendations of an advisory panel. Applicants must have educational debt in at least the amount of the loan repayment award.

Other selection factors include a background or family ties in an underserved area of West Virginia; work or living experience in an underserved area; and, experience as a health professions student in an underserved area of the state.

Awards are made from a pool of all applicants, and preference will be given to West Virginia residents. Approximately 15 awards will be made during this award cycle, with application materials due by October 15, 2020. Award decisions will be announced in early December.

The service obligation is either two years of full-time (a minimum of 40 hours per week) or four years of half-time (a minimum of 20 hours per week) employment at an eligible practice site. All service sites must be within West Virginia. Participants are responsible for securing a practice site within six months of completing their training.

The penalty for not fulfilling the service obligation is repayment of the award with 15 percent interest. Interest begins accruing from the date of default if training or the service obligation is not completed. 

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission consists of nine members, seven of whom are appointed by the governor, and two ex-officio members: State Superintendent of Schools, and Chairperson of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education.