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NIH Repays Your Student Loans! Apply September 1 – November 15, 2017

July 13, 2017
Lanay M. Mudd, Ph.D.
Lanay M. Mudd, Ph.D.

Program Director, Division of Extramural Research
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View Dr. Mudd’s biographical sketch

We all know that a college education plus postgraduate education is expensive. The average education debt for biomedical research graduates was recently estimated at $175,000. Needless to say, high educational debt levels are an issue for early-stage investigators; in fact, significant student loan debt is the barrier to beginning and sustaining a biomedical research career that’s most often reported by new investigators. NIH is working to make this transition easier! In exchange for a commitment to conduct biomedical or behavioral research, NIH will repay up to $70,000 of student loan debt per 2-year contract through the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs).

How the Loan Repayment Programs Work

To qualify, you need to have your terminal level degree, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have educational loan debt that is at least 20 percent of your annual income, and commit to conduct research for at least 20 hours per week (for the entirety of your LRP contract) at a domestic nonprofit, university, or government organization. There are five extramural NIH LRPs to choose from, depending on the focus of your research. All applicants need an NIH eRA Commons ID to apply using the newly revised LRP online application (due November 15, 2017). If awarded, NIH will repay up to $70,000 over 2 years in educational loans, along with most Federal taxes. You can continue to apply for competitive renewal LRPs (1- or 2-year contracts) until your debt is paid off.

On average, about 50 percent of LRP applications are funded each year. The LRPs are unique programs, with tremendous benefit to early-stage investigators. There is no limit on how many times an individual can apply, so researchers who were not successful in getting funded are strongly encouraged to reapply. There is also no limit on the number of times an individual can be awarded. In fact, many researchers have had all of their student loan debt repaid by the NIH LRPs (over several awards).

Loan Repayment Programs at NCCIH

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) participates in the Clinical Research LRP (patient-oriented research conducted with human subjects) and the Pediatric Research LRP (research directly related to diseases, disorders, and other health conditions in children).

Applicants who submit their LRP application to NCCIH must have a research project aligned to NCCIH’s mission and strategic plan. NCCIH supports research on mind and body interventions, practices, and disciplines; research on natural products; and studies of “real world” patterns and outcomes in the use of complementary and integrative approaches. We encourage all eligible applicants to apply to the LRP, including those with either clinical doctoral degrees (e.g., Ph.D., M.D.) or doctoral degrees in complementary health practice (e.g., Ph.D., N.D., D.A.O.M., D.C., D.O., D.N.P.) or both.

Helpful Resources

Visit for more details and to apply. For general LRP questions, call or e-mail the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 or, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. ET. You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter (link is external) and Facebook(link is external) for more information and cycle updates

Get started on your application today!


Comments are now closed for this post.

I had GI Bill but had to pay the last two years with no loan, my own money. Could I qualify. I incrued a debt of my own.

Greeting! Are there research opportunities for Licensed Acupuncturists, Master’s degree on Traditional Oriental Medicine? My nonforprofit research team focuses on Pain Management and musculoskeletal dysfunctions from a Neuroanatomical perspective using electrical stimulation. I, first author, recently published an article in the Medical Acupuncture Journal on the April 2017 issue. The name of the article is “Neuroanatomical significance of acupuncture points Te1-Te10 based on the Systematic Classics”. I would be glad to share a copy with you upon request. The Acupuncture field is in need of more advanced neuroanatomical understanding of human anatomy which can lead to more reliable and reproducible clinical results for acupuncture patients. 

@Christine, As you may have seen in Dr. Mudd’s blog, to qualify for the NIH Loan Repayment, you need to have your terminal level degree, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have educational loan debt that is at least 20 percent of your annual income, and commit to conduct research for at least 20 hours per week (for the entirety of your loan repayment program contract) at a domestic nonprofit, university, or government organization.  You can visit for more details and to apply.

@Daniel Ortiz, Thanks for your interest in our research opportunities. ​​Any qualified scientist working in a research institution that can comply with all the relevant National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NCCIH requirements and policies is eligible to receive an NIH grant. Reviewers look at the credentials of applicants and those of their institutions to determine whether they are likely to be able to accomplish the work that they have proposed in their applications. Requirements are detailed in the specific Program Announcement (PA) or Request for Applications (RFA). You can view our active funding announcements at If you would like to send a couple of sentences about your research aims to,  someone from the Division of Extramural Research can respond to your question about submitting a research proposal.

I have non-government student loans through private banks.  Can I qualify for loan repayment?

You miscategorize DOs as “complementary health practice”. DOs and MDs are the only fully licensed physicians capable of entering medical residency programs in all specialties. While some DOs ( or MDs for that matter) may practice complementary medicine, DOs train in identical environments to MDs and in most states are licensed by the same boards and sit for he same specialty exams.Please consider correcting.

Good morning,I wonder if you could clarify one point?Does “educational loan debt that is at least 20 percent of your annual income” mean that 20% of your income goes to repayment or that if your income is $100,000, your total debt must be greater than $20,000?Thanks for your reply.

@BruceGodfreyDC, Please check with the NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) directly about your question. You can reach them via e-mail at More information about loan eligibility is available on the LRP Web site at  

Do you have research opportunities for chiropractors or do I already have to be involved in research to apply for loan repayment? 

@Becky, In order to be competitive, you should be currently engaged in research or have secured a research-oriented position that will begin soon (e.g., post-doctoral position, assistant professor, research assistant). If you are not currently engaged in research, I would encourage you to seek out research opportunities at a local university or medical center before applying to the Loan Repayment Program. If you feel you meet all eligibility criteria and are ready to develop an application, I am happy to review your specific aims for alignment with NCCIH’s Strategic Priorities. I encourage you to first explore to see if you meet the eligibility criteria.

@TP, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will repay lenders for qualified educational loans issued by any U.S. Government entity, accredited U.S. academic institutions, or commercial lenders that are subject to examination and supervision in their capacity as lending institutions by an agency of the United States or the state in which the lender has its principal place of business. Please see for more information about loan eligibility.

@Lindsey0129, Thank you for your feedback. We recognize that the Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) and a few other degrees listed as doctoral degrees in complementary health practice are also clinical doctoral degrees. Although our intent was to indicate that those holding one or more of the second set of degrees tend to include complementary approaches as at least one part of their clinical care, I see that was not clear. In the future, we will list all of the eligible degrees together.

This page last modified March 26, 2018