According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), the average educational debt for all indebted dental school graduates from the class of 2018 was $285,184. The typical student debt for dental graduates who have consulted with Student Loan Planner is around $400,000.
That’s a big financial hole to dig your way out of. The good news is that most dentists will get a sizable shovel in the form a healthy income after entering the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average dentist earns $156,240 per year. Still, that means the typical dentist will graduate with student debt that’s close to two times their annual income.
Picking one of the best cities for dentists can help you pay that debt down faster. But one of Student Loan Planner’s favorite choices would be for you to graduate with less debt in the first place. And by picking the right dental school, you can.
As we’ll see, there’s a huge discrepancy between the most affordable and most expensive dental schools. By enrolling in one of the cheapest dental schools, you could save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How we ranked this list of best dental schools
To come up with this list, we used the data from the 2017-18 Survey of Dental Education all U.S. schools were required to complete to maintain accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), the entity that oversees dental-related education programs.
The survey was conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute on behalf of CODA.
It’s important to note that for our list, we looked at total dental school cost (including instrument and textbooks fees), not just tuition.
Best dental schools overall
Below, you’ll find the 15 best dental schools in the U.S in terms of affordability. As a general rule, the most affordable way to go to dental school is to choose a public school in a state you’re a resident of. And this list supports that idea.
With the exception of Howard University, every school on this list is a public university. And the four-year costs you see listed are for residents only (again, except for Howard University).
If you happen to live in Puerto Rico and want to be a dentist, you’re in luck! The cost of your dental degree all-in could be less than $100,000. But for those of us who live on the U.S. mainland, the cheapest dental school is Texas A&M University.
But you don’t have to live in Texas to find a cheap dental school. If you happen to live in any of the states of the schools ranked No. 1 through 8, you can go to dental school for less than $150,000. That’s a great deal.
Best dental schools for non-residents
If you don’t happen to be a resident of one of the states where our top 15 schools are located, you have options. Choosing one of the five schools located below could still save you a ton of money.
Each of the schools below have a non-resident total dental school cost of $180,00 or less.
If the names above look familiar, it’s because these are the same schools that were ranked in the top five for overall cost. The rankings get shuffled around a bit when you’re looking at non-resident costs, but they’re the same five schools. So it’s beyond fair to say these five schools are the best dental schools in the U.S. in terms of affordability.
Best private dental schools
As the chart below indicates, private dental schools, in general, are going to cost you way more than public universities. The average cost of dental school at public universities is just over $193,000, compared to over $319,000 for private universities.
With this in mind, Student Loan Planner would highly encourage you to choose a public university for your dental schooling. However, if you’re determined to go to a private university, the five cheapest ones are listed below. It’s important to note that while all of the schools listed below are not owned by the state, Marquette and Temple do receive some state funding.
Again, Howard University comes in as far away the least expensive. But it should be mentioned that Howard University is located in Washington D.C., which has the second-highest cost of living in the United States, only behind Hawaii.
The LECOM School of Dental Medicine, on the other hand, is located in Bradenton, FL. Meharry Medical College is located in Tennessee, which has the 10th best cost of living in the U.S. This should be kept in mind if you’re trying to get an idea of the true cost of attending any of these schools.
Stay away: most expensive private dental schools
The schools listed are the five worst dental schools in the U.S. in terms of cost.
Look at those numbers! They’re all nearly two to four times more expensive than the schools that ranked in our top 15 overall. And what’s crazy is that four of these five schools are public universities.
This goes to show that you can’t just assume a public school will be a good deal. Doing your homework is so important when picking a dental school. By picking one of the best schools on our list, you’ll end up with the same degree as the ones listed above. But you’ll also end up with a whole lot less student debt.
How to pay back your dental school student loans
If you take Student Loan Planner’s advice and pick one of the cheapest dental schools, then you’ll hopefully have less than $200,000 of dental school debt with an annual income of around $150,000 per year.
This means your student loans would be less than 1.5 times your income. For borrowers in this situation, our advice is choosing an “aggressive pay back” strategy.
Why? Because with an income-to-debt ratio that low, you won’t be able to get very much relief from income-driven repayment plans. You’d typically be better off just paying back your loans as fast as you can.
If you do choose an aggressive pay back strategy, refinancing could save you a ton of money. This is especially true if you have Grad PLUS loans, which charge an ugly 7.6% interest rate.
Looking at a different example, let’s say you graduated with $300,000 or more of student loans. Using $150,000 again as our general starting income, this would make your student debt be two times or more of your annual income. In this situation, it may be smarter to stick with your federal loans and choose an income-driven repayment plan.
If you’re not sure which repayment strategy would be best for your student debt situation, a Student Loan Planner consultant can help. If you’d like expert advice on which strategy would serve you best, book a student loan consultation today.