If you’re thinking about earning your doctorate in physical therapy (DPT), Nova Southeastern University’s physical therapy program has a lot going for it.
First, the Nova PT program is one of only 11 physical therapy schools in Florida. Nova Physical Therapy has two campuses — one in Fort Lauderdale (near Nova’s main campus) and another in Tampa. Regardless of the campus that you choose, you’ll be near a beach. And that’s not a bad place to spend your time away from the classroom!
Nova also says that its DPT program is one of the only ones that provides student clinical practice during every semester. So right from the start, you’ll be getting hands-on experience.
But while Nova physical therapy sounds like a stimulating place to earn your DPT degree, you also need to consider the cost. Consider not only how much it costs to attend the Nova PT program but also how much debt could you walk away with.
Nova Physical Therapy tuition and total cost of attendance
The Fort Lauderdale program is a three-year program with 100% in-person learning. But the Tampa location combines online learning with face-to-face instruction. And that program takes an extra year to complete for a total of four years.
For the Fort Lauderdale campus, the annual tuition is $29,430 for both Florida residents and non-residents. And the Tampa campus has an annual tuition of $22,068 per year. So regardless of the campus that you choose, you’re looking at a total tuition cost of around $88,000.
Don’t forget to budget for all the “extras”
Tuition isn’t the only thing to consider. There are other fees to account for as well. For instance, you’ll need to pay a $500 to $1,500 student services fee, depending on the number of classes that you take and the campus that you choose.
NSU also requires that all students buy health insurance, which it estimates will run you around $2,300 per year. You’ll also need to find your own housing in addition to covering your food and transportation expenses.
Currently, rent for housing options near NSU starts at $1,400 a month. Assuming you were able to find a roommate, you’d still need to budget $700 per month for housing, or $8,400 per year.
And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 Consumer Expenditures report, the average person spends $9,576 per year on transportation and $7,729 on food. When you add all those costs together, that’s over $25,700 per year in living expenses.
In its student welcome packet, Nova Physical Therapy says that the workload of the program is similar to having two jobs. So, you might not have a chance to work a part-time job to offset living expenses.
Estimated Nova Physical Therapy student debt after graduation
Assuming that you spent three years at NSU, you could conservatively expect your total living expenses to be over $77,000. And student services fees and health insurance could cost you another $12,000 (approximately $4,000 per year).
So that’s $89,000 in living expenses, insurance, and fees. Add that number to the $88,000 tuition cost and you’ll get an estimated total cost of attendance of $177,000.
If you weren’t able to qualify for any scholarships or financial aid, you could easily find yourself walking away from the Nova PT program with north of $150,000 in student debt.
Sound high? According to College Scorecard data, it’s really not. College Scorecard’s 2016-2017 debt report found that the debt mean for Nova Southeastern doctorate therapy school grads was $131,679.
And according to WebPT and Evidence in Motion’s “The State of Rehab” report, one-third of PT grads will end up with over $100,000 in student loan debt. And nearly 11% will graduate with over $150,000 of student loans. These numbers match student debt numbers that our Student Loan Planner consultants see from DPT grads on a regular basis.
Is Nova Physical Therapy worth the student debt?
When the American Physical Therapy Association announced its Vision 2020 guidelines, it required all future physical therapists to earn a doctorate degree. And more years in school means higher cost, which, ultimately, can lead to more student loans.
The bad news
But despite the high cost, most physical therapists only expect to earn starting salaries of $60,000 to $80,000. And those estimates are only slightly below the Bureau of Labor Statistics salary data, which shows that the median physical therapist pay is $87,930 per year.
That’s a nice salary, but it’s much lower than what you can expect to earn from other professions that are known for putting students into a lot of debt. For instance, the median pay for optometrists is $111,790; for dentists, it’s $156,240; and for doctors, it’s $208,000.
The good news
But there’s good news, too. First, the physical therapy profession is expected to grow by 22% over the next decade. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the WebPT survey found that physical therapists continue to report high levels of job satisfaction. So if you’re passionate about physical therapy, the Nova PT program could be worth it, despite the financial concerns.
If you’re a Florida resident, however, you’ll want to compare Nova’s prices with other physical therapy schools in Florida. And if you’re not a Florida resident, you should check to see if one of your state schools can offer you a better price.
Check out how much Florida residents could save by attending the University of Florida’s DPT program instead … and how Nebraska residents could save even more by attending the University of Nebraska.
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What can you do if you already have Nova Physical Therapy debt?
If you’ve already graduated from NSU with a ton of student debt, you have a few options.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
First, you could try to find employment at a nonprofit clinic to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
A friend of mine just graduated from a DPT program this year and this is the strategy that he plans to use. He interned at a nonprofit clinic during school and he fell in love with the work.
My friend realizes that he may not make as much per year as he could earn at a private clinic, but he’s ok with that and he’s wisely taking advantage of PSLF to relieve his student debt burden.
Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) vs. refinancing
If you don’t plan to pursue PSLF, you have two options: Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) or refinancing. If you owe more than 1.5 times your income, you may want to go with IDR.
But if you owe less than 1.5 times your income, you may be able to qualify for an attractive refinancing interest rate that could save you a ton of money over the life of your loans. Use the Student Loan Planner calculator to see how much you could save.
If you’re thinking about refinancing your Nova PT program student loans, make sure to get quotes from each of the top refinancing lenders. And if you choose a lender that Student Loan Planner has partnered with, using our referral link could earn you a hefty cash bonus. See how much you could save and if you qualify for a cash bonus.