Federal Primary Care Loan Program
Guide for Student Borrowers
This guide has been designed to inform you of your privileges and obligations under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Primary Care Loan Program. You received a Primary Care Loan (also referred to as "PCL") while attending one of SUNY's state-operated campuses.
Q: What is the SUNY Student Loan Service Center?
The SUNY Student Loan Service Center is the central billing and collection office for the State University of New York's state-operated campuses. Once you are no longer in attendance at the SUNY campus that granted your loan - whether by graduation, withdrawal, or a change in status to less than half-time, the campus will transfer all pertinent loan documentation to the SUNY Student Loan Service Center. Therefore, all correspondence and loan payments are to be directed to the SUNY Student Loan Service Center and not to the campus you attended. Please contact us at:
SUNY Student Loan Service Center
5 University Place
Rensselaer, New York 12144-3440
Phone: (518) 525-2626
Fax: (518) 525-2600
The records of the SUNY Student Loan Service Center are assigned loan account numbers. Each borrower is assigned a unique 9 digit student identification number which begins with the numbers 898. It is extremely important to include your loan account number on all payments and correspondence to the SUNY Student Loan Service Center. Unidentified items may result in delayed responses to your inquiries and/or misapplication of payments.
Q: What are the Exit Interview and Repayment Agreement?
All borrowers are required to complete an Exit Interview Questionnaire and Repayment Agreement prior to leaving the campus. Failure to complete the exit interview process can result in an administrative hold being placed on your diploma, transcripts and registration status.
Q: How can I change my address?
You are required under the terms of the loan agreement to keep the SUNY Student Loan Service Center informed of any change in your name or address. Leaving a forwarding address notice with the Postal Service is not considered official notification of a change in address. Failure to properly notify the SUNY Student Loan Service Center may negatively impact your credit rating if we are unable to locate you and service your account.
Q: When does repayment begin?
Repayment is required to begin at the end of your initial grace period, which is determined by the regulations in effect at the time the loan was granted. Currently, the grace period for Primary Care Loans is twelve months following completion or termination of your full-time student status. The grace period immediately follows completion or termination of full-time student status and cannot be postponed to follow deferments for which you may be eligible. For example, you are eligible for a deferment while you are in primary care residency training. You must use your one-year grace period for the first year of residency and apply for deferments for each of the remaining years of residency.
If you fail to practice primary care or fail to enter into a primary care residency training program after you graduate, then you will not be entitled to any grace period and must begin repayment of your loan immediately, with financial penalty. (Refer to "Deferment Benefits" and "Penalty Calculation for Breach of Service Obligation" for further detail).
Q: What is the length of repayment?
Primary Care Loans have a 10-year repayment period, which may be extended up to a maximum of 25 years in extenuating circumstances. You must contact the SUNY Student Loan Service Center to renegotiate a repayment period beyond 10 years. Periods of authorized deferment are not included as part of the repayment period.
The length of repayment is determined by the total amount borrowed, the interest rate, and the repayment amount. A $40 minimum monthly payment may be required, which may shorten the repayment period to less than 10 years.
Q: How are late/missed payments and returned checks handled?
If you do not make timely payments, you will face serious consequences including an adverse credit history, referral of your loan to a collection agency, interception of your State tax refund and litigation by the New York State Attorney General. Late charges are assessed for all late payments. Mail your payments as early as possible to ensure timely application. Nonnegotiable checks will be charged up to $20 per occurrence.
Q: Can I prepay?
If you wish to accelerate repayment of your loan (repay ahead of schedule), you may do so by making payments larger than the amount required. Any additional amount remitted on a current account will be applied to the principal. Accelerating repayment shortens the repayment term and reduces the total interest you will be required to pay.
Q: Whom do I repay?
Payment can be made to the SUNY Student Loan Service Center by check, money order, credit card or Automated Clearing House (ACH) -NEVER SEND CASH. Checks should be made payable to the SUNY SLSC and be sure to enclose the top portion of your monthly billing statement or coupon with your remittance. ACH offers you the option of having your checking or savings account directly debited for the amount of your payment each month, which facilitates timely loan payment. To make payment by credit card, please go to Payment Options in the Borrower's section of our website SUNY Student Loan Service Center's Website
Q: How does repayment begin?
Once your loan account information is established at the SUNY Student Loan Service Center, you will be sent an acknowledgment statement, confirming information that the campus has submitted. You will also receive periodic reminders during the grace period as to when repayment will begin. The SUNY Student Loan Service Center will send a billing statement before the first scheduled payment is due.
Q: Can I make advanced payments?
If you wish to make advance payments for future installments, your payment must be a multiple of your regular monthly payment. For instance, if your current monthly payment is $100 and you would like to make advance payments for the two succeeding months, your payment must equal $300, which is to be applied as: $100 for the current month and $100 for each of the two succeeding months.
If you are making advance payments, you must attach a separate note indicating that the additional funds are to cover future payments. Mail this note along with your advance payment to the SUNY Student Loan Service Center, 5 University Place, Rensselaer, NY 12144. Otherwise, the additional amount will be applied toward the principal balance of your loan.
Q: Can I make accelerated payments?
If you wish to accelerate repayment of your loan (repay ahead of schedule), you may do so by making payments larger than the amount required. Any additional amount remitted on a current account will be applied toward principal. Accelerating repayment shortens the repayment term and reduces the total interest that you will be required to pay over the life of the loan.
Q: Are there late fees for returned checks?
You are expected to make payments by the due date. Late fees are assessed for late payments.
You will be charged up to $20 per occurrence for a nonnegotiable check.
Q: How is bankruptcy handled?
Pursuant to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, education loans, such as Primary Care loans, are nondischargeable in bankruptcy under petitions filed after October 7, 1998.
Q: What are the consequences of delinquency and default?
Allowing your account to become delinquent can seriously affect your personal credit rating. Your campus must withhold services to you if you become a defaulted borrower. Should you default, requests for transcripts will not be honored. Should you attempt to register at a SUNY state-operated campus, your registration will be blocked.
If repayment is not made according to the terms of the contract, regulations also allow for the referral of delinquent accounts to collection agencies and to an attorney for litigation. You will be held responsible for all of the resulting penalty, collection, and litigation costs as provided in the promissory note. Also, under NYS Tax Law, the SUNY Student Loan Service Center is entitled to intercept NYS income tax refunds of defaulted borrowers.
Q: What are my deferment benefits?
In accordance with Federal law governing your note, you may apply for deferment of repayment during a period in which you are:
enrolled in a program of advanced professional training ("APT"), which is in a primary care field (limited to 3 years) (See important note below regarding this deferment);
participating in a training fellowship program, training programs and related educational activities for graduates of health professions schools, as long as such program/activity is in primary care (limited to 2 years) (See important note below regarding this deferment);
re-enrolled in the same or different medical school within 12 months of terminating your medical studies (See important note below regarding this deferment);
taking a leave of absence from your medical studies to pursue a related educational activity, provided such activity is in primary care (limited to 2 years)
performing active duty as a member of a uniformed service (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Corps, or the U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps) (limited to 3 years); or
a Peace Corps volunteer (limited to 3 years);
If you are in a deferrable activity, payments on the loan will be deferred and interest will not accrue. Deferment forms are available on the SUNY Student Loan Service Center's Website at http://slsc.albany.edu/benefit_forms_for_download.htm
Advanced Professional Training Deferment
: Primary care residency training must be completed within 4 years of graduation from medical school and deferment cannot interrupt that period. You must use your 12-month grace period in the first year of residency and apply for a deferment each year for the remaining years of residency. For this reason, the Advanced Professional Training deferment under the Primary Care Loan Program is limited to a maximum of three years. (Refer to "Primary Care Service Obligation" for a discussion of acceptable residency training programs).
Fellowship Training Deferment
: The fellowship training must involve primary care and be a full-time activity in research, research training or health care policy and must be a formally established fellowship program which was not created solely for the borrower. In addition, a borrower must enter into the fellowship either prior to the end of Advanced Professional Training or not later than 12 months after completing participation in that Advanced Professional Training.
Re-enrolled in Medical School
: If you terminate your medical studies before graduating, you will receive a 12-month grace period before you must begin repayment. However, if you return to the same or different medical school within that 12-month period, your repayment will be deferred and you will be entitled to an additional 12-month grace period after graduating, provided you practice primary care or enter into a primary care residency training program.
Q: How often must I file deferment forms?
A deferment form must be filed with the SUNY SLSC at least once a year for each year you are in an eligible status. The SUNY SLSC is required by Federal regulations to assess a late charge when forms are not submitted in a timely manner. Failure to file forms in a timely manner is equivalent to not making timely payments and can negatively affect your credit rating. Visit the SLSC Website for deferment forms and detailed filing information.
Q: What is forbearance?
Forbearance is a temporary postponement of payments or the acceptance of smaller payments than were previously scheduled. Interest will continue to accrue during any period of forbearance. Forbearance must be requested in writing, and adequate documentation that supports a financial inability to make payments must be provided. Unlike periods of deferment, a period of forbearance must be counted as part of the required 10-year repayment period (the 10-year repayment period may be renegotiated up to 25 years under extenuating circumstances).
Q: Can I consolidate my loan?
Primary Care Loans are not eligible for loan consolidation under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.
Q: What is the Primary Care Service Obligation?
For loans received on or after March 23, 2010, you are required to practice in primary care for 10 years (including residency training in primary health care) or through the date on which your loan is paid in full, whichever occurs first.
For loans received prior to March 23, 2010, you must enter and complete a residency training program in primary health care and practice primary health care through the date on which the loan is repaid in full.
You must enter and complete an acceptable primary health care residency training program within four years of graduating. An acceptable primary health care residency training program is defined as a 3-year residency program in allopathic or osteopathic family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, combined medicine/pediatrics, preventive medicine, approved by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). (Although the formal definition provides for a 3-year residency program, a 4-year program is acceptable provided it is in primary care).
Acceptable Areas of Service are: Primary Care Clinical Practice; Clinical Preventive Medicine; Occupational Medicine; Public Health; Senior/Chief Resident in primary care residency program; Faculty, Administrators, or Policy Makers certified in one of the primary health care disciplines; Geriatrics; Adolescent Medicine; Adolescent Pediatrics; Sports Medicine; Training for Primary Care Faculty Career; Training for Public Policy Career; Masters in Public Health, Public Policy Fellowship, Faculty Development Training, and Primary Care Fellowship. Unacceptable Residency/Practice Activities are: Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Surgery, Dermatology, Radiology, Rehab Medicine, Physical Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and other subspecialty training or certification.
Q: Are there prohibited subspecialties?
The law requires that PCL recipients practice in primary care, but does not specify that the practice be full-time or that it involve a minimum number of hours per week. However, you may not enter any subspecialty training (i.e., non-primary care residency, fellowships, etc., that could lead to board certification in a subspecialty) from the time of graduation until the loan is paid in full.
Q: Where must I fulfill this Service Obligation?
You must fulfill the primary care service obligation in the United States or one of its territories. Service outside of the United States is only permitted if you are in military service and assigned to serve at a location outside of the United States.
A service obligation with the military or a service obligation with PCL does not have precedence over the other. Both must be fulfilled in accordance with the terms of the promissory note and may be fulfilled concurrently. For example, a student who has taken PCL and has a military service obligation would be required to practice primary care in accord with the PCL agreement and would also be required to comply with the military obligation.
Q: Can the Service Obligation be self-certified?
You must certify to the SUNY Student Loan Service Center on an annual basis that you are either in an acceptable primary health care residency training program or are practicing primary health care. The SUNY Student Loan Service Center will send you a certification form to complete and return. If you fail to return the form within the required timeframe, you will be considered in breach of your primary care service obligation and will incur the attendant financial penalties.
Q: Are there penalties for not fulfilling the Service Obligation?
Yes, you will be subject to a penalty if you:
Enter subspecialty training;
Fail to complete a primary care residency within 4 years of graduation;
Fail to practice primary care in accordance with the terms of the PCL promissory note; or
Fail to provide the school with documentation of either residency status or primary care practice.
Q: What is the penalty calculation for breach of Service Obligation?
If you received a Primary Care Loan prior to November 13, 1998 and do not fulfill the primary care service obligation, the SUNY SLSC must recalculate the total amount owed on the debt by calculating interest at twelve percent (12%) per year, compounded annually, on the original principal amount of each disbursement, based on the date that each disbursement was made. If you have already repaid a portion of the loan, these payments will be credited against the newly calculated indebtedness in accordance with the time the payments were actually made.
If you received a Primary Care Loan on or after November 13, 1998 and prior to March 23, 2010, and do not fulfill the primary care service obligation, your PCL(s) will begin to accrue interest at a rate of eighteen percent (18%) per year beginning on the date of noncompliance. The penalty is calculated on the outstanding balance of the PCL on the date of noncompliance.
If you received a Primary Care Loan on or after March 23, 2010, and do not fulfill the primary care service obligation, your PCL(s) will begin to accrue interest at a rate of two percent (2%) per year greater than the rate at which you would pay if you were compliant. This loan will accrue interest continuously at a rate of seven (7%) per annum beginning on the date of non-compliance, and ending when the loan is paid in full.
Q: What happens if there is a break in service?
You must complete residency training within 4 years of graduation and deferment cannot interrupt that period. Upon completion of residency training, you must enter and remain in primary care practice unless: (1) you are in an allowable deferment; or (2) there are extenuating circumstances for which a break in service is appropriate, such as extended illness, maternity/family leave, or time to establish a practice or secure employment. You must request a break in service from the SUNY Student Loan Service Center and provide supporting documentation (e.g., a signed statement from the recipient stating the reason for the break in service). The SUNY Student Loan Service Center has discretion to approve a break in service that does not exceed 12 months. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must approve any break in service exceeding 12 months.
Q: Can the Service Obligation be waived or suspended?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can waive a PCL borrower's primary health care service obligation if the borrower terminates studies before graduating from medical school and does not later resume studies at the same school or at another medical school.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can suspend a PCL borrower's primary health care obligation for the period when a borrower is not enrolled because he or she has terminated studies before graduating from medical school; the obligation is resumed when the borrower returns to the same school or to another medical school to complete his or her studies.
Request for a waiver of the service obligation must be made through the SUNY Student Loan Service Center, which will forward the request to the appropriate office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
These provisions do not waive or suspend a borrower's obligation to repay the PCL. Any borrower who does not graduate from medical school must still repay the PCL in accordance with its normal terms. The waiver and suspension absolves borrowers from having to fulfill the primary health care service obligations and protects these borrowers from certain financial penalties. (Refer to "Penalty Calculation for Breach of Service Obligation" for a discussion of these penalties).
Q: What are my death or permanent disability benefits?
The outstanding loan balance may be canceled in the event of death or permanent and total disability of the borrower. The SUNY Student Loan Service Center should be contacted for specific instructions.
Q: Can anyone else gain access to my loan information?
Due to various State and Federal laws governing confidentiality of records, we cannot disclose any information about your account to anyone other than you, the borrower, without your express written permission.
Q: What if I have further questions?
If you have any questions or need additional information, you may contact the SUNY Student Loan Service Center by telephone at: (518) 525-2626 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also access the SUNY Student Loan Service Center's website