Analysis of 2011 physician assistant education debt load

Moore, Miranda A. PhD; Coffman, Megan MS; Cawley, James F. PA-C, MPH; Crowley, Diana MPH; Miller, Anthony MEd, PA-C; Klink, Kathleen MD

Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants: March 2017 - Volume 30 - Issue 3 - p 37–43
doi: 10.1097/01.JAA.0000512239.76797.c8
Original Research

ABSTRACT: This study seeks to investigate how physician assistants (PAs) finance their education and to characterize the educational debt of PA students. Data from the 2011 American Academy of PAs (AAPA)–Physician Assistant Education Association Graduating Student Survey were used to explore the educational debt of PA students. The median total educational debt of a PA student graduating in 2011 was $80,000. Little financial assistance, other than student loans, is available to PA students. Eighty-five percent of PA students report owing some PA education debt amount, with 23% owing at least $100,000. This study provides a baseline look at PA student debt loads as a starting point for more detailed and robust research into new graduate specialty choices and PA career migration into other specialties. Further research is needed to explore the effect of student debt on students' specialty choices.

Miranda A. Moore is an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University's School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga. Megan Coffman is a health policy administrator and health services researcher at the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, part of the American Academy of Family Physicians in Washington, D.C. James F. Cawley is professor of prevention and community health and professor of physician assistant studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and former senior research fellow at the American Academy of PAs in Alexandria, Va. Diana Crowley is quality and health IT manager at the American College of Emergency Physicians in Washington, D.C. At the time this article was written, Anthony Miller was chief policy and research officer for the Physician Assistant Education Association and Kathleen Klink was medical director of the Robert Graham Center. The authors disclose that the study was funded by the Physician Assistant Education Association. The information and opinions contained in research from the Robert Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank Douglas Kamerow, MD, MPH, for his assistance with this manuscript.

Copyright © 2017 American Academy of Physician Assistants