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