Support RC 11-16 in the APTA House of Delegates

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Motion RC 11-16, to be brought to the floor at the 2016 American Physical Therapy Association House of Delegates, impacts all PT and PTA students, new grads, and any PTs still carrying debt from PT school. This motion, if passed, would charge the APTA with investigating and implementing a plan to mitigate student debt. This is an opportunity for students to come to the table with the APTA to define our debt and provide initiatives that we would like the APTA to consider when discussing the motion. We strive to see the value in our membership--this is the way to let your voice be heard. We can make a change! 

For an overview of the motion, please read RC 11-16: The Quick and Dirty

We ask that you carefully read the following letter, which proposes initiatives for the APTA to consider, and sign with your name, credentials, and graduation year. 

For example, 

Rachel Jermann, SPT, 2017

Thank you for signing! This letter will be passed on to Chief Delegates across the US via student or new grad representatives across the US. If you're not sure if your delegate has been contacted, please do not hesitate to contact Rachel Jermann ( or Beth Horn (  



To the 2016 American Physical Therapy Association House of Delegates:

Thank you for your leadership and service to the APTA. As students and new grads across the United States, we are writing to express our support for RC-11-16 as introduced by the Oregon Chapter, offer suggestions for a final motion, and respectfully ask for your support of RC-11-16, the motion to charge the APTA with investigating and implementing a plan to address student debt.

We thank the Oregon Chapter for introducing this motion, as well as all cosponsors and supporters. The Oregon Chapter outlines the current status of physical therapy debt-to-income ratio and possible ramifications of higher debt load post-graduation. It proposes four areas that the APTA can address: education, advocacy, loan refinancing, and scholarship. As student and new grad members of the APTA, this motion hits close to home. Whether we are entering the workforce this year or 2 years from now, the majority of us will carry a significant amount of debt. Some may face monthly payments equivalent to that of a mortgage payment. This financial burden may cause hesitation when it comes to taking a lower paying, but better suited position, exploring research, considering a residency, starting a family, or even considering a smaller investment, such as membership in the APTA. To add to the discussion and help shape the motion, we would like to highlight a few points for your consideration.

               We understand that debt can be a very personal matter. Each student faces different choices concerning undergraduate and graduate education, which at times can be an impossible choice. Given that it can be difficult to define debt, we students agree that debt, when referring to the education of physical therapists, is to include solely the debt incurred while attending a professional physical therapy program. This would therefore exclude debts incurred during undergraduate education, prerequisite coursework completed outside of the traditional undergraduate curriculum, and any courses taken under a direct admission program before entrance into the professional physical therapy program.

               We also understand that the increasing levels of student debt are part of a much larger systemic issue that affects healthcare professions across the board. We see that there are two possible tracks that initiatives to mitigate PT student debt may follow. One track is long term, and includes efforts by ACAPT to investigate ways to make physical therapy education as a whole cheaper, including investigating the use of blended curriculums and time to practice. In addition to ACAPT’s current efforts, we, members of the APTA and Student Assembly, would like the ACAPT to review the current practice in which programs charge full tuition for full-time clinical rotations in which clinical instructors provide their expertise on a volunteer basis. Additionally, we agree that debt and lending education prior to starting physical therapy school, as well as education about debt management while in school, may lessen debt at graduation. These strategies will greatly help incoming students, but require a longer timeline and do not offer relief to those already with student loan burden.

               The second track that initiatives may follow is shorter term. We believe that the APTA should spearhead efforts to investigate and implement a plan to assist in alleviating debt burden of current students, new grads, and any member who still carries debt from a PT professional program. These efforts will meet the needs of the members of the association, add value to membership, and transform the association to maintain relevancy to members, in accordance with the strategic plan.  While there are several ways to address student loan debt, including education, scholarship, advocacy, and loan refinancing as mentioned previously, the following are options that we, as students, find most appealing.

               Due to the increasing knowledge base of the entry-level physical therapist and rising number of direct access states, physical therapy should be considered a core healthcare service. We appreciate the efforts of the APTA to include physical therapists in the National Health Services Corps (NHSC), and hope to see this effort continued. The inclusion of physical therapists in the NHSC not only increases patient access to care and addresses loan repayment, but increases our visibility as a profession, and moves the profession forward.

               While loan repayment options are appealing avenues, this may not be an option for everyone. Loan refinancing has generated the most interest within our student body. It offers a way to restructure debt incurred as a student physical therapist in order to save money on interest, as well as make significant headway on paying down the debt. Having this option available to members of the APTA would add value to our membership post-graduation, when our loan payments become real. Additionally, we hope that the APTA will also consider partnering with a lender that will offer lower interest rates to new PT students to provide a more proactive strategy for countering rising debt.

               Lastly, we would like the Foundation for Physical Therapy to consider expanding its mission to include scholarships for students. Students make contributions to the Foundation through various means, including the Marquette Challenge, because we understand that research is invaluable to our evidence-based practice. However, the drive to pursue a PhD post-graduation or concurrently with a DPT degree may be blunted by the fear of insurmountable debt.  If the Foundation were to provide scholarships to students, this would help to bridge the gap between PT student and researcher by decreasing financial burden.

               As members of the APTA, we consider our membership an investment. Each student and new grad values the APTA in a different way; we feel that the items stated in this letter for your consideration, especially loan refinancing, would increase the value of membership in the APTA, thus increasing retention rates post-graduation. As an ambitious student body we are committed to helping the APTA investigate and find solutions to PT student debt, thus making the execution of this motion yet another conduit for student and new grad involvement.

               We appreciate your understanding of this issue which is so familiar for the DPT student body, and look forward to the discussion. Thank you for your time and consideration as you deliberate RC 11-16 during the House. 


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