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Student Loan Repayment Grant Guidelines


The CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant is designed to immediately reduce barriers to access oral health care services in targeted underserved communities and populations as well as establish an ongoing mechanism to provide dental professionals an opportunity to reduce their financial burden while working in these communities. 

The weight of student loan debt can make a career in public or community health nearly impossible for new dentists. To offset some of the financial burden, the CDA Foundation awards grants to select recent dental school/specialty graduates. These grants facilitate career choices by repaying a significant portion of their educational loan in exchange for a commitment by recipients to care for the underserved.  


The recipient will be announced at an appropriate CDA event in the fall. Service obligation required by the grant will also begin in the fall of the application year. 

The grant award is repayment of up to $50,000 per year for a maximum of $250,000 over five years in exchange for a commitment by recipients to care for the underserved. Grant payments will be sent directly to lending institutions. Recipients are responsible for significant financial penalties if they do not complete their service commitment. 

Loan reduction payments shall not be used to pay down debts other than student educational assistance debts from governmental or commercial lending institutions licensed to do business in the United States.  

Funding Preferences

The program seeks to select dentist recipients who are likely to remain in an underserved area beyond the terms of the required contract. Research shows that health professionals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and rural areas are more likely to return to serve in those areas. Preference may be given to eligible applicants who: 

  • Have a disadvantaged background with economic, social or other obstacles.
  • Live(d) or worked in a rural, highly disadvantaged or Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) community for an extended period of time.
  • Demonstrate an initiative to develop cultural and linguistic competencies reflecting one or more diverse socioeconomic or ethnic communities in California.

Application Process

The CDA Foundation will accept online applications from May 1 to July 31 each year. 

  • One complete application must be received from each applicant.
  • Applications must be submitted online.
  • Finalists will be invited to a brief phone interview with the selection committee.  

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant, applicants must meet the following criteria: 

  • Graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited predoctoral dental education program with a DDS or DMD degree, or a CODA-accredited advanced dental education program, within the last three years of the award cycle year or positioned to graduate in the next three months at the time of application.
  • Be eligible to practice dentistry in California.
  • Be a legal citizen or resident (with a valid work authorization document) of the United States.
  • Submit a completed online application packet.
  • Have received student loans from governmental and/or commercial lending institutions licensed to do business in the United States.
  • Sign a binding contract to serve a minimum of five years (60 months) in one of the following:
    1. An underserved clinic in California designated as or located in a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area (DHPSA) pursuant to section 254e(a) of Title 42 of the United States Code, or
    2. An underserved work site accepted by the CDA Foundation.
  • Secured employment with an eligible work site.
  • Provide no less than 30 hours of hands-on clinical dental care per week: total hours can be accomplished among one or more eligible work site(s).
  • Maintain a patient caseload of 30% minimum Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
  • Be an active enrolled Medi-Cal provider without existing suspensions, disbarments or revocations or have submitted your application to DHCS to become a Medi-Cal provider.
  • Not be in default or have judgment liens for any debts including, but not limited to, taxes and education assistance programs.

The recipient shall not:

  • Use their work at an underserved clinic under this grant in fulfillment of a service obligation for any other student loan repayment grant, loan forgiveness program, scholarship program, or other program.
  • Enroll or otherwise participate in a dental education program or use their work in an underserved clinic under this grant in fulfillment of any requirement of any such program. 


Funding will not be provided to any “disqualified person,” as defined in Internal Revenue Code section 4958. Such persons include: (i) any person who is in a position to exercise substantial influence over the affairs of the CDA Foundation, or who was in such a position during the preceding five years, including voting members of the CDA Foundation Board of Directors or CDA Board of Trustees; and the officers and staff of the CDA Foundation; and (ii) any family members of the above class of persons, including spouses, brothers and sisters (whole or half), and their respective spouses (whole or half), ancestors, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.