SREB Regional Contract Forgivable Loan for Optometry (SREB)

Program Overview:
The primary objectives of this program are to provide educational opportunities to students who wish to become an optometrist and to address Mississippi’s health care shortage by providing a constant source of qualified optometrists. SREB awards will be made available, to the extent of appropriated funds, to persons seeking an optometry degree at an approved out-of-state school in exchange for employment as a practicing optometrist in the State of Mississippi.

Rules and Regulations:
SREB Rules and Regulations

Important Dates:
Application dates: October 1 – March 31
Document deadline: April 30, except the Letter of Acceptance, which may be submitted through June 30.

The State of Mississippi contracts with two out-of-state institutions through the SREB Regional Contract Program to secure seats for Mississippi residents. A total of 9 new (first year) students can be awarded each year, 2 at the University of Alabama Birmingham and 7 at Southern College of Optometry. Students must first be accepted by the institution. The institution will then designate which Mississippi resident applicants have been offered a contract seat.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Be a legal resident of the State of Mississippi for one year prior to application.
  • Be fully admitted at an approved out-of-state SREB School of Optometry and enroll full-time.
  • Agree to practice optometry full-time in Mississippi upon degree completion.
  • Make satisfactory academic progress to maintain eligibility.
  • Be in good standing on any prior federal, sate, or local educational loan.

Award Amount and Length of Eligibility:

  • The award amount is determined annually by the Southern Regional Education Board.
  • Funds will be made available to eligible participants for up to four (4) years.

Service Obligation:

  • SREB is first and foremost a loan. The loan can be forgiven (discharged) on the basis of one year’s service for one year of loan received. Service is defined as full-time employment as a practicing optometry in Mississippi.
  • LIABILITY: Forgivable loan recipients who choose not to fulfill the service obligation will be required to repay the loan in full with interest.

To Apply

  • Apply and be accepted to an approved out-of-state school of optometry.
  • Complete the online application. The online application must be completed each and every academic year for which the applicant seeks aid.
  • New and some renewal applicants with a break in enrollment will be required to submit two forms of residency documentation:
    Preferred Residency Documents:

    1. FAFSA
    2. Mississippi driver’s license (can be submitted electronically during the online application)

    Alternate Residency Documents Accepted:
    State Tax Return (NOT Federal) for the current tax filing year. Dependent students would provide a signed copy of the first two pages of the parent’s return. Independent students would provide a signed copy of the student’s return. Am I dependent or independent?
    — Homestead Exemption
    — Voter Registration
    — Vehicle Registration
    Note: Our office receives FAFSA results electronically for all Mississippi residents. When possible, the state tax return or Mississippi driver’s license pending document will be replaced by the FAFSA.

Documents must be RECEIVED, not post-marked, by the published document deadline date of April 30.

How to Submit Supporting Documents

After the Application – the SREB Award Process:

  • The institution will notify the state which students have been offered a contract seat.
  • The state will verify that residency documents have been received.
  • If funding is available, the Office will make award offers as soon as possible after receiving an appropriation.
  • To accept an award, new applicants must sign a Master Contract and Note, which includes the program Rules and Regulations. The contract will be signed electronically.
  • New and renewal applicants must sign a Private Loan Self-Certification Form every year for which the applicant receives funds. The self-certification form must be signed with pen and returned in hard-copy.
  • When the Contract and Self-certification form have been received, the Office will notify the student’s attending institution that the student has been awarded.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Why must I reapply every year?
    Current legislation requires “…the board shall create a renewal application for each student who received the award for one or more terms during the immediately preceding academic year.” At a minimum, a student must file the following renewal document no later than the close of business on the deadline date: online application.
  2. The SREB program requires a copy of my letter of acceptance into an approved out of state optometry program. It is my understanding from the school that notice of acceptance will not be forwarded to me until after the April 30 deadline. What should I do?
    The only exception to the document deadline is the letter of acceptance, which will be accepted through June 30.
  3. What happens if I fail, withdraw, or have to repeat a year?
    Recipients who fail, withdraw, or have to repeat any year are suspended from participation in the program and awards are stopped.
  4. What happens if I do not pass the Mississippi licensure exam?
    A recipient who is unable to successfully take and pass the required licensure examination within one (1) calendar year will be required to repay the loan in full with interest.
  5. As a recipient of SREB, I have a contractual obligation to practice optometry in Mississippi. What if I am unable to find a job immediately after graduation?
    All recipients are eligible for a one-year (12-month) grace period while seeking employment. After one year, recipients must submit documentation of proper employment or start making payments to repay the loan.
  6. Will I be eligible to defer employment to complete post-graduate training?
    Post-graduate training must be obtained at an accredited hospital in optometry and shall not exceed one (1) year.
  7. How do I submit supporting documents to the Office of Student Financial Aid?
    How to Submit Supporting Documents