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11 Student Loan Forgiveness Resources for Nurses

11 Student Loan Forgiveness Resources for Nurses
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated February 24, 2023
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While nursing can be a rewarding career path, you might have to take on significant student debt to earn your credentials. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) nearly 70% of nurses take out student loans to pay for their degrees. The median debt for a Master’s in nursing ranges from $40,000 to $54,999. Fortunately, your profession might make you eligible for loan forgiveness for nurses. If you’re a nurse with student loans, read on to learn about your options for debt relief. 

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

As a nurse, there are a number of forgiveness and assistance programs you may be eligible for. Here are your options for nurse student loan forgiveness

1. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment

The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program offers significant student loan assistance to qualifying nurses who work with underserved communities in critical shortage facilities. Nurse faculty at eligible educational institutions can also qualify. If you’re a licensed registered nurse who works at least 32 hours per week at a qualifying workplace, you could get 60% of your student loan balance paid off over two years. Plus, you can get an additional 25% of your balance paid off if you opt for a third year of service. 

2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program will forgive your entire federal student loan balance after 10 years of full-time service and 120 qualifying payments. You’ll need to work in a not-for-profit organization or government agency. Plus, you’ll have to pay your loans back on one of the four income-driven repayment plans. If you’re pursuing PSLF, submit the employment certification form every year to make sure you’re on track.  

3. Perkins Loan Cancellation

While the Perkins loan program ended in 2017, nurses who borrowed Perkins loans before that time might be able to qualify for loan cancellation. In fact, you could get up to 100% of your Perkins loan canceled over five years of working full-time as a nurse. Speak with your school or loan servicer about how to apply. 

4. Disadvantaged Faculty Loan Repayment Program

This program offers up to $40,000 toward repayment of a student loan over two years to eligible borrowers who work at a health professions school. You’ll need to be a faculty member from a disadvantaged background with a certificate or degree in a health profession, like nursing. 

5. Army Nurse Corps

Army nurses could receive up to $250,000 in student loan assistance from the Army Nurse Corps program, which is part of the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. You’ll need to be on active duty or in the Army Reserve to qualify. Recommended: Navy Student Loan Repayment 

6. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

The NHSC loan repayment program offers student loan assistance of up to $50,000 for two years of full-time service and up to $25,000 for two years of part-time service. You must be a nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, or other qualifying nurse working in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area to qualify. 

7. NHSC Substance Use Disorder

This program helps qualifying registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work at substance use disorder (SUD) clinics in underserved areas. It offers up to $75,000 in student loan repayment for three years of service at an approved site. 

8. NHSC Rural Community

This program is for eligible nurses who serve SUD patients in rural areas. You can receive up to $100,000 in student loan assistance if you work full-time and up to $50,000 if you work half-time at an approved site. 

9. State-Based Loan Forgiveness Programs

There are a variety of state loan repayment assistance programs for qualifying nurses. Award amounts vary, and you’ll typically need to commit to two or three years of service in a shortage area. California, for example, offers up to $100,000 over four years to nurses who work in shortage or medically underserved areas. Michigan provides up to $300,000 tax-free to qualifying nurses through its state loan repayment program. Check with your state to see if it offers a loan repayment assistance program for nurses. 

10. Indian Health Services Loan Repayment

The Indian Health Services program awards up to $40,000 to qualifying nurses who work with American Indian and Alaska Native communities at programs with the greatest staffing needs. You’ll need to commit to at least two years of service.

11. Hospital Specific Repayment

Some hospital systems offer student loan repayment for nurses. The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, for example, offers up to $15,750 in loan assistance to full-time nurses and up to $7,500 to part-time nurses. In addition, some hospitals may offer financial aid like tuition assistance, scholarships or grants to nurses who agree to work in an eligible position upon graduation. Check hospital systems and clinics in your area to see if any will help pay for your nursing degree and thereby possibly reduce the amount you’ll need to borrow in student loans. 

How Does Student Loan Forgiveness Work?

If you are eligible, student loan forgiveness will cancel part or all of your student loans in exchange for qualifying service. The PSLF program, for example, will wipe away your federal student loan balance after 10 years of qualifying service. Loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP), on the other hand, typically pay out a lump sum award that you can use toward your student loans. While federal loan forgiveness programs only forgive federal loans, private LRAPs might assist with both federal and private student loan debt. In some cases, you may have to pay taxes on the amount of student loan assistance you receive. Check the details of the program to find out whether you’ll need to plan for a tax bill. It’s also worth noting that student loan forgiveness is usually not automatic. You’ll need to research the eligibility requirements of a program and apply for help paying off your student loans. 

Why Do Nurses Get Access to Special Student Loan Forgiveness Programs?

Student loan forgiveness programs are usually put in place to incentivize workers to take positions in high-need or underserved communities. Many nurse loan forgiveness programs require them to commit to two years or more of service in a shortage area or in a high-need population. These programs or jobs that pay off student loans might also encourage nurses to address pressing issues in society. The NHSC Substance Use Disorder program, for instance, asks nurses to work in SUD clinics to help combat the opioid epidemic. 

The Takeaway

While nursing can be a fulfilling career path, it may also come with the financial burden of student loans. Fortunately, you could have opportunities for student loan forgiveness for nurses, as well repayment assistance. You might also qualify for student loan deferral.Check out federal, state, and private programs to see if one could be a good fit for you. Committing to two years of service in a shortage area could mean you’re able to pay off your student loans ahead of schedule. 

3 Student Loan Tips

  1. Once the pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments ends, going back to making payments may be hard on budgets. One solution is to refinance to a lower interest rate, longer loan term, or both, depending on your situation. (The tradeoff is that you’ll be forfeiting federal benefits such as repayment programs.) Find and compare your student loan refinance options.
  2. One pain-free way to pay down your student loan sooner: send in your tax refund to put against the principal balance. Since it’s money that has already been taken out of your pay, you won’t miss it.
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do nurses get access to special student loan forgiveness programs?
How long does it usually take for nurses to pay off student loans?
Do nurse practitioners qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Photo credit: iStock/Renata Angerami

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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