Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Nurses play a pivotal role in society, but it’s hardly the most lucrative career path.
Therefore, it seems there should be loan forgiveness programs in place so nurses can focus on doing what they do best and helping people without facing the burden of a huge debt all their life.
However, student loan forgiveness programs for nurses are a slightly complex area.
The government offers a country-wide program, but there are also smaller plans offered by individual states.
Luckily, we’re here to break everything down into simpler terms.
Student Loan Forgiveness For Nurses: National Programs
Like other healthcare professionals, nurses have a larger range of options for student loan forgiveness available to them than people from most other disciplines.
There are many programs, but you’ll have to meet certain eligibility criteria, which vary between programs.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
The PSLF is probably the best-known loan forgiveness program – it isn’t just for nurses but all public-sector workers.
To be eligible, you need to work full time (30 hours a week or more) and make 120 monthly payments, meaning you’ll still be paying your loan for ten years, even if you manage to make your payments every month. However, the major advantage is that your loan will be paid off in full.
To apply for the PSLF, you need to submit an application once you’ve met all the necessary payments and send it to FedLoan Servicing. In your application, you’ll need to include proof of all your employers and their certification, as well as your personal information.
Many people end up being rejected due to filling out the application incompletely or not meeting the eligibility criteria, so take time when making your application.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is a more specific program for nurses who work in under-served communities at critical shortage facilities.
To qualify, you need to be a licensed registered nurse and work at a qualifying site for 32 hours a week or more. Qualifying sites are either Critical Shortage Facilities or accredited schools of nursing.
If you’re eligible, the program will pay 85% of your loans – 60% in the first two years and another 25% in the third.
Unlike the PSLF, which accepts applications on a rolling basis, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program has a specific application cycle that only opens once a year, generally around March.
You can apply online through the Bureau Health Workforce Customer Service Portal.
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation
Federal Perkins loans are a special type of federal loans given to students with greater financial need, which have a lower interest rate than conventional federal student loans.
Although Perkins loans are no longer being issued to new students, any graduates who have them already are eligible for forgiveness.
The cancellation program is mostly aimed at teachers, but other professions are also eligible, including nurses. The process takes five years, but up to 100% of your loan could be forgiven. The loans are wiped out gradually – 15% in your first two years of service, 20% in the third and fourth years, and 30% in the fifth year.
You can apply for Federal Perkins loan cancellation either through the school that disbursed your Perkins loan or through your servicer. Once you’ve contacted the relevant organization, they’ll be able to provide you with further details.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps plan requires you to work at an approved site in a Health Professional Shortage Area for at least two years.
Unlike many other loan forgiveness programs, the National Health Service Corps is suitable for part-time workers, but you won’t receive as much money. Full-time workers will receive an award of up to $50,000, and part-time workers will receive up to $25,000.
You can apply for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program online. It takes three weeks in total to go through the application process, and you’ll need to provide proof of your employment, training, and loans. There’s also a set application date you need to meet, which changes each year slightly.
The only requirements are that you should be fully trained and licensed to practice in your state and work for a provider who cooperates with Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
State Programs for Nurse Student Loan Forgiveness
In addition to the major federal student loan forgiveness programs, individual states have their own loan forgiveness programs.
Unfortunately, not all states offer a plan, but a decent number of them do:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
The SHARP support-for-service program is run by the Division of Public Health in Alaska to help fill shortages of health professionals in certain areas. There are two tiers – Tier 1 is only for primary care physicians, pharmacists, or dentists, but Tier 2 is suitable for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse-midwives. Through Tier 2, you can earn up to $20,000, or up to $27,000 if you’re filling a very in-demand position.
To be eligible, you must work in a shortage area, and in a place offering employer match. The application cycle opens once a year.
Also focusing on shortage areas within the state, the Arizona State Loan Repayment Program offers up to $50,000 for nurses who work at a qualified site for two years or more. Eligible sites may be public or private non-profit, but they must accept Medicare, Medicaid, and qualifying health plans.
There’s one application cycle each year, which generally opens around April.
The Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program gives out up to $10,000 for performing just one year of service at a qualifying facility in California. Even though the award is lower than many other programs, you can receive it up to three times. Like most other state programs, most of the eligible sites are in shortage areas.
There are a few requirements. You’ll need to be a Registered Nurse in the state, provide direct patient care for at least 32 hours a week, not be involved in any other service obligation, and be in good standing with the California Board of Registered Nursing. The application cycle is around August to October this year.
Another program available to part-time nurses as well as those working full time, the Colorado Health Service Corps is for health professionals working with under-served patients in Health Professional Shortage Areas. Eligible practices must accept public insurance and offer discounted services to low-income or insured patients.
Full-time nurses can receive up to $50,000, while nurses working on a part-time basis can obtain up to $25,000.
Florida has a Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program to incentivize nurses to work in Health Professional Shortage Areas. Although you can only receive $4,000 each year, it’s possible to apply up to four times.
To be eligible, you must be licensed as an LPN, RN, or ARNP in Florida and work full time at one of the designated sites. There are four application cycles each year, the dates of which can be found on the website.
The Hawaii State Loan Repayment Program is for nurse practitioners in Hawaii who work full-time for two years or part-time for four years. You must have a valid license and practice one of the following specialties: family, adult, pediatrics, psychiatry, geriatrics, or women’s health.
Unlike many of the other programs, the plan is funded by grants, so the exact amount you’ll receive depends on the funds of any given year. This makes it slightly riskier, but you could decide to pull out if you believe the amount you’re offered is less than you could get elsewhere.
Idaho offers a generous award of up to $25,000 per year for two years under the Idaho State Loan Repayment Program. Employers must match funds dollar-to-dollar, and can be either public or nonprofit sites.
The program in Illinois is slightly more specific – it’s a Veterans’ Home Nurse Loan Repayment Program, so you must work in a veterans’ home to qualify. You can receive up to $5,000 a year in assistance and participate in the plan for a maximum of four years. However, in the case that the state has insufficient funding, preference is given to applicants renewing rather than new applicants.
To qualify, you must be a resident of Illinois, be fully certified, and have an employer verified by the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs.
Nurses and nurse educators alike are eligible for the Health Care Loan Repayment Program in Iowa. Whether you’re an advanced nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, or an educator, you’ll need to commit to service for five consecutive years.
If you’re an educator, you must be teaching at an eligible college or university in Iowa, and if you’re serving, you must be working in a service commitment area (a city in Iowa with a small population that’s more than twenty miles away from a large city). You also need to be in good standing with your federal loan accounts – postponing your payments could cause an issue.
The Kansas State Loan Repayment Program is fairly competitive to be accepted for, and for good reason – you can receive up to $20,000 for working for two years. You need to work in a Health Professional Shortage Area, and the greater need in an area, the more money you’ll receive.
The application cycle opens once a year in July, so be careful not to miss the date.
The Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program has a slightly novel concept: for every dollar the program provides, another sponsor must match it – typically an employer. As long as you have an employer willing to foot the bill, this is a good way to get a greater amount of money.
If you work in a Health Professional Shortage Area for two years, you can receive up to $40,000 in total, depending on the level of need there. However, the definition of full-time is slightly stricter than that of other programs – you must work at least 40 hours a week for 45 weeks a year.
The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program gives out a generous $15,000 a year to nurses for three years of service. All eligible sites are in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas.
To qualify, you need to work 40 hours a week or more in outpatient capacity at a public or nonprofit site that has a sliding-fee scale for uninsured patients. You also can’t have any defaults on your educational loans.
The Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program is for Maryland residents working as nurses in non-profit or local government establishments that help low-income or unprivileged communities. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, which you’ll receive annually for three years.
You must have earned a degree from a college in Maryland – even if you’ve been a resident of Maryland for most of your life but went to college elsewhere, you won’t be eligible. It’s also necessary to have a salary of $60,000 or less and to not be in defaults for your educational loans.
The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program offers one of the most generous compensation packages of all – you can receive up to $200,000 tax-free.
You must work full-time (40 hours a week for 45 weeks a year) in a Health Professional Short Area for two years at a not-for-profit health clinic. However, even though you only need to work there for two years, the grant will be paid to you over eight years.
The Minnesota Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program awards nurses who work with people who have developmental disabilities or in a nursing home. You have to work for at least two years, but can serve for up to four years if you choose to work in a nursing home.
You can receive up to $5,000 a year over the course of four years, but if you don’t work in a nursing home, you can only receive up to $10,000 in total. To be eligible, you must be either a Registered Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse.
The Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program is for nurses who work full time in the Montana state prison or Montana state hospital.
The amount of funding available varies each year depending on how many eligible people apply and how much money the funding has, but you can always apply for up to four years.
Nebraska has a group of matching-fund programs known as the Nebraska Loan Repayment Programs.
You’ll have to sign a contract of either three years or two years depending on the program you choose, but might be able to renew the latter for a further two years to receive more money – the award is worth up to $15,000 a year.
The New Hampshire State Loan Repayment Program is given to nurses who work full-time for 36 months or more in under-served areas.
You can make up to $45,000 in total for the 36 months, plus the possibility of extending your contract for another two years to receive $20,000 more.
The New Mexico Health Professional Loan Repayment Program is given out to health professionals who serve in shortage areas within New Mexico. You’ll need to work 40 hours a week for two years, and funding is at the discretion of the state.
However, it’s competitive, and not all applicants gain a place. You also need to have been a New Mexico resident for at least 12 consecutive months when you apply.
Unlike other states, New York’s State Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program is aimed at nurse educators rather than practicing nurses themselves. You can receive up to $40,000 – a maximum of $8,000 a year for five years.
You must have lived in New York over the last 12 months consecutively and have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.
Like in New York, Ohio nursing students who want to go on to teach in the area can gain support through the Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program. Funding varies slightly between years but was $1,620 a year for the last academic year – and, if you work for five years, your entire loan could be canceled.
To apply, you should be enrolled to study in an approved education program in Ohio. The application cycle opens once a year during the first half of the year.
The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program gives nurses an incentive to work in Health Professional Shortage Areas in the state. The program involves working full time for 2 years or part-time for 4 years, and you could continue for longer if you still have debt.
Full-time applicants can receive up to 50% of their debt in total (a maximum of $35,000 a year), while part-time applicants would receive half of this amount.
Pennsylvania offers a Primary Care Loan Repayment Program given to nurses who serve in Health Professional Shortage Areas. The bursaries are amongst the most generous – full-time nurses can receive up to $60,000, while part-time workers can get up to $30,000. Yet you only need to commit two years to the program.
Similarly, the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program gives assistance to some nurses working in Health Professional Shortage Areas. It’s available to nurse practitioners, midwives, psychiatric nurses, and registered nurses.
You need to commit to two years on the program full-time or four years part-time, and award amounts vary from year to year. There’s also a bursary available to prospective nurse educators, which could give you up to 85% of your loan balance if you commit for three years.
The Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program is another program designed to encourage students to become nursing educators. Eligible candidates must be Tennessee residents enrolled in a nursing education program in the state who are already registered nurses.
To receive the bursary, you need to work full time for four years, after which your loan will be forgiven in its entirety.
To help rural communities to recruit more healthcare providers, the Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program offers bursaries to various healthcare professionals, including nurses. You can receive up to $10,000 and must serve for a year or more.
The Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program for Health Care Professionals is targeted at under-served areas in the state and rewards nurses for working there for a 12-month period. You can receive up to $6,000 in a year, although the funding amount alters slightly with each cycle.
There’s one chance to apply each year – last year, the deadline fell in September.
The Virginia State Loan Repayment Program awards a maximum of $140,000 over a period of four years to nurses. Although the standard commitment is only two years, you can serve for two additional years to receive the $40,000 extra.
However, you’ll need a master’s degree in nursing to be eligible. The application cycle is open from the start of January to the end of March each year, so be sure to save the dates.
West Virginia has a State Loan Repayment Program that gives nurses and midwives a substantial bursary for committing to serving in a Health Professional Shortage area for two years, with the possibility of extending the contract two years more.
Participants receive $40,000 for the first two years, and $25,000 if they choose to work for two years more – that leaves enough money in total to pay off the debt of most people.
The Wisconsin Health Professionals Loan Assistance Program is a plan where participants work in Health Professional Shortage Areas. You can receive up to $50,000 for your participation, but you’ll need to commit to three years.
The Wyoming Office of Rural Health runs the State Loan Repayment Program to encourage healthcare professionals to serve in neglected areas. Nurses must work for two years or more in a Health Professional Shortage Area and can earn up to $20,000 in total. You must work full time to be eligible.
Should You Seek Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses?
Like other health professionals, nurses have access to some of the best and most generous student loan forgiveness programs available.
The number of choices might be overwhelming, but chances are, you’re not eligible for most of the programs – it depends on where you want to work, who you want to work for, and what type of student loans you took out.