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The field of nursing continues to hold a critical role in the medical field. As more Americans need healthcare, the number of nurses needed continues to climb as well.
Nurses provide full-spectrum care, from dispensing medications and advice to performing procedures and offering emotional support, nurses are widely regarded as the most versatile and necessary parts of the healthcare system.
On this page:
- The Financial Impact of Becoming a Nurse
- Federal Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- State-Specific Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Things to Keep in Mind When Comparing Forgiveness Options
The Financial Impact of Becoming a Nurse
Part of that versatility comes from their intense—and expensive—training. Most nurses have at least a bachelor’s degree while many have graduate degrees, additional training, and further schooling that helps them focus on a specialty such as labor and delivery, surgery, or emergency medicine.
All of this training costs a lot of money, and many nurses find themselves in serious debt after graduation, some as high as $100,000.
The age of the nursing corps is rising as well. According to the American Nurses Association, the average age of a nurse is 44.6 years old, with the number of younger nurses entering the field decreasing as more students look to college programs that are less demanding.
To help inspire more college students to pursue a nursing degree and certification and help the critical shortage in the nursing field, there are a number of programs that will forgive a nursing graduate’s student loans. These differ from other student loan forgiveness programs in that they seek to fill the high demand for nurses in the United States.
Federal Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
The NURSE program replaced the Federal Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program, which was a federal student loan forgiveness program designed for nursing graduates. The new iteration pays off 60 percent of your unpaid student loans in the first two years. You can also get an additional 25 percent forgiven from your original nursing student loan balance in an optional third year.
To be eligible, you need to fulfill a service obligation at an eligible nonprofit hospital, clinic, nursing school, or another facility in underserved areas designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area, or HPSA. There are thousands of them in the United States, so finding one won’t be difficult.
You’ll also need to be a licensed registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or advanced practice nurse, have completed all of your training, and be employed full-time at 32 hours per week or more at a critical shortage facility. You must also be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, and your training must have been completed at an accredited school of nursing in the United States.
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge for Full-Time Nurses
Under the federal Perkins Loan Discharge program, you can get up to 100 percent of your nursing student loan amount forgiven. This program is also open to medical technicians. To be eligible, you must have five years of qualified experience as a nurse; other eligible borrowers can earn their benefits on an incremental basis over time in their career. You can apply for this type of loan forgiveness by completing the application, which is available at the school that issued your Perkins Loan.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Known as NHS Corps Loan Repayment, this program was designed for RNs who have a great deal of student loan debt. The NHS repayment awards you up to $50,000 in return for two years of nursing service in an HPSA. You must perform that service in a Tier I area, or HPSA designation of 14 and above. Even if you perform your nursing service in an HPSA area rated as 13 or below, you can still get benefits; the program allows for up to $30,000 in repayment in those less-critical areas in return for the two years of service.
To be eligible, you must be a licensed nurse in primary care, dental, or behavioral health and must accept a position at a qualified provider.
Public Service Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness
Also called Public Service Loan Forgiveness, this federal program seeks to help nurses who are employed in the public service sector. While only federal direct loans are eligible for forgiveness under PSLF, if you qualify, your entire federal loan balance will be forgiven. You’ll need to apply for the program and follow the requirements in order to qualify, including making 120 payments while employed at a public service organization, before the program will pay off the remaining balance.
Students to Service Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps, or NHSC, offers a student loan repayment program for medical students in their final year of school. Some nurses go on to attend medical school—which is extremely costly as well. The NHSC program can help with that, provided you’re willing to commit to serving in the primary care field for at least three years full-time or six years part-time at an approved site with a critical healthcare shortage.
State-Specific Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Not every state offers a program for nurses to have their student loans forgiven. In some states, the only options are the federal programs mentioned above. If you do live in a state that offers a program for nurses, however, it’s in your best interest to check it out. Does your state have a program for you? Check out the list below:
The SHARP program looks to recruit and retain primary care health professionals in HPSAs located in Alaska, where healthcare can be hard to find. You can get up to $27,000 of your student loans paid off if you agree to serve in a critical shortage area in Alaska.
>> Learn More: Alaska student loan forgiveness programs
The Arizona Loan Repayment Program offers up to $50,000 in repayment for each year of service for nurse practitioners who work full- or half-time in an HPSA for at least two years.
>> Learn More: Arizona student loan forgiveness programs
The Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program offers up to $8,000 for nurses who commit to working in an HPSA. You can get an additional award up to $11,000 the second year.
>> Learn More: California student loan forgiveness programs
The Colorado Health Service Corps program offers nurse practitioners up to $50,000 in loan repayment funds if they work for three years at an HPSA-qualifying organization.
>> Learn More: Colorado student loan forgiveness programs
The Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program encourages nurses in the Sunshine State to work in HPSAs and offers up to $4,000 per year for a maximum of four years to full-time nurses in qualifying organizations.
>> Learn More: Florida student loan forgiveness programs
Nurse practitioners in Hawaii can get help with student loan repayment if they work in an HPSA full-time for two years or half-time for four years. The amounts vary and are dependent on grants that fund the program.
>> Learn More: Hawaii student loan forgiveness programs
The Veterans’ Home Medical Providers’ Loan Repayment Program is designed for nurses who choose to work in veterans’ homes. They must be able to verify their employment to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and may get up to $5,000 per year for four years in loan repayment funds.
>> Learn More: Illinois student loan forgiveness programs
The Health Care Loan Repayment Program awards qualified nurses employed in the state of Iowa up to 20 percent of their loan balance in repayment funds. Applicants must be currently employed in Iowa and can apply for up to five consecutive years.
>> Learn More: Iowa student loan forgiveness programs
The Kansas State Loan Repayment Program pays up to $70,000 over five years to nurse practitioners who agree to work in an HPSA facility. The awards are incremental; while you can receive $20,000 the first and second years, the full amount of the award adds up over the next three years.
>> Learn More: Kansas student loan forgiveness programs
The state of Kentucky offers a matching program, in which it will pay the same amount as that paid by a sponsor, usually an employer or foundation. Nurses must work in an HPSA for at least two years; they’ll receive up to $40,000.
>> Learn More: Kentucky student loan forgiveness programs
The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program looks to encourage graduates to work in the state by offering full-time employees at a public or nonprofit entity in an HPSA for three years. Approved applicants can get up to $15,000 a year.
>> Learn More: Louisiana student loan forgiveness programs
The Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program, or LARP, can see students get their qualifying payments for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program paid for them.
>> Learn More: Maryland student loan forgiveness programs
Nurses who are employed full-time in an HPSA can receive up to $200,000 to pay back their student loans over a span of eight years with the State Loan Repayment Program.
>> Learn More: Michigan student loan forgiveness programs
The state of Montana offers loan repayment assistance to nurses who are currently employed in either the Montana state prison system or state hospitals. The amount is based upon availability of state funding.
>> Learn More: Montana student loan forgiveness programs
The Rural Health Loan Repayment Program is open to nurses and other medical personnel who are employed in critical shortage areas. Applicants must practice full-time for at least three years to be eligible.
The NH State Loan Repayment Program helps repay student loans for nurses working in underserved communities. The amount is contingent upon the state funds availability.
>> Learn More: New Hampshire student loan forgiveness programs
The Primary Care Practitioner Loan Redemption Program offers loan repayment funds to nurse practitioners who agree to provide care at an approved placement site for a minimum of two years. In return, applicants get up to $120,000 over four years.
>> Learn More: New Jersey student loan forgiveness programs
The Health Professional Loan Repayment Program is a competitive program that does not guarantee funding, but successful applicants can get up to $25,000 per year for their student loans in return for a two-year commitment in an HPSA.
>> Learn More: New Mexico student loan forgiveness programs
Nurses who serve as faculty members providing instruction at a nursing school in the state of New York may be eligible for loan forgiveness if they’ve lived in NY for the previous 12 months.
>> Learn More: New York student loan forgiveness programs
The Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program offers student loans—and later, 100 percent cancellation of those loans—to nurses who serve in Ohio for at least five years.
>> Learn More: Ohio student loan forgiveness programs
The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program, with a two-year service agreement in an HPSA, offers a percentage of a nurse’s outstanding loan balance in repayment.
>> Learn More: Oregon student loan forgiveness programs
The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program offers health education loan repayment to primary care nurses that make a commitment to practice in underserved HPSAs. The amounts depend on state funding.
>> Learn More: Rhode Island student loan forgiveness programs
The Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program seeks to encourage nurses to join a nursing faculty, so registered nurses who teach or become administrators in a nursing education program are eligible to have their loans forgiven in the program.
>> Learn More: Tennessee student loan forgiveness programs
The RCHIP program, or Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program, uses state funds to pay off loans in exchange for nurses who commit to practicing in rural areas of the state.
>> Learn More: Texas student loan forgiveness programs
The Virginia State Loan Repayment Program has a maximum award of $140,000 for student loans in exchange for two years of service in an underfunded area.
>> Learn More: Virginia student loan forgiveness programs
The WA State Health Professional Repayment and Scholarship Program repays loans for nurses who commit to serving in high-need areas. Other healthcare professionals, including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and mental health providers.
>> Learn More: Washington student loan forgiveness programs
This state’s Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 for a two-year commitment to an HPSA in a rural community in the state.
>> Learn More: West Virginia student loan forgiveness programs
Nurses in WI can receive up to $50,000 for student loan repayment if they are working full-time in an HPSA through the Health Professions Loan Assistance Program.
>> Learn More: Wisconsin student loan forgiveness programs
Things to Keep in Mind When Comparing Forgiveness Options
These programs are not a guarantee; not everyone will be eligible, and many of the programs are first-come, first-served. In addition, if you have part or all of your loans forgiven, you may need to report the amount as income on your federal income taxes the next year. Talk to your tax or finance professional to be sure you understand your responsibility.
If you’re a licensed nurse, you have federal and possibly state options available to help you pay back your student loans. Before you choose an option, however, understand what you owe, what your options are, and how those options—including any work commitments—will affect you.
Author: Dave Rathmanner