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Student Loans

Best Student Loans for Nurses

Nursing can be a fulfilling career, but paying for nursing school can be challenging. If you’re searching for a student loan, you have two main options: federal or private. 

Federal loans offer competitive rates and multiple repayment plans but have borrowing limits. A private student could fill the gap if you’ve exhausted your federal aid and need additional financing. Here’s a closer look at all your options for student loans for nurses.

Federal student loans for nurses

When borrowing money for a degree, the first type of student loan you should consider is a federal student loan. Federal loans tend to have low interest rates and other perks, such as income-driven repayment options, long deferment periods, and loan forgiveness programs.

You must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal student loans. The FAFSA will tell you what kind of federal loans you’re eligible for. You may also qualify for grants, scholarships, and work-study.

There are three types of federal student loans you can qualify for, depending on who :

BorrowerFederal loan options
Undergraduate studentsDirect Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans 
Graduate studentsDirect Unsubsidized Loans, Grad PLUS Loans
Parents of undergraduatesParent PLUS Loans 

Each loan type has federal borrowing limits, depending on your student status.

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

Most students are eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Direct Subsidized Loans, however, are only available to undergraduate students with financial need.

Direct Subsidized Loans have a $23,000 limit and don’t charge interest while you’re in school. 

Direct Unsubsidized Loans, on the other hand, have a $57,500 limit for undergraduate students and a $138,500 limit for Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate students. They start accruing interest right away. 

The current interest rates are 5.50% for undergraduate students and 7.05% for graduate students. The loan fee is 1.057%. Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans allow for a six-month grace period and are eligible for various repayment plans with terms ranging from 10 to 25 years. 

Direct PLUS Loans

Most graduate nursing students are also eligible for Grad PLUS Loans. These loans have higher interest rates and fees than Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans, but they’re a solid choice because they have the same repayment benefits as other federal loans.

Parents of undergraduate nursing students can also apply for Parent PLUS Loans to help their children cover education expenses. Parents of graduate students are not eligible for Parent PLUS loans.

Direct PLUS loans virtually have no borrowing limit, as you can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you’ve received. They have an interest rate of 8.05% and a loan fee of 4.228%. 

Unlike Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, which don’t have a credit requirement, PLUS loans require that you don’t have adverse credit. If you do, you may still qualify by applying with an endorser. 

Health professions student loans for nurses

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is another potential source of loans for nursing students. The HRSA partners with schools to offer loans to students pursuing careers in medicine, including nursing. It has specialized loans for nursing students at a 5% interest rate.

You can borrow up to $3,300 per year (or up to $5,200 per year if you’re in your last two years of study) from this program and pay off your loan over 10 years. HRSA loans offer a grace period that spans nine months after you graduate. 

Because the HRSA partners with schools to offer loans, you can work with your school to confirm eligibility and apply. Student loans are available for those pursuing associate, undergraduate, or graduate degrees.

How much should you borrow in student loans?

Crystal Rau


A good rule of thumb is not to borrow more than your annual salary after additional education. For example, if you plan to return to school to become a nurse practitioner and anticipate your new salary to be a certain amount, ensure the total amount borrowed (both existing and new loans) will not exceed that anticipated new salary. And be careful not to overestimate either!

Best private student loans for nurses

You can turn to private lenders if federal loans aren’t enough to cover your education expenses. But before you do, consider the drawbacks of using private loans.

First, you need to qualify for private student loans. If you have poor credit, you may only qualify for loans with high interest rates—if you can get approved at all. Many applicants will need to add a cosigner to qualify.

Here are our top picks for graduate student loans for nursing school. Note that these lenders also offer highly rated undergraduate loans. 

LenderRates (APR)What to know
College Ave 4.07% – 14.47Can defer for 48 months if you have a fellowship or residency
EarnestStart at 4.11% Rate match guarantee will match any competitor’s rate 
Sallie Mae 4.99% – 16.47%Offers cosigner release after just 12 months
SoFi 4.99%14.50%Loans come with a nine-month grace period
Ascent 5.09%15.18%Cash back award of 1% upon graduation 

College Ave: Best overall private graduate loans

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Choose among five different repayment terms
  • Defer payment during residency
  • Apply in just 3 minutes

College Ave is an online lender that provides student loans to students and parents. The lender offers multiple loans that can be used for medical degrees, including its standard graduate student loan, medical school loan, and health professions student loan.

Its health professions student loan lets you borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance and choose repayment terms from five to 20 years. This loan doesn’t charge origination fees and has a nine-month grace period. You can defer payments for up to 48 months if you are in fellowship or residency. 

To qualify for a College Ave student loan, you must meet the lender’s credit and income requirements or apply with a cosigner who does. International students are eligible for a loan if they apply with a U.S. cosigner. 

Earnest: Best graduate loan for no fees

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Skip a payment once per year if needed
  • No fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Earnest offers loans for students pursuing medical careers, including nursing. You get a grace period of nine months after leaving school before you need to make payments.

Repayment terms range from five to 15 years, but Earnest lets you choose your term down to the month to find a monthly payment that works for your budget. You can also skip a payment once per year, though your skipped payment will be added to the end of your loan term. 

You can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance from Earnest, and your loan will come with a grace period of nine months. Earnest doesn’t apply origination or late payment fees on its nurse student loans. 

Sallie Mae: Best graduate loan for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Shortest cosigner release period available
  • 48-month deferment during your internship and fellowship
  • Available for less than half-time enrollment

Sallie Mae offers many types of student loans, including the Sallie Mae Graduate School Loan for Health Professions. The loan can cover all of your school-certified expenses and offers a lengthy deferment period of 48 months during an internship or fellowship.

You can borrow as much as you need to pay for school and will pay back your loan over 15 years. Sallie Mae also offers a rate discount of 0.25% for autopay. 

Sallie Mae doesn’t charge origination fees on its student loans and offers a grace period of six months. It has loan options for both full-time and part-time students. If you apply with a cosigner, you may qualify for cosigner release after 12 months of on-time loan payments. 

SoFi: Best graduate loan for career services

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Get access to financial advisors and other benefits 
  • No fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

SoFi’s health professions loans are available to graduate nursing students and other graduate medical students. No fees, including origination and late fees, are required, and repayment terms range from five to 15 years.

You can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance and defer payments for nine months after you graduate. SoFi also offers borrowers a range of member benefits, including financial advising and member experiences. 

Ascent: Best graduate loan for eligibility

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Get 1% cash back when you graduate
  • No fees for paying off your loan early
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Ascent’s graduate school loan is available to nursing and graduate students. Borrowers can receive 1% back from their loan with proof of graduation, and you can get a rate discount of 0.25% for making automatic payments.

You can borrow up to $200,000 from Ascent and choose repayment terms of seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. Ascent offers a nine-month grace period and student loan options with or without a cosigner. You can prequalify for an Ascent student loan on the lender’s website. 

How to get loans for nurses

Applying for student loans for nursing school isn’t complicated. Here’s how to get funding:

  1. Fill out the FAFSA. The first step to getting federal student loans is to complete the FAFSA and submit it by the school’s deadline. The FAFSA is necessary to qualify for all types of federal student loans.
  2. Receive your award letter. Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA, the school’s financial aid department will review the results and determine your eligibility. You’ll get your results in an award letter showing the total amount you qualify for.
  3. Determine whether you need more aid. You can apply for a private student loan if you still need more financial aid or want to explore other options.
  4. Choose a private student loan. Private student loan companies vary. Compare interest rates, repayment terms, in-school repayment options, and fees. Be sure to consider the benefits and downsides of choosing a private rather than a federal loan.


Which nursing school loan is the best?

Picking a nursing school loan depends on what you qualify for. If you’re eligible for federal student loans, they offer more repayment options, loan forgiveness plans, longer forbearance periods, and potentially lower interest rates. 

However, a private student loan may be your only option if you don’t qualify for federal loans.

Do I need a cosigner for nursing school loans?

If you’re taking out a federal student loan, you won’t need a cosigner in most cases. If you’re taking out a Grad PLUS loan and have an adverse event on your credit report, you may need to add an endorser, which is similar to a cosigner. 

Many private loans require a cosigner unless you have good credit and a steady income.

Do nursing school loans cover living expenses?

Nursing school loans may cover the attendance cost, including living expenses. However, if your living expenses exceed the school’s stated average, you’ll have to find another way to cover the cost.

How much can I borrow with nursing student loans?

The amount you can borrow depends on the type of loan. Most graduate loans will let you borrow up to the annual cost of attendance, but some undergraduate loans have lower limits.

When does repayment on nursing school loans start?

Repayment varies depending on the type of loan you have. If you have federal student loans, repayment will begin six months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below part-time status.

If you have private student loans, repayment will vary depending on your lender’s policy. In general, grace periods from private lenders range from six to nine months.

Do any other programs help pay for nursing school?

Nursing school students may qualify for grants and scholarships. You may also be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). 

The federal government also offers loan repayment programs where nurses can work in an underserved community for a certain number of years in exchange for having some of their loans forgiven.

Always focus on getting federal loans first and then searching for nonprofit nursing programs to qualify for PSLF before turning to private student loans.

Recap: Best student loans for nurses

LenderRates (APR)
Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans5.50% for undergraduates, 7.05% for graduate students 
Federal Direct PLUS Loans8.05% 
HRSA Health Professions Student loans5% 
College Ave 4.07% – 14.47
EarnestStart at 4.11% 
Sallie Mae 4.99% – 16.47%
SoFi 4.99%14.50%
Ascent 5.09%15.18%