If you are pursuing a career in nursing, congratulations! Becoming a nurse requires extensive schooling, which—unfortunately—may put you into student loan debt. Fortunately, there are several programs of loan forgiveness for nurses. This article will lay out all of these programs so you can make sense of all the jargon, acronyms, and requirements.
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
This program benefits nurses who work in underserved areas in Critical Shortage Facilities (CSF) or in any eligible school of nursing. A CSF is a public or private nonprofit health care facility located in or serving a Health Professional Shortage Area.
The program offers debt relief for up to 85% of nursing student loan debt in exchange for three years of full-time employment. It pays up to 60% of your loan balance if you serve for two years, and an additional 25% if you serve for a third year.
Licensed registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty members, all who received their degrees from an accredited school in the United States. or a U.S. territory, qualify for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program.
The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program only accepts applications once a year. In order to find out when they are taking applications, call the Nurse Corps LRP Customer Care Center at 1-800-221-9393, TTY – 1-877-897-9910.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Under the PSLF program, your Direct Loans may be forgiven after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments toward your student loan debt while working full-time for a qualifying public service or a nonprofit employer. There is no cap to how much debt can be forgiven, but you only qualify for PSLF after you have made 10 years of repayments through an income-driven repayment plan.
You are eligible for PSLF if you work full-time for:
- governmental organizations
- not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code
- a qualifying public service at a not-for-profit organization
Full-time work constitutes your employer’s definition of full-time work or 30 hours a week—whichever is greater.
The best way to make sure you stay on track for PSLF is by submitting an Employer Certification Form every year and any time you switch employers. This will allow the people at Federal Student Aid to notify you about anything you may need to adjust. You can find an ECF form here and a PSLF application here.
Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NLFP)
NFLP is a loan for advanced education nursing students who plan to be nurse faculty, meaning they plan to teach nursing. It’s not only a loan forgiveness program, but also an actual loan that covers two semesters of costs for tuition, software, books, and fees. Up to 85% of the loan is forgiven in exchange for working as full-time nurse faculty at an accredited school.
The school where you get your advanced education nursing degree must be an accredited public or private non-profit school.
It takes four years to receive the full 85% of forgiveness. For the first three years you receive 20% forgiveness per year, and then the final 25% of forgiveness after the fourth year.
Applications are available through your school.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP)
The NHSC LRP offers nurse practitioners, mental health nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists up to $50,000 toward student loan debt in exchange for two years of work at an NHSC-approved site.
NHSC-approved sites are located in or serve a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), which is an area with shortages of primary care or mental health professionals. You can search these areas in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid database or find more information here.
NHSC LRP offers two levels of funding based on the need-level of the community where you work. The need-level is defined by an HPSA score. In sites with a higher HPSA score, you can receive up to $50,000 for a 2-year, full-time service commitment, or $25,000 for a 2-year, half-time service commitment. In sites with a lower HPSA score, you can receive up to $30,000 for a 2-year, full-time service commitment, or $15,000 for a 2-year, half-time service commitment.
You can find more information here.
Health Resources and Service Administration Faculty Loan Repayment Program
The Health Resources and Service Administration Faculty Loan Repayment Program (HRSA FLRP) offers $40,000 in repayment assistance to nurses and other healthcare professionals who are from a “disadvantaged background” and commit to serving as faculty in a Health Professions School for a period of two years.
Each school has different standards for what constitutes an economically or environmentally disadvantaged background, so in order to know if you qualify, contact your school and request that they provide you with their specific requirements.
In broad terms an economically disadvantaged background means you come from a family where the annual household income is lower than low-income threshold as determined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
An environmentally disadvantaged background generally means that an individual didn’t have access to the knowledge or skills required to apply to and enroll at a college or university to pursue undergraduate or graduate education.
A Health Professions School for the purposes of the HRSA FLRP is an accredited public or non-profit private school in a U.S. state or territory that offers programs in:
- Physician Assistant Education
- Public Health (Graduate Level only)
- Veterinary Medicine
- Allied Health
- Allopathic Medicine
- Osteopathic Medicine
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (IHS LRP) offers up to $40,000 in repayment of eligible health education loans in exchange for a two-year service commitment to practicing in facilities that serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities. In order to be eligible, you must be must be an advanced practice nurse or have a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
You can find online application here.
Military Loan Repayment Programs
Several military branches in the United States offer sign-on bonuses and loan repayment plans for nurses. Visit the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard websites for more information.
Perkins Loan Repayment Plans
The federal government stopped offering Perkins Loans as of 2017. If you have Perkins Loans, contact your school and inquire whether you can apply for a loan cancellation program for nurses.
State and Employer Loan Forgiveness Programs
Many states, as well as many employers, offer their own financial assistance and loan forgiveness programs. Be sure to research whether your state or employer offers these. For example, Johnson & Johnson’s Campaign for Nursing has an online directory of assistance programs for nurses, including many employer-sponsored loan repayment programs here.
Be sure to read each program’s terms carefully to see if any situations would disqualify you such as your nationality, prior loan payment defaults, prior loan service defaults, or ineligible loan types. Also note whether the rewards may be taxable or whether they will accrue interest.
Apply Now for Your Loan Forgiveness What are you waiting for?
With so many loan repayment options for nurses, you may very well discover that you are eligible for some debt relief, too!