Private vs. Federal Loans for Nursing Students: Which One to Choose?

Daniel Bal
Updated September 27, 2023
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Review the advantages and disadvantages between federal and private student loans to figure out which to pursue.
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With the cost of postsecondary education continuing to increase, many students need financial help that will allow them to earn their degrees. Fortunately, there are many student loan options that can help reduce the financial burden caused by the cost of tuition.

Keep reading to learn the advantages and disadvantages of private and federal student loans and the best options for nursing students with different backgrounds.

Pros and Cons: Private vs. Federal Loans for Nursing Students

Private and federal loans both have their advantages and disadvantages. The benefits and drawbacks of each may or may not impact one borrower as much as the next. By examining the pros and cons of each, you might have a better idea as to which one would work best for you.

Private vs. Federal Loans
Private Student Loans
  • Higher borrowing limits
  • Quick approval
  • Not need based
Federal Student Loans
  • May not cover all costs
  • Defaulting can lead to garnished wages or loss of tax refunds
  • Declaring bankruptcy will not wipe out the loan
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Which Loan Option Should You Choose?

Deciding which financial aid option for nurses works best depends on the individual student — it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. According to Will Geiger, CEO of, and Ryan McCarty, a certified financial planner with a bachelor’s in health information, it is best for students to initially exhaust any and all federal loan options.

Geiger finds that the main benefit of doing this is the federal loans’ flexible payment options and the potential for student loan forgiveness for nurses. McCarty also finds the repayment plans the best part of federal loans, emphasizing that payments will not need to be made until after graduation, which can relieve some financial burden.

However, most federal loans may not be able to cover the entire cost of education. Private loans can help students close the gap. Students who need the extra financial cushion can apply for private loans. Geiger recommends shopping around for the best interest rates when taking this route.

Before deciding which route to take, students need to determine their eligibility to receive a federal loan by filling out theFree Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once they submit their FAFSA and receive a response, students will then know if they need a private loan to supplement what they receive from the government.

Essentially, more students benefit from initially looking into federal loans before deciding if they need to tap into private loans.

FAQ: Private vs. Federal Loans for Nursing Students

question-mark-circleAre there special loans for nursing students?

Nursing students have access to loan options created with them in mind, such as the ones offered through theHealth Resources and Services Administration. They also have access to direct subsidized loans for all students with financial need, direct unsubsidized loans for undergraduate and graduate students, and Direct Plus Loans, which can cover the total cost of schooling yet requires a credit check and has a higher interest rate.

question-mark-circleCan nurses get federal student loan forgiveness?

Yes, nurses can receive federal student loan forgiveness that can help mitigate the financial burden. Most of these programs offer loan forgiveness in exchange for employment commitments.

Many programs provide full or partial forgiveness, especially for nurses who agree to work in underserved communities. Most nurses are then obligated to fulfill that commitment for a certain length of time.

question-mark-circleHow can I get my student loans forgiven as a nurse?

There are several national programs that provide loan forgiveness for nurses.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: This program is offered to nurses who work in underserved communities at critical shortage facilities. Nurses who work 32 hours a week for a period of two years can get 60% of their student loans paid off.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: Nurses who work for the government or a nonprofit full time and make 120 loan payments will have the rest forgiven.

National Health Service Corps: Nurse practitioners or nurse midwives who work in designated health professional shortage areas may be eligible for loan assistance. It requires a two-year commitment in exchange for $50,000 as a full-time worker or $25,000 as a part-time worker.

question-mark-circleHow can a nurse pay off student loans faster?

After graduation, it’s recommended that you pay the minimum on your federal loans while maximizing payments on private loans. Since private loans tend to have a higher interest rate, paying them off first will save time and money.

If you cannot make the payments, look into student loan refinancing, which can help restructure the monthly payment. Maintaining a high credit score and having stable income will give you the best chance at lowering your monthly payment with refinancing.

Regardless of your repayment method, you should immediately budget a portion of your nursing income to help pay off student loans.

Meet Our Contributors

Portrait of Will Geiger

Will Geiger

Will Geiger is the cofounder and CEO of where he’s helped students pay for college for the past decade. In his career, he has counseled hundreds of families through the admissions and financial aid processes and has read over 10,000 college and scholarship applications.

Portrait of Ryan McCarty

Ryan McCarty

Ryan McCarty holds a bachelor’s in health information. Seeking debt freedom after graduation, McCarty discovered a passion for financial education. He earned his certified financial planner certifications and now owns and operates his own firm that specializes in assisting healthcare workers with a particular focus on nursing.


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