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Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

September 15, 2020 | Staff Writers

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At all degree levels, nursing school requires a large financial investment that often involves taking on student loan debt. Data from the National Student Nurses’ Association suggests that nearly 70% of nursing students utilize student loans to pay for their degree. While nursing graduates may land high-paying jobs, it often takes nurses several years to pay off their student loan debt.

The size of a student’s debt balance typically corresponds to the length of time it takes to complete their degree, although the National Student Nurses’ Association reports that even some registered nurses with an associate in nursing degree accumulated up to $80,000 in student loans. Students completing graduate school, according to a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said they expected to owe a median debt of $40,000-$54,999.

To help mitigate the burden of student loan debt, student loan forgiveness programs for nurses offer financial assistance in exchange for work commitments. This guide utilizes advice from experts on nursing student loan forgiveness programs to help you apply for state and national student loan forgiveness programs.

What is Loan Forgiveness and How Does it Work?

Nursing graduates can turn to student loan forgiveness programs and cancellation programs to help eliminate their student loans. Programs may offer full or partial financial help when nurses commit to work in specific underserved areas.

Dr. Karen Crowley, associate professor at the School of Nursing at Regis College, explains that student loan forgiveness programs offer both the chance to eliminate student loan debt and gain continued job security. However, nurses should understand program specifications before accepting funds. “It is essential that nursing students and nurses understand what will be required of them, for how long, and decide if these requirements are something they see as feasible,” she says.

Student loan forgiveness programs do come with strings attached. Many require students to fulfill at least two-year work terms. Crowley reminds nurses considering these programs that “because of the requirements set by these programs, nurses won’t have the flexibility of where they work or switching employers without loss of the forgiveness benefits.”

College Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

  • Nurse Faculty Loan Program

    If they agree to teach for four years after graduation, learners studying for their master’s or doctorate in nursing can apply for funding to pay for tuition and other college expenses.

    The NFLP offers up to $35,500 for each academic year. Crowley explains, “NFLP recipients can earn up to 85% of loan cancellations upon completion of four years of employment as a nurse educator.”

    To receive financial help, nursing students must attend an accredited nursing school, sign a promissory note, meet academic standards, and show an interest in working as a nurse educator. Full- and part-time students may apply.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

    This program offers nurses up to 85% of reimbursement toward their unpaid student loan debt. Registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty can apply.

    Eligible nurses must work in a high-need facility, known as a “critical shortage facility,” for at least two years, or at an approved college. Additionally, as Crowley notes, “Nurses must maintain an unencumbered license, have an unpaid loan balance related to any level of education for nursing and have completed the nursing program to be eligible for this program.”

    Nurses receive 60% of their debt paid off over two years. After that, nurses receive funds to cover 25% of their remaining loans.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness

    Full-time working nurses who have made at least 120 monthly payments on their Direct Loan through an income-driven repayment plan can find a reprieve from their debt through this program. Qualified applicants must work at least 30 hours a week at a site that meets the program guidelines. Applicants who merge their loans into a Direct Loan may be eligible.

    This program benefits nurses based on their employer, not the type of work they do. Qualified employers include AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and nonprofits. Employees of tribal governments and state, local, or federal government organizations may also apply.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • Perkins Loan Cancellation

    Seasoned nurses who have been serving high-need communities for five consecutive years or more may apply. This program also benefits teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement officers.

    According to program guidelines, eligible applicants must have received their Perkins Loan before 2017. Crowley explains that nurses can potentially “receive 100% of federal loan forgiveness.”

    The applicant’s work or volunteer history also determines whether they can receive reimbursement for all or some of their outstanding loans. Some applicants can apply to have their loan “discharged” or completely forgiven in cases of school closure, death, or bankruptcy.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • Army Nurse Corps Benefits

    If they agree to enlist in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and complete at least three years of service, nurses can receive up to $120,000 in funding to repay their student loans. Candidates who meet the requirements can receive $40,000 per year, over three years.

    Nurses in the Army also receive benefits, salaries, and housing allowances. They work in their own communities, helping soldiers and their families. Crowley mentions that nurses who enlist part-time in the Army Reserve can receive prorated student loan forgiveness. Some nurses also receive a signing bonus.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • Disadvantaged Faculty Loan Repayment Program

    The FLRP benefits nursing instructors who devote their careers to teaching the next wave of nurses. Qualified recipients get up to $40,000 to repay their student loans. They must work at an approved college for at least two years.

    Requirements for this program include proof of a college degree or certificate in a healthcare field. The program accepts U.S. citizens from disadvantaged backgrounds. Registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses can apply.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • Indian Health Service

    To recruit healthcare practitioners to underserved American Indian and Alaska Native communities, the IHS program offers nurses as much as $40,000 in repayment toward unpaid educational loans. Qualified nurses must commit to work in understaffed areas for at least two years. They work in hospitals, clinics, or tribal agencies serving communities experiencing nurse shortages.

    Nurses do not have to be of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage to receive help. Those who meet requirements can renew their application annually. Undergraduate loans that paid for prerequisites that meet graduate degree requirements can also qualify for repayment.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • The Kaiser Permanente Student Financial Aid Program

    Kaiser Permanente employees can qualify to receive scholarships and student loans. Applicants must meet academic standards and enroll in a program through the Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences.

    Applicants must submit their official transcripts from an accredited college, showing their grades earned during an associate program, or a higher degree. Students must maintain a “C” average or better to quality for tuition reimbursement.

    To apply for the school, candidates must also submit two letters of reference, a resume, and application fee. They also need to shadow healthcare professionals for at least eight hours.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • National Health Service Corps

    When nurses make a commitment to work for at least two years at an NHSC-approved location, they can receive loan repayment assistance. Eligible sites must be located in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area.

    To meet qualifications for loan reimbursement, nurses must hold U.S. citizenship and work at a facility serving Medicare, Medicaid, or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program patients.

    Healthcare professionals, such as certified nurse midwives and nurse practitioners can apply. All applicants must submit supplemental documents, including loan information verification and proof of U.S. citizenship.

    Learn more about the program here.

  • State-Level Loan Forgiveness Programs

    Nurses saddled with student loan debt can apply to state loan forgiveness programs. While guidelines and award amounts vary by state, generally nurses need to be U.S. citizens and hold a valid state license. States like California require nurses to work full time for two years, or part time for four years.

    The California State Loan Repayment Program staffs areas designated as California Health Professional Shortage Areas with nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives. “California nurses can apply to receive up to $10,000 a year for a maximum of three years for working in either a healthcare provider shortage area or in a medically underserved area,” explains Crowley.

    In Michigan, qualified registered nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists may qualify for up to $200,000 through the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program.

Financial Aid Resources for Nurses


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