Becoming a nurse takes dedication and lots of education, which means it’s likely you have at least some student loan debt. Luckily there are several specialized student loan forgiveness programs to help nurses erase their student debt. The most popular and well-known forgiveness program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), where borrowers pay an income-based monthly payment for 10 years and then have their remaining debt forgiven. But there are other forgiveness programs as well, including the Federal Perkins Loan program, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Program, the NHSC Rural Community Program, the National Institute of Health Program, and more. Below we detail the different student loan forgiveness options as well as the qualifications for each specific program. Take a look!
Are There Any Student Loan Forgiveness Programs Specific to Nurses?
Yes! You can receive nursing student loan forgiveness through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP).
This program provides debt relief to nurses who work in underserved communities at critical shortage facilities (CSFs)*. This loan forgiveness program pays up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and nurse faculty (NF).
One advantage of the NCLRP is that it has only a two-year service requirement. (Many loan forgiveness programs require a longer period of service.) To receive an award from this program, you must work two years either at a CSF or as a faculty member at an eligible nursing school.
*CSFs are located in health professional shortage areas (HPSA). These are simply areas that lack enough primary care or mental health professionals to adequately meet the community’s needs. You can see if your facility qualifies by searching the government’s HPSA database.
How Do I Know If I Qualify for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
To qualify for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and be eligible for loan repayment, you must:
Be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident
Have a current, full, permanent, unencumbered, unrestricted license
Have earned a diploma, associate, baccalaureate, graduate, or doctorate degree in nursing and have outstanding nursing educational loans
Be employed as a full-time RN or APRN working at least 32 hours per week at an eligible CSF or an eligible school of nursing
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) — the body that administers the program — gives funding preference to those who need the most financial assistance. The HRSA collects information from applicants to evaluate their eligibility and qualifications.
What Loans Qualify for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
The following loans qualify for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program:
Direct Consolidation Loans (including consolidated Stafford Loans, PLUS Loans, and Perkins Loans)
Federal Direct PLUS Loans (including Grad PLUS Loans)
Private student loans*
*To qualify, private student loans must have been used exclusively for educational expenses for nursing.
Upsolve User Experiences2,017+ Members Online
What Other Student Loan Forgiveness Programs Are There for Healthcare Workers?
There are quite a few student loan forgiveness programs for healthcare workers more broadly, many of which include nurses. Most programs serve specific types of healthcare workers and designate requirements around the length of time you work in healthcare and where you work.
One of the most utilized programs is the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
The NHSC Loan Repayment Program provides help for many healthcare professionals. It also helps underserved communities receive improved access to primary care services. To be eligible for this program, you must complete two years of service.
You may qualify for NHSC relief if you are:
A United States citizen (U.S. born or naturalized) or U.S. national
A provider in the Medicare, Medicaid, or State Children’s Health Insurance Program
Fully trained and licensed to practice in the NHSC-eligible primary care medical, dental, or mental/behavioral health discipline and state in which you are applying to serve
A health professional in an eligible discipline with qualified student loan debt for education that led to your degree
Working at an NHSC-approved site
Eligible healthcare workers include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, health service psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, dentists, and dental hygienists.
Other Top Healthcare-Related Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Here’s a quick list of some other national forgiveness programs for healthcare workers:
In addition to national programs, many states also offer assistance programs for nurses.
For example, Alaska has a SHARP program, which recruits healthcare professionals to work in underserved areas. In return for this service, nurses can receive up to $27,000 per year in loan forgiveness.
Michigan has the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program, which recruits both medical and dental providers to practice in underserved communities that are designated as HPSAs. Only advanced practice nurses qualify for this loan; registered nurses do not qualify.
What Are Some Non-Healthcare Related Student Loan Forgiveness Programs?
Nurses can take advantage of other student loan forgiveness programs even if they don’t target healthcare professionals specifically.
The top nationally recognized programs include the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the Federal Perkins Loan program, and federal income-driven repayment plans.
What Is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?
If you work in public service or for a qualifying nonprofit, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). If so, you can get the balance of your student loans forgiven after 10 years of qualifying repayments.
In addition to working for a qualifying employer, you must have federal Direct Loans and be enrolled in a qualifying repayment plan. Direct Loans are administered through the U.S. Department of Education by the federal government. All qualifying repayment plans are income-driven plans, including:
Formerly the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan
Note: Loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and federal Perkins Loan program can become eligible for PSLF if you consolidate them with a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Who Qualifies for PSLF?
Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you must work full time (at least 30 hours per week). Part-time nurses don’t qualify. You also have to make 120 student loan payments, but the payments don’t have to be made consecutively.
It’s important to make sure that you certify your employment once a year. This means that you must submit a PSLF Employment Certification Form whenever you change employers. This may seem cumbersome, but it will allow you to verify your qualifying payments. It will also verify that you’re working full time for a qualifying employer.
If you don’t qualify for PSLF because you weren’t on an income-driven plan for all your qualifying payments, you may qualify for the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This program allows you to count qualifying monthly payments made after October 1, 2007, even if you were not in an income-driven repayment plan.
What Is Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation? How Can That Help With My Student Loan Debt?
The Perkins Loan program provided low-interest student loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need until the program ended on Sept. 30, 2017.
Borrowers with Perkins Loans can still get them canceled if they meet certain requirements. If you have federal Perkins Loans and work as a nurse, you may qualify to have up to 100% of your loans discharged. Only those working as full-time nurses qualify for discharge. To learn more about this option, read our guide to Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge.
Can a Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan Help With My Student Loan Debt?
If you aren’t eligible for a loan forgiveness program but are struggling to make your monthly payments, look into your income-driven repayment plan options. These programs offer student loan forgiveness after the repayment period ends. Yes, this means you’ll be repaying your loan for 20–25 years before the outstanding loan balance is eligible for forgiveness. But depending on your income, your monthly payment on an IDR may be as low as $0.
What if None of These Programs Are Right For Me? What Other Debt Relief Options Do I Have?
Managing student loan debt can be confusing and overwhelming. You might feel that even with loan repayment assistance options, you’ll still never be able to repay your loans. If so, there’s an option you may not have considered: filing bankruptcy to erase student loan debt.
Contrary to popular belief, you can get your federal student loans discharged through bankruptcy. And there’s no shame in using this legal tool to get a financial fresh start. Many people pursue education and professional credentials as a means to live the American dream. But a good number of these people find themselves in a cycle of debt instead. And often this is through no fault of their own. Many Americans are just one emergency away from falling into debt.
If you feel like you just can’t get ahead, it’s time to take a clear-eyed look at all your options, including bankruptcy. This may be an especially good option for folks who also have a lot of other debt like credit card debt or medical bills. To qualify for student loan bankruptcy, you’ll have to meet certain eligibility requirements and take an extra step to file an adversary proceeding.
It takes just five minutes to use Upsolve’s free screener to see if you’re eligible for free help filing bankruptcy to clear your student loans. Upsolve is a nonprofit that has helped thousands of Americans discharge over $600 million in debt since 2017. You could be next.