Nursing is one of the noblest professions. Nurses save lives, helping people enjoy happier and healthier times. There are plenty of other perks to the job too, including high average salaries. But the costs of studying to be a nurse can add up to some high amounts, which is why student loan forgiveness for nurses is important.
The average salary of a registered nurse is $73,550, but this figure can vary quite a lot from one state to another. Nurses in California, for example, earn $102,700 on average, while those in South Dakota are earning almost half the amount of their West Coast counterparts at $57,010. With recent statistics showing that the need for qualified health care professionals is increasing, salaries may also begin to rise accordingly. So it’s a great time to become a nurse practitioner.
Meanwhile, however, the latest statistics show that America is dealing with more than $1.5 trillion of student loan debt. Nurses have to pay a particularly high price, with average debts between $40,000 and $54,999 for graduated nurses. It’s reasonable, therefore, that many graduates are looking for options to get federal student loan forgiveness for nurses.
Fortunately, with a lot of different state-based and federal loan programs to choose from, nurses can get student loan forgiveness in many different ways. Some of the very best loan forgiveness programs are available to nurses. This guide will look at all of your different options, covering eligibility, amount of forgiveness, the application process, and offering advice on how effective each option is.
# 1 – Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program for Nursing Loan Forgiveness
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP) is one of the top options for nurses looking for nursing loan forgiveness. Available for registered nurses, as well as nurse faculty members and advanced practice nurses, the NCLRP can pay off up to 85% of your student debt.
The main aspect you need to know about the NCLRP is that this form of student loan forgiveness for nurses isn’t just offered out based on eligibility requirements. You actually need to do some work in exchange for the reward.
In order to get up to 85% of your student loan debts forgiven, you’ll need to work 2+ years in a Critical Shortage Facility or work as nurse faculty in one of the eligible nursing schools. Essentially, this program exists to encourage nurses to work in locations that really need them.
So, before even applying for this option, you’ll need to think about whether or not you’re prepared to do the work.
Eligibility Requirements for Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The application requirements for the Nurse Corps LRP are as follows:
- Citizenship – You must be a US citizen, a US national, or lawful permanent resident.
- Education – You’ll need to have a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing, or a diploma or graduate degree in nursing.
- Work – You’ll need to hold a full-time RN position at a public or private CSF, working a minimum of 32 hours each week. The only other option is to work as a full-time nurse faculty member at a public or private school. You can find out more details on CSFs here, and you can find eligible schools here.
- Status – You might be either a licensed RN, a nurse faculty member, or an advanced practice registered nurse.
- Additional Information – You’ll also need to have outstanding student loans and you’ll need to have a full and unrestricted license to practice as a nurse in the state you plan to work in.
How Much Will Be Forgiven?
One of the best benefits of the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is just how effective it can be at paying off large amounts of your outstanding educational debt, but the amount of nurse loan forgiveness you get will depend on how much work you actually do.
- Those who do two years of work in an eligible Critical Shortage Facility or nursing school will get 60% of their loan balance paid off. This is the baseline for participation in the program.
- You’ll then have an option to do an extra year of work in your chosen location. If you complete the third year, you’ll get another 25% of your loan forgiven. In total, you can get 85% nursing loan forgiveness with the NCLRP.
How To Apply
To apply for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, the first step is to consider all of the eligibility requirements and ensure that you meet them. When you’re ready to proceed, you can download and fill in the corresponding application form. The form can then be submitted via the Bureau Health Workforce portal. You can also look into the National Health Service Corps.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: Worth it?
Many nurses consider applying for the NCLRP and it’s easy to see why. As a nurse, this is one of the best loan forgiveness options available to you. Not only can it pay off a huge amount of your debt, it can also provide you with valuable experience.
Working in a CSF or eligible nursing school is a great way to put your training and experience to the test. These locations are in desperate need of more nursing staff, so offering your services is a valuable way to help out, and the NCLRP has proven effective at providing relief and support to facilities in need.
Those looking at it from a purely personal standpoint can stand to receive up to 85% of student loan forgiveness for nurses. Plus, all of that money can be paid off within just three years, and the eligibility requirements are relatively minimal.
# 2 – Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is another federal student loan forgiveness for nurses option you might like to consider. This system, as its name implies, is designed to help people throughout the public sector, so it can help people in many different jobs and roles get forgiveness for their loans. It’s only recently come into effect, however.
The story of the PSLF begins in 2007. It was signed in under George W. Bush. This program was initiated under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 in order to try and get qualified professionals into public service jobs. It incentivizes these jobs by providing loan forgiveness when certain criteria are met.
A big part of those criteria is the fact that all applicants need to have made 120 regular qualifying payments for their student loans. This means you need to have 10 whole years of payments before you can even apply. It also means that the first set of eligible candidates weren’t able to send off their applications until 2017.
The statistics behind the PSLF make for quite pleasant reading, however. The latest reports from the Department of Education show that 1,089,846 borrowers are on track to get their loans forgiven. So far, less than 1,000 people have enjoyed loan forgiveness through the PSLF, but estimates suggest that in 2027, 400,000 people will be approved.
Eligibility Requirements for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you’re planning on making use of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness for nurse loan forgiveness, you’ll need to meet these requirements:
- Loans – You’ll need to have direct loans through any of the four main repayment programs (PAYE, RePAYE, IBR, or ICR). Other loan types are not eligible.
- Workplace – Nurses shouldn’t have any problem covering workplace requirements. All state, local, tribal, and federal government organizations are covered, as well as not-for-profit organizations.
- Work – You’ll need to have a full-time nursing position. Part-time nurses do not qualify.
- Payments – The most important criteria for the PSLF program is your payment history. You’ll need to have made a total of 120 qualifying payments in order to qualify for this form of nursing loan forgiveness. A ‘qualifying payment’ is one that has been made since October 1 of 2007. All payments need to have been made as part of a qualifying repayment plan and can’t have been late by more than 15 days either. The full amount due for each payment also needs to have been paid. Make sure to fill out an employment certification form and submit it to FedLoan Servicing, which is the loan servicer for this particular program.
How Much Will Be Forgiven?
Many public service workers choose the PSLF program due to the fact that it has the potential to completely wipe out their outstanding educational debt. That’s part of what makes this one of the best options for loan forgiveness for nurses. Once you’ve made all of your 120 qualifying monthly payments and gotten through the approval process (which can take some time), all of your remaining debt will be forgiven.
How To Apply
Before you go ahead and apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you’ll need to read through the full requirements and make your 120 qualifying repayments. After that, all you need to do is fill out the PSLF application form and send it off to the US Department of Education. You can make use of the PSLF Help Tool in preparation for applying for the program; this tool will let you know if your current repayment plan qualifies for the PSLF.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Worth it?
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is becoming the number one option for nurses and other public service workers looking to get their loans forgiven. The program started off slow, with only a few dozen applicants actually getting forgiveness in the first year of eligibility, but it’s starting to speed up now.
The Department of Education has revealed that more and more candidates are going to become eligible for this program in the years to come, and the latest figures show that the rate of approvals is soaring. The actual approval time can be lengthy, but once you do get approved, the biggest advantage of the PSLF is that it forgives your outstanding debt entirely.
Many nurses hesitate between the PSLF and the NCLRP. The Nurse Corps program can only forgive a maximum of 85% of your debt, but it can be obtained within just three years. The PSLF, meanwhile, offers full loan forgiveness, but you’ll need to wait 10 years to get it. The option you choose will, therefore, depend on your own situation and preferences. Some will be happy to wait, while others will favor the short-term gains of the NCLRP.
# 3 – Perkins Nursing Loan Forgiveness
Perkins loans have stopped being offered since late 2017, but there are many nurses out there who benefited from these loans during their studies. If you are one of them, you can seek out specific loan cancellation and discharge for your Perkins loans. Those who did not take out Perkins loans, however, won’t be able to benefit from this particular option of nurse loan forgiveness.
Federal Perkins loans, named in recognition of former US House of Representatives member Carl D. Perkins, were given to students in extreme financial situations. These loans were made to help low-income people. The Perkins loans system was only available at certain schools, however, and it officially came to an end on September 30, 2017. Fortunately, those who had Perkins loans and still have outstanding debt can benefit from loan forgiveness.
Eligibility Requirements for Perkins Nursing Loan Forgiveness
Here are the eligibility requirements you’ll need to be aware of for Perkins loan cancellation and discharge:
- Work – To qualify, you’ll need to be providing full-time primary care to patients. Nurses who are not actively providing direct care (like those in administrative or management roles) may still qualify, but the fine print on this matter can be quite vague and complex. It’s a good idea to get in touch with your school to learn more.
- Loan – Your loan cannot be in default and, of course, it must be a Perkins loan, as no other loan types qualify for this specific form of forgiveness.
- Discharge Requirements – Your Perkins loan may be entirely discharged in cases of bankruptcy, disability, school closure, and other extreme situations.
How Much Will Be Forgiven?
One of the advantages of seeking Perkins loan forgiveness for nurses is that it has the potential to wipe out all of your outstanding debt, but the process will take 5 years in total. Here’s how it works:
- Applicants with 1-2 years of nursing experience can get 15% of their loans forgiven.
- Applicants with 3-4 years of nursing experience can get 20% of their loans forgiven.
- Applicants with 5 years of experience can get 30% of their Perkins loans forgiven.
- Once you’ve finished your 5th year, 100% of your loans will be forgiven.
- All of the loan forgiveness for each year also covers interest.
How To Apply
One of the downsides to seeking Perkins loan forgiveness for nursing is the application process. You can’t just fill out an application form and send it off. Instead, you’ll have to get in touch with your school. You should contact the Bursar’s office or whichever authority was in charge of handling loans. Schools have their own policies in place regarding this matter, and they are the ones who decide whether or not you’re eligible for loan forgiveness.
Perkins Nursing Loan Forgiveness: Worth it?
This form of nursing loan forgiveness can be life-changing. But it only applies to those who benefited from Perkins loans in the first place. If you have Perkins loan debt, it’s worth contacting your school and learning more about the process.
# 4 – State-Based Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
There are actually several state-specific programs offering student loan forgiveness for nurses. The nature of these programs varies from state to state, and you may even find that your state doesn’t offer any programs at all. However, it’s wise to do your research and take a look at the options.
From Alaska to Maryland, individual nursing loan forgiveness and repayment programs exist. As stated, the individual aspects of these programs can vary from one state to the next. In Alabama, for example, the Advanced Practice Loan Repayment program offers reimbursement of up to $12,000 to those seeking CRNP, CRNA, or CNM degrees.
Up in the frosty environs of Alaska, the SHARP program can provide up to $27,000 of nurse loan forgiveness each year. In sunny Florida, meanwhile, the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program offers up to $4,000 of student loan forgiveness for nurses each year to those working full-time in certain hospitals and organizations.
You can find full details on individual programs in your state online and take a look at the specific details and requirements for each one.
State-Based Loan Repayment Assistance Programs: Worth it?
These kinds of loan repayment and loan forgiveness programs are always worth looking into, at the very least. You might find that you already qualify for the programs in your state and could immediately benefit from thousands of dollars of loan forgiveness you weren’t even aware of.
However, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each program and compare them with the other options listed above like the PSLF and the NCLRP before applying for one or the other. In some cases, you might be able to apply for multiple programs at once. In general, however, you can only make use of one.
What If I Don’t Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses?
If you aren’t able to qualify for any of the nursing loan forgiveness programs, there are alternative options and services available to help you with outstanding educational debt. These options include:
- Hospital Programs – You might find that the hospital you work for also provides a loan repayment or reimbursement program of its own. Many hospitals across the country provide these kinds of programs, particularly those in need of nursing staff and looking for ways to bring more nurses in. In fact, around 60% of employers offer some kind of tuition reimbursement program.
- Military Programs – If you’re willing and able to serve your country, joining the military is another option for getting your nursing loans paid off. Several different branches of the military will cover your loan payments if you undertake a set amount of service. The US Army, for example, can offer up to $120,000 of loan forgiveness in total, with up to $40,000 per year of service. Those in the Navy can also make use of the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program, also offering up to $40,000 of repayments each year.
- Expiry – If you’re on any kind of income-driven repayment plans like IBR, RePAYE, PAYE, or ICR, your loans will eventually become eligible for forgiveness. They almost have an ‘expiry date’, which can vary depending on the type of repayment plan you’re on. Those on an IBR plan, for example, will be able to have loan forgiveness after 25 years of payments.
- Refinancing – Statistics show that the average monthly student loan payment of a US graduate is $393, but student loan refinancing can assist you in making smaller and fewer payments. It works by having a refinancing provider like SoFi paying off your student loans and giving you another one with a more attractive rate. Various services exist to help you find the best student loan refinancing; Futurefuel is one example, able to help borrowers lower their rates by up to 1.7%, getting better deals and reducing their overall repayments.
- Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program – The Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program is another option for nurses looking for loan forgiveness. This program is for those nurses who are working in Native communities in a health professional shortage area. You can get up to $40,000 of loan forgiveness after just two years of work, and you can continue working after that two-year period to pay off the rest of your debt if you have any leftover.
When you know where to look, student loan forgiveness for nurses can actually be very accessible No matter where you’re working or what kind of nursing work you’re doing, you have a few different options to consider in order to help reduce the amount of outstanding debt you owe.
Many programs, like the PSLF and the Perkins loan forgiveness program, can wipe out your student loan debt entirely. Many state programs are available too. And even if you don’t qualify for any of those programs, you can always make use of alternative services and systems to at least bring down the costs of your student loan repayments.
Countless nurses all across America are dealing with huge amounts of student debt, but there are ways out of it. These programs and services can assist you, but you have to take action and apply to get the benefits. The faster you act, the sooner you’ll start getting the nurse loan forgiveness you need.
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