Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

Many young people dream about going to school to become a nurse. It’s a rewarding career that pays well, but the schooling required could lead to massive student loan debt. However, if you’re considering going to school to become a nurse—there’s good news! Nurses are in such high demand, that many programs exist that offer student loan forgiveness for nurses.  

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Keep reading to learn about what types of student loan forgiveness programs are available for nurses and how to apply. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

One of the most popular student loan forgiveness programs is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This loan forgiveness program is for borrowers of the federal Direct Loans who are working in a public service field. Nursing is just one of many professions that may apply and qualify for the program. So, what are the qualifications for PSLF?

To qualify for PSLF, you must:

  • Be a student loan borrower on an income-driven repayment plan. 
  • Make 120 on-time payments toward your student loan balance. These installments must also be paid in full in order for them to count.  
  • Be employed by a government agency or a qualifying non-profit organization throughout the time that you are paying down your balance, including the timeframe that your application is being processed. 

You might be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if you work for any of the following types of organizations:

  • A government agency at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal).
  • Non-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
    • If you work for a non-profit organization that is NOT tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as long as their focus is centered around providing a specific type of qualifying public service.  

It’s important to choose the right repayment plan so that you save as much money as you can. Income-driven repayment plans are the way to go in this case because you will likely be paying a low monthly payment over a span of twenty years. If you were to choose a standard 10-year payment plan, your balance would already be paid off by the time you have fulfilled the requirement for the 120 payments. 

This loan is only for Direct federal student loans, but if you have other types of federal loans, you may still be eligible. However, you would have to consolidate your non-Direct loans into a Direct Consolidation loan in order to qualify. Keep in mind that if you consolidate a Direct loan with your non-Direct loans, any payments made on the Direct loan before it was consolidated will no longer count toward your required 120 payments. That being said, a great advantage of this program is that the forgiveness you receive is not considered to be taxable income, unlike some other loan forgiveness programs. 

To apply for this program, you will need to fill out and submit a PSLF Application for Forgiveness. You will also need to fill out an Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form every year or whenever you are to change employers. 

Perkins Loan Cancellation

The Perkins loan program was a popular source of student loans for many students, but it eventually phased out and ended in 2017. Although you may no longer borrow Perkins loans, if you borrowed a Perkins loan before the program ended, you can still apply for loan cancellation. Nurses who used Perkins loans to fund their education could receive loan forgiveness for up to 100% of their student loan balance in exchange for five years of working full-time for a qualifying employer. 

If you are interested in Perkins loan cancellation, you will have to contact the financial aid department at the college you attended or your loan servicer, in order to apply. 

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

As medicine gets more advanced, the need for nurses continues to grow. Because of our large aging population in America, more people than ever are going without health care simply because we do not have enough health care professionals. One reason for this could be due to the cost of programs like nursing schools. 

For this reason, the Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW) in Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) implemented the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (LRP) as an incentive to become a nurse and work in underserved communities in return for student loan repayment. So how does one become eligible for a program such as this one?

To be eligible for this program, you must have:

  • Documentation proving that you are a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National or Lawful Permanent Resident. 
  • A degree in nursing (bachelor’s, associate, diploma, graduate, or doctorate). 
  • An outstanding loan balance from a qualified lender.
  • An up to date and unrestricted Registered Nurse (RN) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license from the state you work in. 

In order to receive student loan forgiveness through the Nurse Corps LRP, you also need to be employed. Here are the two different qualifying employment options:

  1. You are working as an RN or an APRN at a nonprofit Critical shortage Facility (CSF) or
  2. You are working as a nurse faculty member at an eligible nonprofit nursing school. 

You will need to be employed full-time in order to qualify for this program, meaning that you will have to be working at least 32 hours per week. You may not participate in this program if you are already fulfilling your obligation with another loan forgiveness program. 

After you’ve applied and been accepted to the program, you must agree to a contract where you will agree to serve for a minimum of two years as a full-time employee in exchange for student loan repayment. 

Through the course of the Nurse Corps LRP’ two-year timeframe, you will get 60% of your student loans repaid (30% per year). Sometimes, a continuation contract is offered when there is an abundance of funds. With the continuation contract, they will pay 25% more of your student loan debt as a reward for serving one more year, full time. 

This rewards you receive from this program are considered taxable income, which means you will have to pay taxes on the amount, but it should still be significantly less than your student loans would have costed you in full. 

Military student loan forgiveness for nurses

It probably doesn’t come as a shock that there is a high need for nurses in the military as well. This is why the U.S. military has established a student loan repayment program for nearly every branch. 

It’s important to note that this type of loan forgiveness is only available to nurses for have not yet served in the military. For those who have already served, consider looking into a veteran student loan forgiveness program instead. 

One drawback of the military loan forgiveness programs is that the IRS does consider the income to be taxable, so you will need to report this every year when filing. A benefit of these programs, however, is that your lender will receive payment directly from the forgiveness program, so you won’t have to fuss with it. 

The following programs offer student loan forgiveness for nurses in exchange for military service:

  • Army active duty health professions loan repayment program: You can receive up to $120,000 for nursing school loan repayment in exchange for serving three years in the Army
  • Healthcare professionals loan repayment program: You may qualify to receive up to $50,000 in student loan repayment for serving two consecutive years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
  • Navy nurse candidate program (NCP): If you are a nursing student, you may be eligible to receive up to $34,000 to fund your schooling for agreeing to serve in the Navy. 
  • Air force active duty health professions repayment program (ADHPLRP): You can receive $40,000 in student loan repayment for serving at least two years active duty.

State loan forgiveness programs for nurses

Aside from the student loan forgiveness programs offered at the national level, most states offer their own student loan forgiveness programs to aide their residents in getting out of debt. Here are some examples of states that offer student loan forgiveness:

  • Kentucky: The Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program (KSLRP) offers up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness for committing to two years of service at an eligible facility. 
  • Louisiana: The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program offers eligible nurses up to $15,000 per year for three years, with an opportunity to earn an extra $24,000 in student loan forgiveness for serving at an eligible facility. 
  • Minnesota: Eligible nurses of the Nurses Working in Long-Term Care program will need to work with developmentally disabled or work in a nursing home for at least two years in order to receive $5,000 per year in student loan forgiveness. 
  • Montana: the Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program offers rewards for nurses working at Montana state hospitals or prisons, however award amounts vary. 
  • Rhode Island: the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program offers student loan forgiveness for registered nurses who serve in a qualifying area for either two years full-time or four years part-time. 

Hospital loan repayment & reimbursement programs

The student loan forgiveness programs don’t stop there, nurses! Across the nation, there are a few individual hospitals who have taken it upon themselves to establish student loan forgiveness programs for nurses trying to pay down that hefty loan balance. Here are a few examples of hospitals that offer student loan assistance:

  • Cleveland Clinic: Aside from being one of the largest hospitals in the country, this hospital is possibly also one of the best to work at if you are a nurse or nursing student looking for financial help to pay for school. All you have to do is be employed by the Cleveland Clinic for at least 12 months and complete a few required courses. The amounts awarded vary.
  • Craig Hospital: If you are a nurse working for Colorado’s Craig Hospital, you could receive $3,000 in tuition assistance annually and up to $10,000 in student loan repayment for nurses. 
  • Rush University Medical Center: Nurses at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago could benefit from receiving both tuition assistance and 100% tuition repayment on the hospital’s dime. 

As you can see, there is a multitude of student loan forgiveness options available for nurses as long as you are willing to commit to the obligations that your selected program requires. If you think that seeking forgiveness through a student loan repayment program suits your situation, look into your options. If one option is inconceivable, there might be another one that works for you.