The average student graduated college with over $30,600 in debt in 2021. If you went to a 4-year nursing program (or its equivalent), you have probably accumulated around this amount as well.
Tack on grad school costs in case you want to advance your nursing career and you could be looking at around $60,000 in student loan debt.
Even if you do get a well-paying job as most nurses tend to get once they are out of school, a $60,000 loan hanging over your head is still stressful considering that paying back student loans will not be the only responsibility you have after you graduate.
If you are a nurse or healthcare worker who would really like those pesky student loans gone for good, this post is for you. In today’s post, we will provide you with some great resources that will help you get most if not all of your loans forgiven.
This guide is specific to nurses, but you might also find this guide helpful: 80 Ways To Get Student Loan Forgiveness. Let's dive in!
Individual Hospital Loan Repayment/Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Before you start looking elsewhere, find out if the hospital you will work for post-graduation provides nurses with a tuition reimbursement program. This may require you to commit to working with the particular hospital for between 2 and 4 years after you are done with school.
If that commitment does not bother you at all, we recommend applying for such programs to start getting the loans wiped out.
Several branches of the military will take care of your nursing school loans for a set period of service. Serving your country with passion while getting your loans paid off is a win-win!
However, please don’t do this just to get your loans paid off. Getting your loans paid off is simply an amazing benefit afforded our men and women in uniform to appreciate them for their selfless service to the country.
Military education benefits are a confusing arena. We have a full guide to every military and VA education and student loan benefit here.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (Nurse Corps LRP) recruits registered nurses and advanced practice nurses who are dedicated to working in eligible health care facilities that have a severe shortage of nurses or in eligible nursing schools.
In exchange, the Nurse Corps program will pay up to 60% of your outstanding nursing student loan balance if you serve for 2 years and an additiona; 25% if you opt to put in a third year.
In order for them to pay the loans, the debt has to have been incurred prior to you signing your initial 2-year contract with the Nurse Corps.
Check out our student loan forgiveness by state article to see what's available in your state.
In order to be considered for the Nurse Corps LRP, you will need to be employed at a critical shortage facility (CSF). A CSF is defined by the HRSA.gov website as “a public or private nonprofit health care facility located in, designated as, or serving a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) with shortages of primary medical care or mental health professionals”.
Alternatively, you would need to teach at an accredited nursing school where they are short-staffed when it comes to faculty , due to the inadequate replace of aging and retiring faculty in these schools.
You can search for CSFs here.
There is an application process for this program and to be eligible you have to satisfy the following requirements.
- Be a U.S. citizen (either U.S. born or naturalized), U.S. National or Lawfun Permanent Resident.
- Have received bachelor or associate degree in nursing (or an equivalent degree), a diploma in nursing, or graduate degree in nursing
- Be employed as a full-time RN, working at least 32 hours per week, at a public or private nonprofit CSF OR, be employed as a full-time NF member at a public or private, nonprofit, eligible school nursing (see Definition for Eligible School of Nursing)
- Have outstanding qualifying educational loans leading to a diploma or degree in nursing
- Have completed the nursing education program for which the loan balance applies
- Have a current, full, permanent, unencumbered, unrestricted license to practice as an RN in the State in which they intend to practice, or be authorized to practice in that State that is a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact.
- If you intend to practice as an employee of a tribal health program, then you can be licensed in any state. A tribal health program is a Native American tribe or tribal organization that operates any health program or service that is funded wholly or in part by the Indian Health Service (IHS)
The Nurse Corps LRP Customer Care Center can be reached at 1-800-221-9393 TTY – 1-877-897-9910 Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm if you need further details, deadlines for application and instructions.
Perkins Loan Cancellation for Nurses
Full time nurses can receive 100% forgiveness if you received a Perkins Loan while in school. The unique and great thing about this loan cancellation program is that both the principal debt amount and the interest on the debt will be cancelled.
Of course, as you might have already suspected, you do have to provide service in order for your Perkins Loan to be cancelled. Currently the government provides the Perkins Loan Cancellation for nurses who are working full-time providing direct care to patients.
If you are a nurse but currently not providing direct care to patients - example in a Case Manager or another administrative role - you will need to contact your school/state department of education to find out if your role qualifies.
The process can take up to 5 years to get 100% loan forgiveness and another benefit is that each year, a fixed amount of your loan (principal and interest) is cancelled even if you are not eligible for some reason in subsequent years.
Years 1 and 2:
15% each year (30% loan cancellation after 2 years)
Years 3 and 4:
20% each year (total = 70% loan cancellation after 4 years
30% loan cancellation (total = 100% loan cancellation after 5 years)
For the Perkins Loan Cancellation program it is up to your school to determine your eligibility for the program. If your school is closed, you will need to contact your state’s Department of Education on further steps to take.
If your school is not closed, you will have to get in touch with your Bursar’s office or whichever office handled your student loans while on campus. Different schools establish different deadlines you would need to put your request in by - make sure call your school to find out when that particular date is.
After you have submitted the necessary forms and documentation to your school, it is then up to them to determine if you are eligible to have a portion or all of your loans cancelled.
A Few Things To Note:
- You will not qualify for the Perkins Loan Cancellation Program if your loan is currently in default. If your loan is currently in default you will need to get it back to current status to be eligible for this program.
- If you have all or some of your Perkins loan, you will most likely not receive this benefit retroactively on the amount you have already paid.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) forgives the remainder of your loan balance after you have made 120 payments on your student loans under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. This is a great program for both nurses and healthcare workers since the definition of "public service" is very broad.
Qualifying employment includes working for governmental organizations, not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code or a qualifying public service at a not-for-profit organization.
It's important to note that your employer must be a non-profit or the government (like the VA). Some nurses are contractors (i.e. you get a 1099 instead of a W2) or they work for private practices. This won't qualify.
Working for labor unions or partisan organizations, for profit organizations or for non-profits that are not tax-exempt are all not considered qualifying employment under this program.
Your student loan qualifies for the PSLF if you specifically received a loan under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Perkins loans and other types of federal loans don't qualify for this program.
The downside to this program is that it will take you 10 years to qualify as you need to have made 120 payments to have the rest of your loan balance forgiven.
This particular program began in 2007 and so the first set of PSLF benefactors can start receiving forgiveness starting in 2017 (beginning in October 2017, you can start submitting applications for the program.)
More detailed information on the process can be found here: Guide To Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Professional Help For Your Loans
If this sounds challenging or confusing, you can get professional help to figure out what repayment program or student loan forgiveness program might work best for you.
We recommend The Student Loan Planner to help you put together a solid financial plan for your student loan debt. Check out The Student Loan Planner here.
Have you considered student loan forgiveness before? We're happy to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: Clint Proctor