Nurses are often the unheralded heroes of the medical profession and due to the cost of their education, can often struggle with the copious amounts of student debt they are burdened with after college. Luckily there are several state and federal initiatives that provide nurses access to various student loan forgiveness programs.
Each forgiveness program provides different benefits for nurses depending on their situation. There are those that provide relief from initial college fees, while others provide forgiveness after graduation. The program that you are eligible for will vary depending on your loan and where you live.
Federal Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness: this program is sponsored by the United States Department of Education and is a popular choice for many nurses. For those who qualify, the government will forgive the entire balance of loans that were taken out after October 1st 2007. To be eligible you must have made 120 on time monthly payments and have a full-time job in either the non-profit sector or in public service. Jobs that qualify include nurses, nurse practitioners and any nurse working in a clinical setting. There are several detailed qualification requirements for this program so ensure you do your research to learn more.
2. NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program (LRP): The Nurse Corps program encourages nursing professionals to work in certain areas that have high medical need. In exchange the program will pay for a percentage of their student loan debt. Job tiles that qualify include nurses, practice registered nurses and nurse faculty members.
Those who are accepted into the program will need to work in one of the selected Critical Shortage Facilities for up to two years. The Nurse Corps will then pay 60% of your debt over the two-year period. If the applicant extends their work for a third year, then an additional 25% of the debt will be paid. The program covers several loan types including Stafford loans, Grad Plus loans, Perkins loans, consolidation loans and private student loans.
It is a competitive program and not everyone is accepted with preference going to those who can display evidence of financial struggle.
3. National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program: this program is designed specifically for nurse practitioners who have a desire to work in a high need community. The types of nurse practitioners who are eligible include psychiatric nurse specialists, midwives and other nurse practitioner roles. To qualify you must have worked at an NHSC-approved Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) for a minimum of two years. The amount of loan forgiveness you receive will depend entirely on the community you work in and their needs:
· Those in a community with a HPSA Score of 14-26: Full time employees can receive up to $50,000, while part-time employees can receive up to $25,000.
· Those in a community with a HPSA Score of 0-13: Full time employees can receive up to $30,000, while part-time employees can receive up to $15,000.
If a nurse practitioner receives loan forgiveness as part of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, they cannot simultaneously receive help from the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program. It’s also worth noting that the Nurse Corps program does not offer loan assistance for part-time workers, whereas the National Health Service Corps does.
4. Perkins Loan Cancellation for Nurses: The Perkins Loan Cancellation Program is open to a variety of nursing professions including: medical assistants, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and American registered nursing practitioners. As part of the program, a percentage of your loan is forgiven for each year you are a part of the program. It is calculated in the following manner:
- After working full time for 1 and 2 years, 15% will be forgiven.
- After working full time for 3 and 4 years, 20% will be forgiven.
- After working full time for 5 years, 30% will be forgiven.
The Perkins program is popular for nurses, as after 5 years of full-time work you may be eligible to have your entire Perkins loan paid for through the program. This means your loan is forgiven at twice the speed as if you were in the public service forgiveness program.
For those interested in a loan forgiveness program for nurses, it is worth noting that most states will offer specific programs with different benefits and eligibility requirements. Ensure you do your research into what your state is offering and what you are eligible for.