Nursing is a well-paid field with job growth expected to rise 15% in the coming years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the demand for students’ time and cost of tuition have left medical graduates carrying high student loan debt. Nursing is no exception.
The student loan debt burden nurses carry has not gone unnoticed. Forgiveness programs are in place to support nurses as they serve their communities. One of those programs is the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (Nurse Corps LRP).
What is the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
The Nurse Corps LRP is operated by the Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). All data and records for the program are stored with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the HRSA, “Too many Americans—particularly in underserved areas—go without checkups, preventive screenings, vaccines, and other care, simply because there are not enough health care professionals to provide care and treatment in their communities.”
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program works to address this demand for nurses. The program is an incentive to work with underserved communities in exchange for student loan repayment. Approximately 1.9 million people receive care from a Nurse Corps facility network.
Who is eligible for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
The Nurse Corps LRP will pay off a large chunk of your student loans if you meet eligibility requirements.
To be eligible, you must first:
- Be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National or Lawful Permanent Resident, and provide documentation of your status
- Earn a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing, a diploma in nursing, or graduate or doctorate degree in nursing
- Have outstanding qualifying student loans for your nursing degree
- Hold a current and unrestricted license to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Your license should be in the state you are working.
You must also be employed to be eligible for the Nurse Corps LRP. You can be employed as either:
- An RN or APRN at a public or private nonprofit Critical Shortage Facility (CSF); or
- A nurse faculty member at a public or private nonprofit eligible school of nursing
With both of these options, you have to be working full time, at least 32 hours per week. It’s important to note that you can’t take part in this program if you’re already under obligation or contract with another loan forgiveness program.
If you meet all these eligibility requirements, you then apply and agree to a contract.
What are the contract requirements for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
It’s important to know ahead of time that you’ll sign a contract of service. You’ll agree to work for at least two years full time to receive student loan forgiveness.
You can opt for two different contract options for service:
- A contract for a Nurse Corps LRP participant serving as an RN or APRN at a CSF; or
- A contract for a Nurse Corps LRP participant serving as nurse faculty at an eligible school of nursing
You should be certain of your choice. You’re not allowed to switch to another service option during your contract. Some nurses may get an optional continuation contract for a third year of service. This would offer additional student loan repayment if agreed upon.
How much can be forgiven with the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
Now for the best part: how much of your nursing student loan debt can be forgiven?
The Nurse Corps LRP will pay 60% of your qualifying student loans for the first two years of service. Thirty percent will be paid each year of the two-year contract. Award payments are made each month during this time into an approved account.
In order for your student loans to qualify, they must have been:
- Taken out while pursuing your qualifying nursing degree or diploma
- Acquired before the submission deadline of the application
- In good standing, without any federal liens or judgments
A continuation contract may be offered to some nurses. This contract asks for a third year of service. It offers for an additional 25% of your qualifying student loans to be forgiven. This extra award is only offered when funds are available.
Note that you’ll have to pay taxes on the full amount that’s repaid.
The total possible forgiveness is 85% of your student loan debt. If you meet the qualifications, you’ll want to look into submitting an application.
What is the application process for Nurse Corps Loan Repayment?
You’ll complete the Nurse Corps LRP application online and provide all supporting documents, including:
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship or proof of being a U.S. National or Lawful Permanent Resident
- Authorized release form with a handwritten signature
- Resume or Curriculum vitae (CV)
- Verification of the chosen CSF site
- Loan documents as found on the National Student Loan Data System website
They may ask for more verification documents depending on your application information.
If you’re selected, you’ll receive a Confirmation of Interest email asking you to log into your application and confirm.
The online application is only available when submissions are open. You can sign up for HRASA email updates to keep up with the program. If you have any questions about the Nurse Corps LRP, contact the HRSA customer care at:
1-800-221-9393 (TTY: 1-877-897-9910)
Monday through Friday (except federal holidays)
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern time)
Is this the best loan repayment option for nurses?
This is an exceptionally fast forgiveness program for nurses who agree to work in a CSF. Programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness take 10 years before you can earn forgiveness, making the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program worth it based on time alone.
Location is a huge factor to consider as well — but the options for work locations may be more plentiful than you think. To find approved Nurse Corps LRP job sites and current job openings, use the Health Workforce Connector tool. You may find some not too far from home.
There are, of course, many more loan repayment options for nurses. You’ll want to look into all of them, including those that are state-specific, before making your decision. If you need help reviewing your options for paying back your student loan debt, schedule a consultation with one of the professionals here at Student Loan Planner.