Becoming a nurse is an excellent way to serve others in need as well as earn a good living. Nursing school, however, can lead to large amounts of student loan debt and hefty monthly payments. Several national and state student loan forgiveness programs have been created to attract new nursing candidates because the demand for nurses is so high.
In addition to helping borrowers handle their nursing student loans, these loan forgiveness programs also support the growing need for quality healthcare workers. This is especially true for areas of the country that have critical shortages.
Editor’s Note: We cover the major nurse student loan forgiveness programs in this article. While the PSLF Waiver program expired on October 31, 2022, the IDR Waiver has many of the same benefits and remains in effect through May 1, 2023. Many nurses could get their entire debt forgiven under this program. Keep reading to see if you’re among them, or if you should pursue a different forgiveness option.
Nursing career outlook
The need for qualified nurses is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030. That’s faster than the average growth rate for all occupations, which is 4%.
The demand for specialized healthcare services is on the rise due to several factors. For example, increasing chronic conditions that need care is driving demand. Also, an aging population in general means that more healthcare workers will be needed in the future. Add a pandemic and mental health crisis in the U.S., and it makes sense that nurses are in demand.
Student loan forgiveness programs for nurses have different requirements. Generally, an individual can have a portion of their student loan debt forgiven after fulfilling specific service criteria.
Other forgiveness programs require a certain number of qualifying student loan payments for the balance to be approved for student loan forgiveness.
Here are the student loan forgiveness programs for nurses you should know about.
National student loan forgiveness programs for nurses
The federal government has a few student loan forgiveness programs that nurses can tap into. Be sure to check each program’s specific qualifications before applying.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
One of the best loan forgiveness programs for nurses is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This loan forgiveness program is a relief option for public service professionals who have qualifying federal Direct Loans.
What are the qualifications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
- Have student loans through any federal income-driven repayment (IDR) programs.
- AND make 120 qualifying payments on your student loan. The 120 payments don’t need to be consecutive, but they do need to be paid on time and in full to qualify.
- AND work for a government or qualifying nonprofit organization the entire time you are making qualifying payments, as well as during the application process.
What are qualifying organizations?
- Any federal, state, local or tribal government organization.
- OR not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
- OR other types of not-for-profit organizations that are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, if their primary purpose is to provide certain types of qualifying public services.
What loan repayment programs qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
The four Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR) that qualify for PSLF are:
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
The standard 10-year repayment plan technically qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness as well. But under that repayment plan, your student loans would be completely paid off in 10 years, leaving you with no forgivable balance. So, to receive any benefit from PSLF, you’ll need to join one of the income-based plans.
If you have other non-Direct federal student loans, you’d need to consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Any payments made on qualifying loans before consolidating under normal rules no longer count toward your 120 loan payments for PSLF. It’s best to keep loans that qualify for this loan forgiveness program separate from your other loans.
Another great feature of Public Service Loan Forgiveness is that forgiven loan amounts aren’t considered income by the Internal Revenue Service. That is to say, they are not taxable.
The Limited IDR Waiver program
The IDR Waiver program applies to all borrowers, including nurses. It can give you credit for qualifying payments for PSLF or an IDR repayment plan. For PSLF credit, you must be employed at a qualifying employer when the Department of Education makes the account adjustment to your forgiveness credit.
According to StudentAid.gov, “Based on the newly eligible months from the one-time account adjustment, borrowers who have reached 240 or 300 months’ worth of payments for IDR forgiveness or 120 months of PSLF will begin to see their loans forgiven in November 2022. All other borrowers will see their accounts update in July 2023.”
There’s no form to submit to apply for the one-time IDR adjustment. However, if you have an FFEL loan, you must apply for consolidation by May 1, 2023, to get PSLF credit.
Perkins loan cancellation
Nurses with Federal Perkins loans may qualify to get up to 100% of their student loans canceled for five years of qualifying full-time service. You must contact your school’s financial aid department or your designated loan servicer to apply.
The Perkins loan program ended in September 2017. But if you received Perkins loans before it ended, you are still eligible to apply for Perkins loan cancellation.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) oversees the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program. Through this loan repayment program, qualifying nurses can get up to 85% of their student loan debt paid off. However, they must commit to working for two to three years in a critical shortage facility in the United States.
How to qualify
According to the HRSA website, you need to meet the following criteria to qualify for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program:
- A licensed registered nurse; or
- An advanced practice registered nurse; or
- A nurse faculty member with qualifying nursing debt
You received your nursing education from:
- An accredited school of nursing located in a U.S. state or territory
You work full time in:
- An eligible critical shortage facility in a high-need area or
- An accredited school of nursing as a member of the nurse faculty
How taxes impact your payment amount
Unfortunately, Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program payments are subject to federal taxes. Therefore, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program withholds federal income tax and FICA taxes from its payments. Taxes are paid directly to the IRS on your behalf, so you don’t have to deal with it. But this means the total amount repaid will actually be less than the percentage awarded.
Military student loan forgiveness for nurses
The United States military offers several student loan forgiveness programs that apply to nurses. But any military repayment options are only available to those who have not yet served in the military.
As with all of the military college loan repayment programs, payments are made on the outstanding principal balance of your student loans. However, they do not cover any accrued interest.
Also, unlike PSLF, loan repayment does count as taxable income according to the IRS and should be reported annually. With the military repayment programs, payments are made directly to your lender. Also, taxes are withheld for the IRS before payments are made.
Army Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
Through the Army Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program, nurses who enlist for at least three years of active duty can get 33.3% of their loan principal balance paid for by the Army. But you must score 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to qualify for loan repayment.
According to the Army’s website, “As a participant in this program, you may qualify for up to $120,000 to repay your nursing school loans. Under this three-year program, you may receive up to $40,000 annually for qualifying educational loans.”
First, it’s important to note that only federal loans qualify for loan repayment through the Army. Second, nurses should know that joining the Army Nurse Corps as an officer can earn you a sign-on bonus of up to $30,000.
Army Reserves Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program
Nurses who serve in the Army Reserves on their healthcare team may be eligible for up to $50,000 to repay nursing school loan debt. With this loan repayment program, nurses can get up to $20,000 for two consecutive years of service. Also, there is an option for an extra $10,000 loan repayment for a third year.
Army Reserves College Loan Repayment Program
If you are a nurse serving in the Army Reserves, you can receive up to $50,000 to repay college loans. But you must enlist in the Army Reserves for six years to be eligible for this loan repayment program.
Navy Nurse Candidate Program
According to the Navy, “If you’re a nursing student opting to serve full time in the Navy, you could get up to $34,000 to help pay your way through nursing school through the Nurse Candidate Program (NCP).” The program provides accepted candidates with an initial $10,000 grant. Further, there is a $1,000 monthly stipend for up to 24 months.
Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Repayment Program
According to the Air Force, “Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Repayment Program (ADHPLRP) participants receive repayment of loans used to finance health profession education. Repayment may consist of loan amounts for principal, interest and reasonable educational and living expenses.”
The maximum repayment is $40,000. Also, there’s a minimum two-year active duty obligation to receive any loan repayment.
State loan forgiveness programs for nurses
On top of federal student loan repayment options for nurses, individual states also offer loan repayment and forgiveness programs that can help erase student loan debt. So check out the programs below to see what’s available in your state:
Nurse practitioners and registered nurses qualify for the Alaska SHARP program. With this program, nurses can receive up loan assistance, depending on the position they hold. But to qualify, nurses must serve at a facility in an eligible service shortage area.
If you are a nurse in California, you may qualify for the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program. According to California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, “Those awarded the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Loan Repayment may receive up to $10,000.”
Award recipients must agree to practice direct patient care at a qualifying facility in California for one year. A maximum of three awards are permitted for each applicant. Also, registered nurses must work in a health professional shortage area or medically underserved area to qualify.
Florida nurses can apply for the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program, which was created to encourage nurses to work in health professional shortage areas in Florida.
In exchange, the state offers loan repayment assistance at $4,000 per year for a maximum of four years. Nurses must be licensed in the state of Florida as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. In addition, they must have student loans that were taken out to pay for nursing education.
Nurses who live in Illinois could be eligible for the Veterans’ Home Medical Providers’ Loan Repayment Program. To qualify, they must commit to working in a qualifying veterans’ home. Also, nurses must be Illinois residents and meet licensing requirements.
According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, “The annual award to qualified physicians, certified nurse practitioners, registered professional nurses, certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses may be up to $5,000 to repay their student loan debt. This award may be received for up to a maximum of four years.”
The State of Iowa offers a program for nurses called the Health Care Loan Repayment Program. This program is open to nurses employed in Iowa who serve in a service commitment area for five consecutive years. Nurses can receive the lesser of $6,000 or 20% of the qualified student loan balance.
Kentucky offers nurses the Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program (KSLRP). This program is open to licensed nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, registered nurses and psychiatric nurse specialists working full-time in an eligible KSLRP site in Kentucky.
This loan repayment program varies from similar programs in that it offers loan repayment as a 50-50 match. But federal funds provided by the KSLRP must be matched by a sponsor source. This can include the employer, private foundations, corporations, community organizations or philanthropies.
Maximum loan repayment for nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists giving a two-year commitment is $40,000. And the maximum repayment amount for registered nurses is $20,000.
The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program provides student loan debt relief for certified nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists working in rural and inner-city environments.
Nurses must work full-time in a designated health professional shortage area and be licensed in Louisiana. Nurses can receive up to $15,000 in student loan repayment annually for a three-year initial commitment. Thereafter, applicants with remaining student loan debt and who meet requirements can apply for a two-year renewal.
The Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program offers loan repayment to Maryland residents who work as degree-holding registered nurses (school nurses are ineligible).
Candidates must be employed full-time at a qualifying organization serving low-income and underserved residents. Also, they must have earned their degree in Maryland. Loan assistance ranges from $1,500 to $10,000 per year for a three-year commitment.
Michigan provides loan repayment for nurses through the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program. Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists working full-time in a designated health professional shortage area can receive up to $300,000 in loan repayment over an eight-year period.
Minnesota’s loan forgiveness program for nurses working in long-term care provides loan repayment to licensed practical or registered nurses.
Eligible nurses must work with the developmentally disabled or in a licensed nursing home for a minimum two-year commitment. And the loan repayment program can be extended to four years total. Nurses can receive $6,000 annually in loan forgiveness.
The state of Montana offers loan assistance for registered nurses who work full-time at a Montana state hospital or prison. Eligible nurses can apply for loan assistance through the Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program.
Awarded assistance depends on the number of candidates and available state funding. But when available, program repayment assistance can be received annually for up to a maximum of four years.
The Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program is a loan forgiveness program that provides financial assistance for nursing students in Ohio.
Ohio’s loan repayment program currently offers an award of up to $1,620 per year. And nurses who work in Ohio are eligible for 100% loan cancellation after five years of full-time service.
The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program offers nurses loan repayment in exchange for working in a health professional shortage area. Full-time nurses must meet an initial two-year minimum commitment. The minimum for part-time nurses is four years.
Qualified full-time nurses may receive up to 50% in student loan repayment, up to $35,000 per year. Part-time nurses who meet program qualifications may receive up to 50% in loan repayment up to $17,500 per year. Half of the funds come from a federal student loan forgiveness for nurses grant. The other half must be provided by the nurse’s employment site.
Pennsylvania provides loan repayment for nurses through the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. Certified registered nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives must work in designated health professional shortage areas to be eligible.
Qualifying candidates can receive up to $48,000 for two years of full-time service. In addition, half-time candidates can receive up to $24,000 for a two-year commitment.
Nurses living in Rhode Island are eligible for the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program. Registered nurses working in health professional shortage areas may qualify for loan repayment. The commitment is two years for full-time nurses and four years for part-time nurses.
The Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program offers Texas nurses student loan repayment. To qualify, nurses must commit to working at least 12 consecutive months in a qualified rural community. And the maximum loan repayment through this program is $10,000.
Nurses in Vermont may be eligible for the Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program for Nurses. The maximum annual loan repayment award is $6,000 for LPNs and RNs. And NPs can earn a maximum reward of $24,000.
Commitment contracts are from one to two years of serving in an underserved area. In addition, this program requires qualifying nurses to work at least 45 weeks/year. And they must dedicate 20 hours per week to clinical hours.
West Virginia’s State Loan Repayment Program offers nurses up to $40,000 toward loan repayment for an initial two-year service commitment. Also, applicants may receive an additional $25,000 for extending their service an additional two years.
Nurses must work full-time in rural, underserved areas of West Virginia to qualify for loan repayment. Also, their work site must be located in a designated health professional shortage area.
Hospital loan repayment and reimbursement programs
National and state loan repayment programs aren’t the only options for nurses. Individual hospitals across the country offer assistance in paying off student loan debt from nursing degree programs, too. Here are a few examples of what is available currently for nurses:
- Cleveland Clinic: One of the largest hospitals in the U.S., the Cleveland Clinic offers tuition assistance to nurses after 12 months of employment and upon completing required courses. Tuition reimbursement amounts are based on employment status and type of degree.
- Craig Hospital: Nurses working for Craig Hospital in Colorado are eligible for $5,000 in tuition assistance per year.
- Rush University Medical Center: Located in the Chicago area, Rush University Medical Center offers tuition assistance and full tuition prepayment at Rush University.
Should nurses pursue student loan forgiveness and repayment programs?
Nurses have a multitude of options for receiving help to pay off student loan debt. Some programs cover accrued interest. But others leave you covering that bill. Also, not all repayment programs are tax-free. So make sure to take that into consideration when selecting the best student loan forgiveness or repayment program for you.
Many repayment options involve working in rural or inner-city areas that are lacking sufficient healthcare professionals. But if that doesn’t interest you, you might need to look at alternatives for paying off student loan debt faster.
Other ways nurses can pay off student loan debt faster
Student loan forgiveness and repayment programs aren’t the only options available to nurses. There are repayment programs available outside of the programs highlighted above, both for federal and private student loans.
Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans
Nurses who aren’t interested in working for a public or nonprofit employer (or who don’t have a desire to move to a rural location) could make payments on any of the four eligible IDR programs for 20 to 25 years. After that, any remaining student loan debt would be forgiven.
All of these IDR programs carry certain tax implications. Make sure you research each program carefully before choosing a plan.
Student loan refinancing
One way to lower your student loan payments and pay off student loan debt in less time is to refinance your student loans. But keep in mind that your federal student loans will become private student loans once you refinance. So, several protections will no longer be available after refinancing. Lost federal protections include:
- Loan deferment
- Loan forbearance
- IDR program eligibility
With refinancing, your repayment terms and interest rate will largely depend on your credit history, current salary, and debt-to-income ratio.
Depending on your credit history, you may need a cosigner with excellent credit in order to qualify for student loan refinancing. But if you need a cosigner, choose someone you have a close relationship with, like a parent or sibling.
Cosigners are financially responsible for the amount due if you default on your student loans. Therefore, make sure you can make your payments on time and in full.
Find the right student loan repayment option for nurses
Navigating student loan forgiveness for nurses can be challenging. But Student Loan Planner® is here for you. Student Loan Planner® has consulted with over 9,000 borrowers, creating custom student loan plans that have saved each of them thousands of dollars.
So, if you need help figuring out the right loan repayment choices for your situation, book your student loan consultation today.
We hope this was helpful. Are you considering student loan forgiveness for your nursing school loans? Did you not know about some of these repayment options previously?