Nursing as a professional has progressively required more education. Being a nurse used to mean an associate's degree, now it means a BSN and even master's degrees. With education, unfortunately, comes greater student loan debt.
The good news is: the nursing profession is highly needed and there are quite a few federal and state programs to assist nurses, especially in critical need areas of our country.
We will break down this guide into federal loan programs and highlight a few generous state programs:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
- Perkins Loan Cancellation
- The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
- Military student loan forgiveness for nurses
- State programs
Hospital Loan repayment programs
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for Nurses
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is the most generous of the options to eliminate student loans after 10 years of service. The government commits to writing off any debt that remains after you make a minimum of 120 payments on time. These payments are also based on your income. However, the program is tricky and there are many pitfalls. Check out the pitfalls of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program here.
You are required to make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working a minimum of 30 hours per week for a nonprofit or government entity. In addition, you must file two forms of paperwork annually ON-TIME and keep track of your payments.
The benefit is that the amount that is forgiven after 10 years is not taxable!
Requirements to make sure you qualify:
- Work 30 hours a week for a nonprofit or government entity. It doesn't matter if you have a side-hustle, as long as you work 30 hours a week for a nonprofit or government organization.
- Have direct loans or consider consolidating into a direct consolidated loan and file into an income-driven plan. Income-driven plans include: Pay As You Earn(PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR) or Income-Contingency Repayment (ICR)
If you are unsure you qualify, get started on the LoanSense application, we will tell you if your loans qualify, assist you in filing in under 10 minutes and help you get on track and on time.
Perkins loan cancellation and discharge
Nurses can get up to 100% of their loans discharged for 5 years of qualifying full-time service.
Remember PSLF forgives your direct student loans after 10 years of filing properly. Perkins loans, on the other hand, discharge a portion each year over 5 years. Although the Perkins program is newer, you can still check to see if you are eligible for Perkins loan cancellation and discharge. Each loan servicer and your school financial aid officer should have details on the Perkins Loan discharge.
Here is the discharge percentage:
- 15 percent of the original principal loan amount for each of the first and second years;
- 20 percent of the original principal loan amount for each of the third and fourth years; and
- 30 percent of the original principal loan amount for the fifth year.
National Health Services Corp
The National Health Services Corp Loan Repayment Program gives qualifying nurses up to 85% of their student loan debt paid off in exchange for working for two to three years in a critical shortage facility. The amount that is forgiven is based on where you serve and how many hours you work.
Once accepted, they pay 60% of unpaid nursing student loan debt for 2 years of service. The third year of service qualifies nurses for an additional 25% of debt payoff.
To qualify for the National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment Program, you must work full-time in a critical shortage facility, be fully trained in an accredited school in the US state or territory and be licensed to practice as:
- a registered nurse
- an advanced practice registered nurse
- a nurse faculty member
Loans that are associated with the undergraduate or graduate education that directly led to your credentials qualify for forgiveness. For example, if you studied history in undergrad, these loans do not qualify. Also, student debt incurred to support your residency training does not qualify.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program payments are subject to federal taxes. This means that the amount put towards your student loans will, in fact, be slightly less.
The NHSC works with the State Loan Repayment Program. Through this program, the Corp provides assistance to states to help their local nursing professionals repay their loans faster. Here is a listing of state-specific programs available on the NHSC site: State Loan Repayment Program contacts.
The National Health Service Corps offers webinars and details to assist you in qualifying and filing for the program. Sign up for updates. This year's deadline has been extended to May 21, 2020. General requirements retrieved from the NHSC website include:
- A United States citizen (U.S. born or naturalized) or a United States national;
- A provider (or eligible to participate as a provider) in the Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, as appropriate;
- Fully trained and licensed to practice in the NHSC-eligible primary care medical, dental or mental/behavioral health discipline and state in which you are applying to serve; and
- A health professional in an eligible discipline with qualified student loan debt for the education that led to your degree.
- Working at an NHSC-approved site.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program is another federal loan repayment program to bring health professionals to serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The IHS provides funds to pay off student loan debt for licensed social workers.
The IHS awards up to $40,000 for an initial two-year agreement, and if your student loan debt isn’t paid off by the end of your obligation, you can extend your commitment and receive one year of loan repayment for each extra year of service until your qualifying loans are fully paid.
Applications will be accepted beginning in October and are funded in cycles starting in January. Learn about the full eligibility requirements and timeline here.
Military Student loan forgiveness for nurses
Army Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
The Army will pay 33.3% (or up to $40,000 annually) of the principal loan balance for nurses who enlist for at least three years of active duty. This means, as a participant of the program, you qualify for up to $120,000 to repay your nursing school loans. Only federal loans qualify for this program and are subject to federal taxes.
Also, it is required to score at least a 50 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test to qualify for the loan forgiveness program.
Visit the Army website to review the full details and benefits.
Army Reserves Healthcare Professionals Loan repayment Program
The Army reserve program gives nurses up to $20,000 for two consecutive years of service with an option to receive an extra $10,000 of loan repayment for the third year of service.
You can receive up to $50,000 to repay college loans if you enlist in the Army Reserves for 6 years.
Navy Nurse Candidate Program
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). This includes:
- An initial grant of $10,000
- Plus a stipend of $1,000 a month for up to 24 months
Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Loan repayment Program
According to the Air Force website, repayment includes principal, interest and living expense of up to $40,000, less tax liability. There is a 2 year minimum active duty obligation to qualify.
State Nurse Loan Repayment Programs
Nurse practitioners and registered nurses practicing in eligible service shortage area qualify for the Alaska SHARP Program.
- Up to $27,000 per year in loan assistance, depending on the position.
Those awarded the Bachelors of Science in Nursing Loan Repayment program may receive up to $10,000 for 1 year of direct patient care. Applicants may apply up to 3 times.
For full eligibility requirements, visit the OSHPD website.
Florida offers loan repayment assistance at $4000 per year for a maximum of 4 years for those serving in shortage areas in the state. Nurses must be licensed in the state of Florida as an LPN, RN, or ARNP. The loan payment assistance is considered tax-exempt. Full application information is available here.
Hospital Loan Repayment programs
Not only does the federal government and state government offer help for those serving in shortage areas, specific hospital systems also offer direct tuition assistance.
Many employers offer tuition assistance, which means they will cover up to a certain amount towards your tuition after you work for a certain period.
Other employers offer student loan repayment assistance at a fixed amount monthly up to a certain amount of money.
More employers offer tuition assistance as compared to the loan repayment. However, it is always worth asking about these benefits if you are considering starting at a specific hospital/clinic setting.
LoanSense can work with your employer to facilitate federal programs and offer student loan repayment assistance. Consider referring them to us! We'll give you $350 towards your student loans if your employer signs on, plus you'll pay your debt down faster! Contact us here.
Guide to working in a Private Clinic
You can ask your employer to assist in paying off your student loans. Otherwise, there are two options if you work in the private sector and need help managing your loans, you can enter into an income-driven repayment program or consider refinancing. With the income-driven plan, you can still receive loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years. Your forgiveness amount will have tax implications.
These programs include:
- Income-based repayment
- Revised Pay as you Earn
- Pay as you Earn
- Income-Contingency Repayment
Or you can consider refinancing your student loans. Before ever refinancing your student loans, you should fully understand the cons of refinancing as well. Check out the article on income-driven plan versus refinance.
LoanSense can guide you through all options and help you understand the best path for you.
We'll give you the best strategies and keep you up-to-date on loan programs. We keep our communications short and helpful.