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Loan forgiveness for nurses
Compare 6 federal programs to cancel your debt.
Federal student loan forgiveness programs for nurses
|Forgiveness program||Forgiveness amounts||Eligible loans||Requirements|
|Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program||100% of eligible loan balance after 10 years of qualifying repayments||Federal Direct Loans|
|Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program||Federal and private loans used to pay for a nursing degree and prerequisite courses|
|National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program||Federal and private loans|| |
|Perkins Loan Cancellation Program||Up to 100% of eligible loan balance for five years of service||Federal Perkins Loans|
|Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program||Up to $40,000 after two years of service||Federal and private loans used to pay for a nursing degree|
|Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program||Up to $120,000 for three years of service||Federal and private loans used to pay for a nursing degree|
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is one of the most popular loan forgiveness programs in the country. The Department of Education forgives your remaining federal Direct Loans after 10 years of qualifying repayments — and unlike other programs, you don’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.
To qualify, you have to work at a nonprofit or nonpartisan government institution, be enrolled in a federal repayment plan based on your income and make 120 repayments. But it requires a longer commitment than other forgiveness programs, and nearly all of the first few rounds of applicants were rejected.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP) is an incentive program designed to bring nurses to areas that have a shortage of healthcare professionals or encourage them to teach at a nursing school.
To qualify, you have to work for two years at one of the following:
- Critical shortage facility (CSF) — a facility that serves a health professional shortage area (HPSA)
- Accredited nursing school
The government defines an HPSA as an area with a shortage of primary care or mental health professionals. You can find a CSF near you on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s website.
It doesn’t offer as much forgiveness as PSLF, and you can only have debt from your nursing degree and prerequisites courses forgiven. You’re also required to pay income taxes on forgiveness you receive.
But it requires less of a service commitment, meaning you might make fewer repayments on your loans.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Nurses with a master’s or professional degree might want to consider this forgiveness program. Like the NCLRP, it requires you to work at an HPSA for at least two years. How much forgiveness you receive depends on the level of need for healthcare professionals in your area.
However, unlike the Nurse Corps, the National Health Service Corps places applicants at an approved job and offers forgiveness for part-time work. And the forgiveness you receive for this program is not taxable.
Perkins Loan Cancellation Program
Anyone working as a nurse with federal Perkins Loans can have up to 100% of these loans forgiven after working full time for five years. Reach out to your school or loan servicer to apply for this program if you think you qualify.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (IHS LRP) works a lot like the National Health Service Corps program. But instead of committing to two years at an HPSA, this program requires you to work full time serving an American Indian or Alaska Native community.
It awards up to $40,000 for two years of service. While the amount you have forgiven is taxable, the IHS covers 20% of your federal tax liability. You’ll be responsible for paying the remaining balance, as well as any state or local taxes on the forgiven debt.
Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
Active duty officers in the Nurse Corps can qualify for up to $40,000 in forgiveness per year for a total of $120,000 to pay off debt associated with their nursing degree. The process might differ depending on the branch of the US armed forces you’re enlisted in, so contact your supervising officer for more details on how to apply and eligibility requirements.
You’ll receive this forgiveness with federal income tax deducted, though you may be responsible for covering state and other local taxes.
Where else can I look for loan forgiveness?
Federal programs might be popular, but they aren’t the only way nurses can get their loans forgiven. Talk to your nursing school’s financial aid office or employer to learn more about the following options that might be available:
- State forgiveness programs. Most states have forgiveness programs similar to the NCLRP that provide forgiveness as an incentive to bring nurses to underserved areas.
- Nonprofit forgiveness programs. Local healthcare nonprofits also offer loan repayment assistance and forgiveness, often with the similar aim of bringing healthcare professionals to underserved areas.
- Hospital tuition assistance. Some hospitals like Craig Hospital offer tuition reimbursement or forgiveness to nurses who make a commitment to work there for a number of years.
- Income-driven repayment forgiveness. Nurses with mostly federal loans can qualify for forgiveness after making 20 to 25 years of repayments on an income-driven plan.
Can’t qualify for forgiveness? Consider refinancing
Nursing is one of the careers that many companies look at favorably if you apply to refinance a student loan. You could get lower rates and a shorter term to lower the cost of your loan.
But only consider refinancing after you’ve ruled out forgiveness that requires you to have certain types of federal loans and check the requirements of other programs. Many won’t accept private loans, or nursing degree loans that have been consolidated with loans that paid for other degree programs.
Compare student loan refinancing offers
Most of these student loan forgiveness programs are designed to make it easier for nurses to take low-paying jobs in underserved communities. But you might have to relocate to complete your service commitment — and in some cases you don’t get to choose where you work.
You can learn more about how it all works with our guide to student loan forgiveness programs.
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