Loan forgiveness for nurses

Compare 6 federal programs to cancel your debt.

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Nearly 70% of nursing graduate students took out federal student loans in 2016, according to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Luckily, there are several forgiveness and loan repayment assistance programs designed specifically for nurses. Most require a work commitment in a low-income community for a few years to qualify.

Federal student loan forgiveness programs for nurses

Forgiveness programForgiveness amountsEligible loansRequirements
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program100% of eligible loan balance after 10 years of qualifying repaymentsFederal Direct Loans
  • Federal Direct Loans
  • Make 120 income-driven repayments
  • Work at an eligible public service job
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
  • 60% of your nursing loans after two years of working at an eligible job
  • 25% more of remaining balance if you qualify for a third year of service
Federal and private loans used to pay for a nursing degree and prerequisite courses
  • Licensed registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse or nursing faculty member
  • Nursing degree from accredited school in the US or a territory
  • Work full time at a critical shortage facility or accredited nursing school
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program
  • $30,000 or $50,000 for full-time work at an eligible clinic for at least two years
  • $15,000 or $25,000 for half-time work at an eligible clinic for at least two years
Federal and private loans 
  • Work at an NHSC-approved site in a health professional shortage area
  • Licensed nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife or psychiatric nurse specialist
  • Nurse practitioners must specialize in one of the following medicines: adult, family, pediatric, women’s health, geriatrics or mental health and psychiatry
  • Provider or eligible to participate as a provider in the Medicare, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • US citizen or national
Perkins Loan Cancellation ProgramUp to 100% of eligible loan balance for five years of serviceFederal Perkins Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Work full time as a nurse for five years
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment ProgramUp to $40,000 after two years of serviceFederal and private loans used to pay for a nursing degree
  • Commit to practice full time at an Indian health facility for at least two years
  • Nursing degree or in your final year of training
  • Valid nursing license by the time you start working at the facility
  • Can begin service on or before September 30th of the following year
Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment ProgramUp to $120,000 for three years of serviceFederal and private loans used to pay for a nursing degree
  • Active duty officer in the Nurse Corps
  • Additional requirements vary by branch of US armed forces
  • Current, unrestricted license

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.

How the PSLF Program works

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

Updated November 13th, 2019
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
680
$250,000
3.49% to 6.99%
Enjoy no fees, low rates and flexible terms — but only for borrowers with good credit.
660
None
Starting at 2.45%
Save on your student loans with this market-leading newcomer.
Good to excellent credit
None
Starting at 1.81%
Get prequalified offers from top student loan refinancing providers in one place.
680
None
2.39% to 6.01%
Lower your student debt costs with manageable payments, affordable rates and flexible terms.
650
None
1.81% to 6.49%
Get a tailored interest rate and repayment plan with no hidden fees.
650
Full balance of your qualified education loans
1.81% to 5.98%
A leader in student loan refinancing, SoFi can help you refinance your loans and pay them off sooner.
620
$300,000
2.27% to 7.49%
Refinance all types of student loans — including federal and parent PLUS loans.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

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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