Nurses work the front-line in the US health care system and often the first point of care at a hospital or doctor’s office. It can be an extremely rewarding career and nurses are consistently ranked as the most trusted profession each year.
But it can be an expensive career path to pursue. According to a 2017 study by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “69% of graduate nursing students surveyed in 2016 took out federal student loans to finance their education” and the median amount of expected debt by graduate nursing students was “$40,000 and $54,999.”
Depending on where you work, there might be county, state, or federal student debt forgiveness program options available to you. There might also be employer assistance you could qualify for as well. In this piece, we take a look at three federal loan forgiveness options to consider if you are a nurse looking for debt support.
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment
In exchange for working in a designated high need area for two years, qualified applicants will have 60% of their total unpaid nursing education debt paid off through the program. If you continue working in a qualified area on for a third year, NURSE Corps will pay off another 25% of your loan’s original balance.
Who is Eligible for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program?
According to the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program requirements, to qualify for loan repayment, you must meet the following criteria:
- Working as a licensed registered nurse; advanced practice registered nurses, such as a nurse practitioner, or nurse faculty member with qualifying nursing debt.
- Work full-time in an eligible Critical Shortage Facility in a high need area (for RNs, APNs) or an accredited school of nursing.
- Received your nursing education from an accredited school of nursing located in a U.S. state or territory.
Even if you qualify, NURSE Corps gives out funding preference depending on financial need.
How to Apply for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
Check out the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program’s website for the current forms. The application and qualified areas can change annually, so the NURSE Corps website will have the most up to date information for applicants.
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment
If you are working full-time in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) with a score of 14-26 for two years, you could be awarded up to $50,000, or up to $25,000 as a part-time worker. If you work full-time in an area with an HPSA Score of 0-13 for two years, you could be awarded up to $30,000, or up to $15,000 as a part-time worker.
This wider loan repayment option is not just for nurses, but also other qualified medical professionals. The amount of loan forgiveness you receive is primarily based on the community you work in and the level of need.
Who is Eligible for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program?
Unlike the NURSE Corps program, part-time or full-time nurses can be eligible for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program. Besides working in a HPSA area, you must also meet the following criteria:
- A US citizen or national.
- 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.
- A health professional in an eligible discipline with qualified student loan debt for the education that led to your degree.
How to Apply for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program
To apply for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program you must first find a job at an NHSC-approved site. After getting the position you can apply online.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
The PSLF program was introduced in 2007 and was established to encourage individuals to enter and continue in full-time public service employment. While not specific to nursing, many in the field might find that they also qualify for loan forgiveness through this program.
Who is Eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?
Borrowers eligible for PSLF need to make 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Only Federal Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF.
The Federal Student Aid website includes complete descriptions of what a qualified payment, qualified employer, and full-time employment mean for PSLF applicants. However, the only way to be positive that you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness now or in the future is to complete and submit the Employment Certification form as soon as possible.
According to the Federal Student Aid website, “too many borrowers wait to submit this important form until they have been in repayment for several years, at which point they learn that they have not been making qualifying payments.”
How to Apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
After 120 qualifying payments (over at least 10 years), borrowers can apply for PSLF. The payments don’t need to be consecutive to apply. You will not automatically receive PSLF after 120 qualifying payments, you can then fill out and submit a PSLF application to receive loan forgiveness.
This article was written by Carolyn Pairitz Morris, Senior Editor at Earnest.