Nursing is a great profession with good pay and plenty of work opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses make an average of $71,730 per year. And job demand is expected to grow faster than average through 2028.
If you’re currently struggling with the monthly payments from your student loan debt or worry about how much debt you will end up with if you enter a nursing program, the BLS numbers show you have a good chance of creating a solid financial future for yourself. Plus, there’s student loan forgiveness for nurses on a state and federal level that may help you reduce or eliminate your nursing debt. Let’s take a closer look.
Federal student loans for nurses
There are three federal programs available to provide you with some relief from your nursing debt. Each program has its own set of requirements. See if you qualify.
1. National Health Service Corps Repayment Program
If you’re a licensed nurse, the National Health Service Corps Repayment Program will repay up to $50,000 of your federal loans if you commit to working for two years at a NHSC-approved health or medical location. You may work part-time (20 hours) to get up to $25,000 or full-time (40 hours) to max out the $50,000 award. You can sign up to receive notice of the next application period, which normally happens at the beginning of the year.
2. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps program can pay up to 85% of your unpaid nursing school loans if you’re a registered nurse, nurse faculty member or advanced practice registered nurse. You’ll need to work 2-3 years full-time (at least 32 hours per week) at an eligible facility that has a critical shortage or at an accredited nursing school. Applications are accepted at the beginning of the year. You can sign up to receive program updates.
3. Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation for Nurses
The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program will discharge all of your Perkins nursing school loans, including the interest, if you work as a nurse full-time for five years. To apply, you’ll need to contact and register with the school or loan servicer who issued the loan.
Student loan forgiveness for nurses by state
Besides the three federal government loan forgiveness programs, most states are also willing to help nurses out with their nursing school debts. Eligibility requirements include working at designated facilities that have a shortage of licensed health care providers.
Below we’ve outlined how 32 of the 50 states measure up when it comes to debt forgiveness programs for nurses.
Alabama: Residents pursuing a nursing graduate degree full-time are eligible to get $15,000 in loans forgiven. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are also eligible.
Alaska: The state’s SHARP program offers nurses up to $27,000 per year in loan repayment as long as they work at a facility with a critical shortage.
California: Registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree can receive up to $10,000 per year of student loan repayment in exchange for service at a prison, a veteran’s facility or a medical shortage area.
Colorado: Nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives may be eligible for $25,000 or $50,000, depending on their part-time or full-time work commitment, after three years of service in a Colorado Health Professional Shortage Area.
Connecticut: Students graduating from an eligible nursing program can have up to 60% of their student loan balance forgiven if they work full-time at an eligible Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Facility for two years. Continue on for a third year to receive another 25% of loan forgiveness.
Delaware: Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists may be eligible for $30,000-$100,000 in loan repayment assistance if they’re willing to work full time for at least two years at a designated critical shortage location.
Florida: Full-time nurses working in a critical shortage site may have up to $4,000 per year of their student debt forgiven for up to four years.
Georgia: The state offers up to $10,000 per year in loan cancellation to advanced practice registered nurses in the state of Georgia working full-time work in a rural Georgia county currently being underserved.
Hawaii: Licensed nurse practitioners qualify for the state’s public service loan forgiveness program after two years working full-time in a health care shortage area. The amounts vary according to current funding.
Illinois: Licensed nurse educators teaching in Illinois can receive up to $5,000 per year in loan forgiveness for up to four years of service.
Iowa: The state has two nursing loan repayment programs. The Iowa Registered Nurse and Nurse Educator Loan Forgiveness Program will repay eligible nurses and nurse educators up to 20% of their federal student loan balance per year for up to five years. The Rural Iowa RN & PA Loan Repayment Program offers loan repayment of up to $20,000 to nurse practitioners working in select Iowa communities for a minimum of five years.
Kansas: The state will pay back a certified nurse practitioner’s educational loans for up to five years for full-time work. You’ll receive up to $20,000 annually the first two years, followed by $5,000-$15,000 for the remaining three years.
Kentucky: Nurses can receive $20,000-$40,000 in loan repayment assistance depending on their field. Two years of full-time work in a critical shortage area is required.
Louisiana: Certified nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives can get $15,000 per year in loan repayment assistance from the Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program for up to three years of full-time work in a public or nonprofit organization. Nurses may be able to extend for an extra two years.
Michigan: Health care professionals and nurse practitioners may receive up to $200,000 in loan repayment assistance in exchange for eight years of full-time work in a critical shortage, nonprofit facility.
Montana: Through the Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program, the state will pay back up to $15,000 in student debt for nurse practitioners, registered nurses, nurse midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists for a full-time, two-year commitment.
New Hampshire: Nurses can receive $45,000 in loan repayment help in exchange for a three-year commitment in an underserved area. Extend your commitment two more years and get another $20,000.
New Mexico: Nursing students that declare their intent to practice in a designated shortage area within the state can have 100% of their nursing loan debt forgiven as long as they complete their commitment. They can earn $12,000 per year in debt forgiveness until their nursing loan debt is wiped out.
New York: Registered nurses with graduate degrees who agree to teach nursing in the state can receive up to $8,000 per year in loan forgiveness for up to five years.
Oregon: Nurses can qualify for repayment assistance on up to half of their loans. The maximum amount is $35,000 with a commitment of two years full-time. For part-time work with a four-year commitment, the maximum amount is $17,500.
Pennsylvania: Certified registered nurse practitioners can receive up to $60,000 in loan repayment assistance after a two-year commitment at a designated facility with a shortage.
Rhode Island: Primary care certified nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists and registered nurses working in a public or nonprofit health care facility full-time can receive loan repayment assistance.
Tennessee: Nurses enrolled in a master’s degree program may be eligible for loan forgiveness if they’re willing to work full-time as a nurse educator for at least four years.
Texas: The state will award up to $7,000 in loan repayment assistance per year to nursing faculty for up to five years.
Virginia: Nurses working in designated shortage facilities in Virginia can receive up to $140,000 to repay their loan balances in exchange for a four-year work commitment.
West Virginia: Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives can receive $40,000 in loan repayment with a two-year commitment working at a health care-shortage site plus an extra $25,000 per year for two more years of work.
Nursing school debt forgiveness alternatives
If you don’t qualify for federal or state student loan forgiveness for nurses, there are alternatives to give your monthly budget some relief. Here are some options:
Set up (or rework) your budget
If you’re having trouble making ends meet every month to cover your loan payments, it’s time to set up a budget — or take a new approach to your current one. Consider cutting back on non-essentials such as eating out and entertainment until you can do something about your nursing loans.
Check for hospital tuition reimbursement
Some hospitals offer tuition reimbursement to nurses and nursing students working in their hospital system. Check and see what type of loan program your local hospitals may be willing to provide — some facilities repay existing loans while others are willing to pay for your nursing education.
Pay off your highest-interest debt faster
Credit cards are probably the highest-interest debt you have. There are lots of reasons why you should pay off credit cards first. They can cost you more than you realize. Paying off your cards faster can free up that money for other expenses like groceries or your student loans.
If you’re struggling to handle debt from different credit cards, save time and money by using the Tally app to consolidate all your credit card balances and pay them off sooner.
Consider a nursing side-gig
Don’t qualify for debt relief because you’re not working at a nonprofit or shortage location? Some programs only require a part-time commitment of 20 hours per week to repay or forgive your loans. Working an additional 20 hours per week for a couple of years may be worth the time. Weigh how much you’ll make working extra hours in your current position versus 20 hours per week through the program to see if the nursing loan repayment program amount is worthwhile.
Think about relocating
Review the list of state debt forgiveness programs to see if you may qualify for a better debt repayment award in another location. Relocating for a couple of years may be well worth the sacrifice to wipe away your student loans.
Look into doing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program
If you have a federal Direct Loan and can work full time at a nonprofit facility or a government agency as a nurse, give the PSLF program a shot. Once you make 120 consecutive loan payments on time, the rest of your loan balance will be forgiven.
Helping you and helping others
If you’re a nurse or considering pursuing a nursing degree, you have an excellent chance of getting debt relief for your student loans. There are plenty of programs out there that can help you with your state or federal student loans with just a few years of work commitment.
And consider this: The benefits are twofold — you’ll be helping out your finances and helping a low-income, underserved area.