Your Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Your odds of wiping out your nursing school debt — or at least significantly reducing it — are high, if you take the time to do some research.
July 16, 2022
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal student loan payments were temporarily put on hold, offering much-needed relief for borrowers. Many private student loan providers also offered more generous deferment policies during this time.
However, the pause on federal student loan payments is set to expire on August 31 — meaning that those with nursing school debt will soon need to start making payments again.
Nursing is a great profession with good pay and plenty of work opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses make an average of $77,600 per year. And job demand is expected to grow 9% by 2030.
If you’re currently struggling with the monthly payments from your student loan debt — or if you’re thinking about entering a nursing program but are worried about how much debt you’ll end up with — 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 both the state and federal level that may help you reduce or eliminate your nursing debt. Let’s take a closer look at some options.
Federal student loan forgiveness for nurses
There are three federal assistance programs available to provide relief from your nursing school debt. Each program has its own set of requirements.
1. National Health Service Corps Repayment Program
If you’re a licensed nurse, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Repayment Program will repay up to $50,000 of your federal loans if you commit to working for two years at an NHSC-approved health or medical location. You may work part time (20 hours per week) to get up to $25,000 in debt forgiveness or full time (40 hours a week) 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 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 (meaning an area that does not have enough health professionals) 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 Cancelation for Nurses
The Federal Perkins Loan Cancelation 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 of nursing or loan servicer who issued the loan.
Student loan forgiveness for nurses by state
Besides the three federal government loan forgiveness options, 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 30 of the 50 states measure up when it comes to debt forgiveness programs for nurses. If your state isn’t on this list, do a Google search with the name of your state and the words “nurse loan repayment program” to see what’s available.
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.
Arizona: Nurse practitioners working part time or full time for at least two years in areas of critical shortage are eligible for up to $50,000 in repayment assistance per year of service.
California: Licensed 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 $30,000 or $60,000, depending on their part-time or full-time work commitment, after three years of service in a Colorado Health Professional Shortage Area.
Delaware: Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists may be eligible for $30,000 to $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 of their student debt forgiven per year, for up to four years.
Georgia: The state offers up to $10,000 per year in loan cancelation to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in the state of Georgia working full time 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’s Health Care Loan Repayment Program will repay eligible nurses and nurse educators the lesser option of $6,000 or 20% of their federal student loan balance per year for up to five years. To qualify, registered nurses must work in a service commitment area — a city with a population of less than 26,000 that is over 20 miles away from a city with a population of 50,000 or more.
Kansas: The state will help pay a certified nurse practitioner’s educational loan payments 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 to $15,000 for the remaining three years.
Kentucky: Nurses can receive $20,000 to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance depending on their field. Two years of full-time work in a critical need 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.
Maryland: Nurses who work full time at state, local government or nonprofit facilities can earn up to $10,000 per year in loan repayment.
Michigan: Health care professionals and nurse practitioners may receive up to $300,000 in loan repayment assistance in exchange for 10 years of full-time work in a critical shortage, non-profit hospital or medical facility.
Minnesota: Licensed and registered nurses can have $6,000 of their student loan balance repaid per year in exchange for a two-year commitment at a qualified high-need site.
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.
Nebraska: Nurse practitioners who agree to work full time in a critical shortage facility for three years can receive up to $100,000 in loan assistance to repay their student loans.
New Hampshire: Nurses can receive up to $45,000 in loan repayment help in exchange for a three-year commitment in an underserved area. Extend your commitment two more years to get another $10,000 to $20,000.
New Mexico: Nursing students who 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 up to $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 $48,000 in loan repayment assistance after a two-year, full-time commitment at a designated facility with a shortage or $24,000 in assistance for half-time work.
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 full-time nursing faculty, for up to five years.
Vermont: Working at least 20 hours per week in an underserved location can qualify nurses for up to $6,000 in loan repayment help.
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.
Washington: Nurses who agree to a three-year commitment of at least part-time work at an eligible health care facility can get up to $75,000 for loan repayment.
West Virginia: Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives can receive $40,000 in loan repayments 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.
This isn’t a complete list of nursing student loan forgiveness programs offered by states, but this should offer a good idea of the many resources that are available across the country. Student loan forgiveness for nurses is more widely available than you might think.
How can I pay off nursing school debt?
If you don’t qualify for federal or state student loan forgiveness for nurses, there are several 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 and covering your loan payments, it might be time to set up a budget — or reevaluate your current one. Consider cutting back on nonessentials such as eating out and entertainment until you can more easily pay for your nursing school loans.
Check for hospital tuition reimbursement
Some hospitals offer tuition reimbursement to nurses and nursing students working in their hospital system. Check what type of repayment program your local hospitals provide — some facilities repay existing loans, while others are willing to pay to help you further 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, as you can accrue significant interest payments on the balance that you don’t pay off at the end of each billing cycle. 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, you may save time and money by using the Tally† app to combine your credit card balances and pay them off more efficiently.
Consider a nursing side gig
Don’t qualify for debt relief because you’re not working at a nonprofit or an underserved location? Some programs only require a part-time commitment of 20 hours per week to repay your loans. If you can get a second job working an additional 20 hours per week for a couple of years, it may be worth the hassle. Weigh how much you’ll make working extra hours in your current position versus 20 hours per week through your state’s nursing loan repayment program to see which option makes more financial sense.
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.
Apply for an income-driven repayment plan
Income-driven repayment plans are available if you have high federal student loan payments in relation to your federal income level. A variety of repayment plans are available based on your income and family size, with monthly payments typically set at 10% to 20% of your monthly discretionary income. Repayment plans range from 20 to 25 years. If you make qualifying payments for the lifetime of the plan, any remaining debt at the end will be forgiven.
Look into refinancing
Many lenders offer refinancing for student loans, which can help you get a lower interest rate that lowers your monthly payments. When you refinance, you can also consolidate multiple student loans into a single payment. However, refinancing makes your debt private, even if you originally took out a federal loan. Using a private lender will cause you to lose access to federal programs, including student loan forgiveness, deferment and repayment plans.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
The Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program provides up to $40,000 in nursing student loan payments in exchange for two years of service at a health facility administered by the IHS that serves American Indian or Alaska Native communities. Contracts can be extended to help you continue to pay off your debt, and they are open to all nurses (though individuals of American Indian or Alaska Native descent are given priority).
Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness 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 Public Service Loan Forgiveness program a try. Once you make 120 consecutive loan payments on time, the rest of your loan balance will be forgiven.
Helping yourself 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 as required federal payments resume. There are plenty of programs that can help you with your state or federal student loans with just a few years of work commitment.
And consider this — the benefits of programs that offer student loan forgiveness for nurses are twofold: You’ll be helping out your finances and, quite often, you’ll also be helping a low-income, underserved area. By looking into your options, you can greatly reduce your student loan debt as you start out your career.
To get financial tips and insights directly in your inbox, sign up for the Tally newsletter.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.