Student Loan Forgiveness Options for Nurses

Kat Tretina Published on December 20, 2019

Student-Loan-Forgiveness-Options-Nurses

If you’re studying to become a nurse, you’re entering an in-demand field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of nursing jobs available will increase by 12 percent by 2028, far higher than the average of all careers. And, you can expect relatively high pay; the median salary for a registered nurse was $71,730 in 2018.

However, becoming a nurse is a time-consuming and expensive process. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 69 percent of graduate nursing students took out federal loans to finance their education. The median amount of student debt upon completion of their program was between $40,000 and $54,999.

That kind of debt can be a significant burden. In fact, 50 percent of all nursing school graduates with student loans said their biggest concern was their ability to repay their loans.

However, there may be a way to get some much-needed relief with your loans. There are several federal and state loan forgiveness programs for nurses which can eliminate some (or all) of your debt. Here’s what you need to know.

National loan forgiveness programs for nurses

There are four loan forgiveness programs offered at the national level:

1. Federal Perkins Loan cancellation and discharge

If you have federal Perkins Loans, you may qualify for Perkins Loan cancellation and discharge. Through this program, you can have up to 100 percent of your loans discharged after five years of eligible service. A portion of your loans will be canceled for each year you work:

  • 15 percent of the original principal amount for each of the first two years
  • 20 percent of the original principal amount for each of the third and fourth years
  • 30 percent of the original principal amount for the fifth year

Each amount includes the interest that accrued during each year of service.

To apply for Perkins Loan cancellation and discharge, you must contact the school that made the loan or the loan servicer.

2. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

If you are a nurse practitioner or certified nurse midwife, you could be eligible for the National Health Service Corps’ Loan Repayment Program. Under this program, you’ll receive up to $50,000 to repay your student loans in return for a two-year full-time commitment in clinical practice at a National Health Service Corps-approved site.

Once you finish the initial two-year contract, you can apply for additional loan repayment assistance if you commit to another service contract. Both private and federal loans qualify for the program. For more information and to apply, visit the National Health Service Corps’ website

3. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

Registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty can get up to 85 percent of their loans repaid through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program operated by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Applicants must agree to work for at least two years in a critical shortage facility or serve as nurse faculty in an eligible school.

You’ll receive 60 percent of your outstanding student loans in repayment assistance over the course of your two-year commitment. If you decide to extend your contract and work a third year, you could get another 25 percent of your loans covered through the program. Both private and federal student loans qualify for repayment assistance.

For more information, visit the HRSA website.

4. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you have federal student loans and work for a non-profit organization, such as some hospitals, clinics, government agencies, and schools, you may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

With this program, you sign up for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan to reduce your monthly payment. If you work for 10 years at a qualifying non-profit organization and make 120 monthly payments, the remaining balance on your loans will be discharged and the forgiven amount is not taxable as income.

You can use the PSLF Help Tool, a resource offered by the Office of Federal Student Aid, to see if your employer qualifies and if your loans are eligible for PSLF.

State loan forgiveness programs for nurses

If you don’t qualify for one of the national programs, you may be able to get loan repayment assistance through your state. Depending on where you live, you could get help with your private or federal student loans.

Alabama

Alabama residents who are pursuing graduate degrees to become certified registered nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, or certified nurse anesthetists can receive up to $15,000 through the Advanced Practice Loan Repayment Program. In return, you must work for 18 months in an area of critical need. Visit the Alabama Board of Nursing website for more information.

Alaska

If you’re willing to work in Alaska in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area, you can receive between $20,000 and $47,000 in student loan repayment assistance through Alaska’s SHARP program. You must agree to work for at least two years for an eligible employer, but you can extend your contract and get additional assistance. Visit the SHARP website for more details.

Arizona

Arizona nurses can receive between $8,000 and $50,000 in loan repayment assistance through the Arizona Department of Health Services Loan Repayment Program. You must agree to work for an eligible employer for at least two years, but you can continue in the program and receive additional assistance for extra years of service. Visit the Arizona Department of Health Services website for more information.

California

Registered nurses in California can receive up to $10,000 in student loan repayment assistance through the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program. If you receive the award, you must work for at least one year practicing direct patient care in a qualified center in California. You can receive the award up to three times, giving you a total of $30,000 in repayment assistance. Visit the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program website for more information.

Colorado

If you have a master’s degree in nursing, are licensed to practice in Colorado, and are employed either part-time or full-time as a nurse faculty member at an eligible school of nursing, you can receive up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance in return for a two-year service commitment. Both federal and private loans are eligible for Colorado’s Nurse Faculty Loan Repayment Program.

Delaware

Certified nurse midwives, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners can qualify for Delaware’s State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). If eligible, you could get up to $60,000 to repay your loans if you agree to serve at least two years in a designated Health Professionals Shortage Area. For more information, visit the Delaware SLRP website.

District of Columbia

Registered nurses and advanced practice nurses can receive up to $83,510.61 in four years in loan repayment assistance through the District’s Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program. You must work full-time at a qualifying facility in a medically underserved area or Health Professionals Shortage Area. Visit the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program website for more information.

Florida

Florida offers the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program to encourage nurses to seek employment in areas where there is a critical nursing shortage. The program provides up to $4,000 per year in loan repayment assistance, up to a maximum of four years. Visit the Florida Department of Education website for more information.

Georgia

Advanced practice registered nurses who agree to practice full-time in rural counties in Georgia with a population of 50,000 or less can get up to $10,000 per year in loan repayment assistance. Contracts are awarded for one year and can be renewed up to three times. For more information, visit the Georgia Board of Healthcare Workers’ website.

Hawaii

Registered nurses and nurse practitioners can qualify for Hawaii’s State Loan Repayment Program.  To be eligible, you must work in a non-profit or public facility in a Health Professionals Shortage Area for at least two years. The amount of repayment assistance you can receive is dependent on the program’s funding, which changes from year to year. For more information, visit the State Loan Repayment Program website.

Illinois

Illinois operates the Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program to encourage nurse educators to work within the state. If you are employed as an educator in an eligible facility, you can receive up to $5,000 per year in loan repayment assistance, up to a maximum of four years. For more information, visit the Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program website.

Indiana

The Indiana Health Care Professional Recruitment and Retention Fund Program allows nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, registered nurses, and psychiatric nurse specialists to get up to $20,000 in repayment assistance with their student loans in return for a two-year service commitment in an underserved area. For more information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health website.

Iowa

Under Iowa’s Health Care Loan Repayment Program, you can receive up to $6,000 per year in student loan repayment assistance if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are a registered nurse, advanced registered nurse practitioner and agree to work-full time in a service commitment area for at least five years
  • You are a nurse educator teaching full-time at an eligible university

Only federal loans are eligible for this program. For more information, visit the Health Care Loan Repayment Program website.

Kansas

Nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives can receive up to $70,000 in student loan repayment assistance through the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program. You must work for at least two years in a Health Professionals Shortage Area, but you can work additional years and receive extra loan assistance. For more information, visit the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program website.

Kentucky

If you’re willing to work for at least two years at an eligible site in Kentucky, you can receive help with your loans through Kentucky’s State Loan Repayment Program. Loan assistance through the program is based on a matching system; for every dollar provided by the state, you must have a sponsor — such as an employer or community organization — that matches their contributions. Through the program, you can get up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance. Visit the Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program website for more information.

Louisiana

Certified nurse practitioners and nurse midwives may be eligible for Louisiana’s State Loan Repayment Program. If you qualify, you can receive up to $15,000 per year for up to three years. In return, you must serve for at least three years in an eligible site in a Health Professionals Shortage Area. For more information, visit the Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program website.

Maine

Through Maine’s Health Professions Loan Forgiveness Program, you could get up to 50 percent of your loans forgiven for each year that you serve in a Health Professionals Shortage Area. For more information, visit the Finance Authority of Maine website.

Maryland

Registered nurses who work for Maryland state, local government, or nonprofit organizations that serve low income or underserved residents may be eligible for the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program. Registered nurses — but not school nurses — must work full-time for a qualifying employer, and your salary cannot exceed $60,000. Recipients can receive up to $10,000 per year in repayment assistance. For more information, visit the Maryland Higher Education Commission website.

Massachusetts

Nurses who commit to working for at least two years in a community health center can receive up to $25,000 per year in loan repayment assistance through Massachusetts’ State Loan Repayment Program. For more information, visit the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers website.

Michigan

With the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program, you can get up to $200,000 over eight years in loan repayment assistance. To qualify, you must agree to work a two-year term at a non-profit health clinic in a Health Professional Shortage Area. For more information, visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website.

Minnesota

Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can qualify for the Minnesota Health Care Loan Forgiveness program. To qualify, you must work for at least two years in a nursing home, housing with services established, home care, intermediate Care Facility, or hospital if it owns and operates a nursing home. You’ll get up to $5,000 per year of service in loan repayment assistance. For more information, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website.

Missouri

Through the Missouri State Loan Repayment Program, eligible nurses can receive up to $20,000 per year in loan repayment assistance. The minimum service obligation is two years working full-time at any hospital or facility in a Health Professionals Shortage Area. Only registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and family nurse practitioners are eligible; licensed practical nurses do not qualify. For more information, visit the Missouri State Loan Repayment Program website.

Montana

Nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists may be eligible for the Montana State Loan Repayment Program. If you work for a qualifying site in a Health Professional Shortage Area for at least two years, you can get up to $15,000 per year to help with your loans. For more information, visit Montana State Loan Repayment Program website.

Nebraska

Through the Nebraska State Loan Repayment Program, eligible nurses can receive up to $100,000 in loan repayment assistance. You must make a service commitment to work in a Health Professionals Shortage Area, and you must find an entity — such as an employer or non-profit organization — to match the state funds. For more information, visit the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, you can get up to $45,000 in repayment assistance through the State Loan Repayment Program. In return, you must agree to work for three years in an underserved area. Only certified nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists are eligible. For more information, visit the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services website.

New Jersey

If you work full-time as a faculty member at a school of nursing in New Jersey, you may qualify for the Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Program. You must work for at least five years at an eligible school and have received an approved graduate degree. The amount of the award is dependent on program funding and can vary from year to year. For more information, visit the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority website.

New Mexico

With New Mexico’s Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses can get help with their student loans in return for a two-year service commitment. The amount of the award is dependent on funding and can vary from year to year. For more information, visit the New Mexico Higher Education Department website.

New York

Nursing faculty members may qualify for New York’s Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program. Eligible recipients can get up to $8,000 per year in repayment assistance, up to a maximum of $40,000. You must be employed as a nursing faculty member or as an adjunct clinical faculty member at a New York nursing school. For more information, visit the New York State website.

North Carolina

Nurse practitioners, mental health nurse practitioners, and psychiatric nurse specialists can qualify for the North Carolina State Loan Repayment Program. If eligible, recipients can receive up to $50,000 in repayment assistance. In exchange, recipients are expected to work for an employer in a Health Professionals Shortage area for at least two years. For more information, visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website.

North Dakota

Advanced practice registered nurses can receive up to $4,000 per year — up to $20,000 over five years — through the North Dakota Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program. To qualify, you must make a 12-month service commitment working for an eligible employer. For more information, visit the North Dakota Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program website.

Ohio

If you’re currently in school, there are two programs available to you:

  • Nurse Education Assistance Program for Future Nurses: If you intend to work as a nurse after you graduate, you could receive up to $1,620 per year in assistance. You must work for at least five years as a full-time nurse in Ohio to qualify for full loan cancellation.
  • Nurse Education Assistance Program for Future Nursing Instructors: If you plan on becoming a nursing faculty member after graduation, you could receive up to $6,000 per year in assistance. You must work as a nurse faculty member in Ohio for four years to qualify for full loan cancellation.

For more information, visit the Ohio Higher Ed website.

Oregon

Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists may qualify for up to $35,000 per year in loan repayment assistance in exchange for a two-year service commitment in an underserved area. For more information, visit the Oregon Office of Rural Health website.

Pennsylvania

Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives may qualify for Pennsylvania’s Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. If eligible, you could receive up to $60,000 in loan repayment assistance. In exchange, you must work for at least two years in an underserved area. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website

Rhode Island

Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists, and registered nurses are eligible for the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program. You must agree to a two-year service commitment working in an underserved area. The award is dependent on program funding and can vary from year to year. For more information, visit the State of Rhode Island Department of Health website.

South Carolina

South Carolina operates the Rural Practice Loan Forgiveness Program. Advanced practice registered nurses can receive up to $15,000 per year in repayment assistance, up to a maximum of $30,000. In return, you must agree to serve in an underserved rural area for at least three years. For more information, visit the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium website.

South Dakota

Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives can qualify for South Dakota’s Recruitment Assistance Program. Eligible participants can receive up to $66,819 in repayment assistance. In return, you must agree to work at an eligible employer for at least three years. For more information, visit the South Dakota Department of Health website.

Tennessee

Advanced practice nurses, psychiatric nurse specialists, and nurse midwives are eligible for Tennessee’s State Loan Repayment Program. If you work for an eligible employer in a Health Professionals Shortage Area, you can receive up to $50,000 in exchange for a two-year commitment. Visit the Tennessee Department of Health website for more information.

Vermont

With Vermont’s Educational Loan Repayment Program, eligible nurses can receive up to $6,000 per year to help with their loans. You must work at least 20 hours per week in a nurse workforce shortage area for at least 12 months to qualify. For more information, visit the Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program website.

Virginia

With Virginia’s State Loan Repayment Program, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists can receive up to $100,000 in repayment assistance in exchange for a two-year service commitment. For more information, visit the Virginia Department of Health website.

Washington

Under Washington’s State Loan Repayment Program, eligible nurses can receive up to $75,000 in repayment assistance over three years. To qualify, you must work at an approved site in a critical shortage area. For more information, visit the Washington Student Achievement Council website.

West Virginia

With the West Virginia State Loan Repayment Program, you can get up to $40,000 in repayment assistance in return for a two-year commitment. Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives who work in an underserved area for a non-profit employer can qualify. For more information, visit the West Virginia Primary Care Association website.

Wisconsin

Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives are eligible for the Wisconsin Health Professional Loan Assistance Program. If you qualify, you can receive up to $25,000 over three years if you commit to working for an eligible employer in an underserved area. For more information, visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

Wyoming

Nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives can receive up to $20,000 in repayment assistance in exchange for two years of full-time work at an approved site. For more information, visit the Wyoming Department of Health website.