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5 Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs You Should Apply For

Earning your nursing degree can be expensive, and you may have borrowed money to finance your education that might take years to pay off. 

Being in debt can be a major source of stress for nurses, and interest can add up quickly over time. However, if you’ve been working in the field for a certain amount of time, you may be eligible for nursing student loan forgiveness programs.

Here are five programs that you should consider applying for to help relieve the stress of nursing student loan debt in your life.

How Does Nursing Loan Forgiveness Work?

Each nursing loan forgiveness program has its own requirements for nurses looking to qualify for loan forgiveness. Depending on your situation, you may meet some program requirements or you may find that you don’t quite make the cut.

However, for those who do qualify for loan forgiveness, these programs promise to pay off a percentage of your student loan debt once you’ve spent a certain amount of time working as a nurse and/or have made a certain number of loan payments on your own. 

There are different types of loan forgiveness programs, including public and private, and most states have their own programs for eligible nursing students. As you go about looking through these programs, keep in mind that these are just a few you can look at, and your unique situation will determine how you go about applying for loan forgiveness.

COVID-19 Federal Loan Forgiveness

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government provided the following relief for federal student loans held by the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Suspended loan payments
  • Stopped collections on defaulted loans
  • Set interest rates to 0% until December 31, 2020

While this relief program is not the same as the student loan forgiveness programs, it may be able to help nurses better manage their finances through the end of 2020.  

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

Below are five student loan forgiveness programs for nurses that you might be eligible for.

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives the remaining balance on Direct Loans once you’ve made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan. You’ll need to have been working full-time for a qualified health care employer during that time period leading up to that final payment.

To determine if your employment and loan payments qualify you for the PSLF, you’ll need to complete and submit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form. This needs to be done every year as you work towards that 120th monthly payment in order to verify your work history and keep the program informed on your qualifying payments leading up to the 120th payment.

Then once you’ve made that final 120th payment, submit your PSLF application

2. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program is available to assist in the recruitment and retention of professional RNs dedicated to working in health care facilities. 

In order to be eligible for this loan repayment program, you’ll need to work at least two years at a site approved by the NHSC. This loan repayment program is also specifically open to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), particularly certified nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners.

3. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

Through the Bureau of Health Workforce, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will pay up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for registered nurses (RNs), APRNs, and nurse faculty. 

In exchange for paying off that percentage of their student loan debt, those nurses who are accepted into the program must work in a Critical Shortage Facility (CSF) or serve as nurse faculty in an eligible school of nursing for at least two years. 

Applicants also need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a licensed registered nurse, an advanced practice registered nurse or a nurse faculty member with nursing debt that qualifies for the program.
  • You must have a nursing degree from an accredited school of nursing that’s located within the United States or a United States territory. 
  • You must be employed full-time as an RN or APRN in an accredited school of nursing or an eligible CSF in a high-need area.

4. Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation

The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program is for nurses who used a Federal Perkins Loan to pay for their schooling. 

The type of loan you have and the date you took it out will dictate whether or not you qualify for forgiveness or part or all of your loan. Full-time nurses can qualify for the cancellation of 100% of their student loan debt after five years of eligible work as a nurse.

To apply for the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program, contact your school’s financial aid department or your designated loan servicer.

The Federal Perkins Loans program ended in September 2017, so if you took out your Perkins Loan prior to that date, you’re still eligible to apply for the Perkins Loan Cancellation program. If you’re a student nurse who went through nursing school after that date, this unfortunately isn’t an option for you.

5. Military Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

The United States military has several student loan forgiveness programs for nurses. 

The military repayment options are only available to nurses who haven’t yet served in the military, and payments from the repayment programs are only applicable to the outstanding student loan principal balance, not the accrued interest. 

Additionally, military loan repayments are counted as taxable income and should be reported to the IRS annually. 

Below are military loan repayment programs: 

  • Army Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. Through this three-year program, nurses can qualify for up to $120,000, or $40,000 per year, that can go towards repaying your nursing school loans. APRNs have additional bonuses.
  • Army Reserves Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program. Nurses who serve as a part of the Army Reserves health care team in specific specialities, like critical care or med-surg, may be eligible to receive up to $50,000 to apply towards their nursing school loan debt over a three-year period. Those who apply get $20,000 each year for the first two years and $10,000 for the third year.
  • Army Reserves Student Loan Repayment Program. Nurses serving in the Army Reserves for at least six years can receive up to $50,000 to repay their student loan debt. 
  • Navy Nurse Candidate Program. Nursing students who are currently enrolled in an accredited BSN program and those nursing students who elect to serve full-time in the Navy are eligible for this program. Accepted candidates receive $34,000 to help pay for nursing school via an initial $10,000 grant and a $1,000 monthly stipend for up to 24 months.
  • Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Repayment Program. This program  provides funds to health care professional students, including nursing students, to pay for their education. This includes funds for the principal and interest of student loans as well as for reasonable living and educational expenses. The maximum amount of funds students can receive is $40,000 in exchange for a minimum of two years of active duty service.

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