Finances | Inside Scoop

Student Loan Forgiveness and Repayment for Nurses

  • Learn about nursing school tuition and the options available to help offset costs before taking out student loans.
  • Explore how student loan forgiveness benefits nurses and the healthcare industry as a whole during this staffing shortage.
  • Discover student loan forgiveness and repayment programs for nurses and how to qualify for these programs.

Charmaine Robinson


September 26, 2023
Simmons University

The U.S. has a dire need for nurses right now. Yet, nursing school can be quite expensive depending on the level of study.

While nurses can obtain scholarships and set up payment arrangements with their schools of choice, student loans are often the go-to source for tuition payment. After graduation and employment, nurses may be eligible for student loan repayment programs and even loan forgiveness.

Learn about student loan forgiveness for nurses and uncover the programs that are helping nurses with student debt relief.





Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

While student loans help to offset the costs of undergraduate and postgraduate school, many prospective nursing students may be hesitant to apply for them for fear of accruing a potentially large amount of debt.

According to a 2019 study in Dean’s Notes, both associate degree (ADN) and bachelor degree (BSN) nurses carried anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000 of student loan debt with some owing as much as $80,000 to $120,000. The study also revealed that student loan debt impacted many nurses’ decisions to advance their education.

Currently, the Federal government offers student loan forgiveness and repayment options to nurses based on income, specialty, or public service. Through these programs, nurses can see monthly payments reduced dramatically or their loans forgiven completely. Nurses who have been making payments for 10, 20, or 25 years (depending on the program) may be eligible.

When prospective nurses know that their loans could be forgiven after providing a public service for an extended amount of time, they may be more likely to enroll in nursing school. Student loan forgiveness may help to nudge many nurses back into the classroom – a move that could expand the nursing workforce by filling in the shortage of nurse faculty and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).





Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Programs

Nurses of varying degree levels and specialties may be eligible for student loan forgiveness or payment assistance. The federal government offers several programs for nurses to help offset loan costs or discharge loans entirely. Here are four programs that nurses can apply for.


Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Nurses with a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (i.e., Direct Loans) who work full-time may qualify for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Nurses must work for either a governmental or not-for-profit organization (restrictions apply). After 10 years of paying towards their loan (120 qualifying payments), nurses can have the balance of their loans forgiven. Nurses who wish to take advantage of this opportunity must repay their loans under an income-driven payment plan.


Nurse Corp Loan Repayment Program

Registered nurses who work in a critical shortage facility or eligible nursing school for at least two years may qualify for the Nurse Corp Loan Repayment Program. Nurse faculty and APRNs are also eligible. The organization pays up to 85% of nursing education debt. Nurses who wish to take advantage of this program must have graduated from an accredited nursing school in the U.S. The application has a yearly rotation and preference is given to nurses who are in the most need of financial help.


Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program (STAR LRP)

Nurses and APRNs who work in the substance use disorder treatment arena may be eligible for the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program. The program offers up to $250,000 in loan repayment. Nurses must have worked full-time for at least six years in a STAR LRP-approved facility. Eligible facilities include those that are in areas where there is a mental health professional shortage and those in counties with high drug overdose death rates.


National Health Service Corp (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program

The National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment Program is offered to APRNs who work in either primary care or certain specialties. Nurse practitioners who work in either behavioral health or primary care (with Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs) are eligible for loan repayment. Certified nurse midwives who work in maternal care are also eligible. Applicants must work at an NHSC-approved site. The application has a yearly rotation.





The Bottom Line

Scholarships, loans, and repayment/forgiveness plans are great options for minimizing debt accrual. Nurses should also keep in mind that the facilities they work for may offer tuition payment assistance or payback programs that could help offset costs. While the decision to pursue a nursing degree (or return to school) may be influenced by the high costs of tuition, prospective students have many options available to them. Student loan forgiveness not only benefits the lives of many nurses and prospective nurses, it leads to expansion of the nursing workforce – a vital need for the massive nursing shortage today.

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