Your Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Working as a nurse can be a great way to give back to your community. But while it can be a lucrative field with in-demand jobs, it can also lead to hefty student loans.
However, there are many programs available that provide student loan forgiveness for nurses, offered by both the federal government and individual states.
If you’re a nurse with student loans, check out this guide to student loan forgiveness for nurses.
Student loan forgiveness for nurses is the opportunity for borrowers who become nurses to have their federal loans discharged through national or state programs.
To qualify for these programs, you’ll need to meet specific criteria depending on the program you choose, so it’s important to research and understand the requirements before committing. Typically, many of these programs require that you fulfill certain work obligations for a period of time before your loans will be forgiven.
There are many options out there (and even more in our full guide to forgiveness), so take the time to consider which one(s) might be a good fit for you.
To start, take a look at national programs that nurses across the country have access to. These often depend on the type of work you do or on the type of student loans you have.
- Army Nurse Corps
- Faculty Loan Repayment Program
- Federal Perkins loan cancellation
- Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
- National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
- NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce
- NHSC Rural Community LRP
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
By joining the Army Nurse Corps — which is part of the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program — you may be eligible for up to $250,000 in student loan repayment. Your loans may be paid back directly to your lender.
To qualify for this, you’ll need to be on active duty or on Army Reserve status, depending on your medical specialty.
If enrolled in the Faculty Loan Repayment Program, you may be eligible for a maximum of $40,000 in student loan repayment (over two years). To receive this repayment, you’ll need to work at a health professions school.
To qualify, you’ll need to fall into these categories:
- Be from a disadvantaged background (“environmental and economic factors” will be considered)
- Hold a certificate or degree in the health profession
- Be a faculty member at a qualifying health professions school with a contract of at least two years
If you have federal Perkins loans and work as a full-time nurse, you may qualify to get up to 100% of your loans canceled. While new Perkins loans are no longer being made available to students, borrowers who already have them can still get them canceled according to the rules of the program.
Nurses must be employed full time to qualify for cancellation, and loans will be forgiven incrementally over five years. You must apply either through the school that disbursed the Perkins loans to you or through your loan servicer.
Should you choose to work in health care among American Indian and Alaska Native communities, you may be eligible to have up to $40,000 of your student loan debts covered.
To be eligible, you’ll need to commit for at least two years to serving in these communities. You do not have to be American Indian or an Alaska Native in order to take part.
Through the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives who work in facilities that are located in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) across the country may be eligible for loan assistance.
The program requires a two-year commitment in exchange for an award of up to $50,000 for full-time workers and up to $25,000 for part-time workers. Apply online and provide additional supporting documentation as required.
Since 1999, 760,000 people have died due to drug overdoses and, according to the latest data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in 2019, about 10.1 million people ages 12 or older had misused opioids in the previous year.
To aid in the effort against the U.S. opioid epidemic, the NHSC offers a student loan repayment program to nurses who work at substance use disorder (SUD) clinics. In exchange, you can receive up to $75,000 to cover your student loans.
To be eligible, you’ll need to work at an SUD institution that’s approved by the NHSC for a minimum of three years.
Aside from combating the opioid epidemic as a whole in the U.S., the NHSC specifically offers student loan repayment to nurses who work in rural areas serving SUD patients.
To receive this, you can work either full time or half time for an NHSC-eligible facility. Those who work full time may receive up to $100,000 in student loan repayments while those who work half time can receive up to $50,000.
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is geared toward nurses who work in underserved communities at critical shortage facilities (CSFs), as well as those who work as faculty at eligible nursing educational institutions.
Registered nurses who work at least 32 hours a week at a qualified facility can get 60% of their student loans paid off over two years of employment. Borrowers have the option of getting an additional 25% of their loans paid off by the Nurse Corps program for a third year.
Applications are only accepted once a year. Before applying, check out the program requirements and guidelines to see if it’s a good fit for you.
If you work in the public sector, you may be able to get your federal student loans forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness after working full time and making 120 payments, which do not need to be consecutive.
Federal direct loans in good standing (for example, not in default) are eligible for forgiveness. Borrowers must work at least 30 hours per week for a government or nonprofit (including a nonprofit hospital) to be eligible.
This program was previously very difficult to qualify for, but the Department of Education has changed the process to make eligibility a lot easier. The government has even offered to count payments retroactively, but only for those who request this before Oct. 31, 2022 — see our report for more details.
Depending on where you live, your career may qualify you for additional state-based options for student loan forgiveness. Check out the available programs listed below and contact your state education agency for more details.
Alaska’s SHARP program is designed to recruit health care professionals to work in specified shortage areas in exchange for loan assistance. Nurses are eligible for help with loan repayment and can receive funds annually for loan assistance, depending on their positions.
Registered nurses fall under the Tier 2 category and may qualify for the following:
- Hard-to-fill positions: Up to $27,000 for full time and $13,500 for half time
- Regular positions: Up to $20,000 for full time and $10,000 for half time
Eligible sites must be designated service shortage areas, and each site must offer an employer match as part of the program.
Under the Arizona Loan Repayment Program, qualified health care professionals working in HPSAs or state-designated Arizona Medically Underserved Areas (AzMUAs) can receive loan assistance to help pay off their student loan debt.
Nurse practitioners can either work full or half time and must commit to working at a qualified site for at least two years. Nurses can receive up to $50,000 in repayment assistance for the first two years.
Live in the Golden State? If you’re a nurse, you may qualify for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Loan Repayment program.
Registered nurses who work in a HPSA or designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA) can receive up to $10,000 if you commit to working one year at a qualifying organization. Recipients can be awarded up to three times.
Loan forgiveness is available for several nursing positions — nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists and advanced practice nurses trained in substance use disorders or pain management — through the Colorado Health Service Corps program.
Members of these fields who work in a HPSA may be eligible for loan assistance, though they’ll need to work for three years at a qualifying organization. This program offers assistance for practitioners on both a full-time and part-time basis. Full-time nurses can receive up to $60,000, while nurses who work half time are eligible for up to $30,000.
The Florida legislature created the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program in 1989 to encourage nurses to work in HPSAs in exchange for loan repayment assistance. The program offers up to $4,000 per year for a maximum of four years to nurses who work full time at qualifying organizations.
To participate, nurses must be licensed in the state of Florida as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN) or advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) and have student loans from a nursing education program.
Nurse practitioners in Hawaii who work in an HPSA may receive loan assistance through the Hawaii State Loan Repayment Program.
Applicants must work full time for two years or half time for four years at a qualifying organization, and can receive up to $50,000 in student loan repayment assistance.
Under the Idaho State Loan Repayment Program, practitioners who work in HPSAs may be eligible for awards up to $25,000 each year for two years. This program is available to a variety of health care professionals who work in a nonprofit or public setting. Funds must be matched dollar-to-dollar by the employer.
Nurses in Illinois who commit to working in veterans’ homes may be eligible for loan assistance of up to $5,000 per year for up to four years.
To be eligible for the Veterans’ Home Nurse Loan Repayment Program, nurses are required to be U.S. citizens (or eligible noncitizens) and Illinois residents, meet certain licensing requirements from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and have their employment verified in good standing by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Iowa Registered Nurse and Nurse Educator Loan Forgiveness Program awards $6,000 a year to qualifying nurses employed in Iowa, which goes towards the recipient’s student loan balance.
Nurse educators are also eligible for the program if they teach at an eligible college or university.
Applicants must be employed full time and be in good standing with their federal student loans. Eligible candidates may qualify for forgiveness for no more than five straight years.
Under the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists can receive up to $20,000 a year in repayment assistance by committing to work in a HPSA for two years. The program is competitive and open to other health care professionals, too.
The Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program is unique, in that it offers loan repayment as a 50-50 match. In other words, for every dollar provided by the program, there must be a match of the same amount by a sponsor, such as employers, foundations, corporations or community organizations, including ones specifically focused on rural areas.
Registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Kentucky can take advantage of this program if they work in a HPSA for two years. Nurses can receive a maximum total of $40,000 to $60,000 in repayment assistance, depending on their designation.
The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program was created to encourage health care professionals to serve in rural or inner-city communities in exchange for loan assistance.
Nurses who work full time at a designated HPSA or a nonprofit may receive up to $15,000 each year for a three-year commitment. Eligible nurses must be licensed in Louisiana and in good standing with their student loans.
Through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program, Maryland residents who work as nurses at qualified organizations serving low-income and underserved residents may be eligible for loan assistance.
Eligible candidates must have a nursing degree or diploma, be employed and have earned their degree in Maryland. School nurses do not qualify, and there are limits in terms of gross salary. Award amounts depend on how much student loan debt you have; they can range from $1,500 to $10,000 per year over three years (for a total of $4,500 to $30,000 overall).
The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program offers loan assistance for nurse practitioners who work in underserved communities. Nurses who work full time and commit to working at least two years in a designated HPSA can receive up to $300,000 — tax-free — to pay back their student loans for up to 10 years.
The Minnesota Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program offers repayment assistance to licensed practical or registered nurses with specialities such as working with people with developmental disabilities or in licensed nursing homes. The program requires a commitment of at least two years, which can be extended for another two years in nursing homes.
Eligible candidates may receive $6,000 each year, with a maximum award of $24,000 over four years.
The Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program offers loan assistance for registered nurses who work full time at a Montana state hospital or state prison. Eligible candidates must submit proof that their current loan balance is at least $1,000.
The amount awarded will depend on the number of candidates, as well as available state funding. Program participants can apply for repayment assistance for up to four years.
Nebraska’s loan repayment programs are a group of matching-fund programs to recruit health care professionals in Nebraska. Local entities will match state dollars to assist with employees’ loan repayment.
Nurse practitioners are eligible for this program if they commit to working for two to four years in a designated shortage area. The contract period can be two or three years, with extensions in some cases. Eligible candidates can receive a maximum of up to $100,000 in loan payment.
The application committee will review the program(s) you qualify for. If you qualify for both, they will likely recommend one to sign up for, but you’ll get to make the final choice.
Under the New Hampshire State Loan Repayment Program, select nurses who work in underserved areas may be eligible for awards of up to $45,000. Eligible candidates must work full time for at least 36 months. If interested, candidates can extend the program for another two years and receive an additional $20,000.
The New Mexico Health Professional Loan Repayment Program offers financial assistance to nurse practitioners and advanced-practice nurses who work full time in a medical shortage area for two years. Eligible candidates must be New Mexico residents who are licensed in the state.
The program is both state- and federally-funded. Award amounts aren’t listed on the website, but it does note that those working in HPSAs are offered federal funding first and receive top priority.
The New York State Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program was created to attract adjunct clinical faculty and nursing faculty members to teach in New York state. The program offers registered nurses with graduate degrees who have worked as educators in the field of nursing up to $40,000.
Eligible candidates can receive $8,000 per year for five years under this program.
Under the Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program, Ohio nursing students who plan on working as nurses or nursing instructors post graduation may be eligible for loan assistance. This program offers a loan of up to $1,620 for the 2021-22 academic year, and participants can get up to 100% of the loan canceled after working full time in Ohio for four or five years, depending on their career path.
Through the Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment (SLRP) program, a variety of health care providers — including registered nurses and nurse practitioners — are eligible for repayment assistance by working in a HPSA. Employers are required to match the award.
There’s a two-year service requirement for full-time providers and a four-year service commitment for those employed part time. Providers may be eligible for two one-year extensions after their initial commitment.
Awards are based on a variety of factors, but are ultimately equivalent to a percentage of your loan balance: Providers could receive relief up to 50% of their outstanding loans (up to $35,000 per year for full-timers and up to $17,500 per year for part-timers) for an initial commitment of two years.
The Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment program has offered loan assistance for those in nursing fields (including registered nurse practitioners and nurse midwives) who work in designated HPSAs. Eligible candidates can receive up to $48,000, while half-time workers can receive up to $24,000. The service commitment is two years.
Unfortunately, the program isn’t accepting new applications until Fall 2022, but you can email [email protected] to receive updates on the program’s future.
Under the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment program, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists and registered nurses who work in HPSAs may qualify for loan assistance. Award amounts vary, though recipients are required to make a two-year commitment for full-time work and a four-year commitment for part-time work.
In addition, nurse educators in Rhode Island may be eligible for the Nurse Educators Loan Forgiveness Program. With this program, nursing faculty can be offered awards of 60% of a participant’s total qualifying loan balance after two years; there’s also the option of a third year, where they can earn an additional 25% of their original balance.
The Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program offers loan reimbursements to health care providers who are not physicians. Eligible candidates must have committed to working for at least 12 months and could have received awards of up to $10,000.
To be eligible, you’ll need to practice in a Texas county with 50,000 or fewer residents.
Vermont’s Educational Loan Repayment Program for Nurses offers a maximum annual award of $6,000. The service commitment is usually 12 months in an underserved area designated by the program. To qualify for the program, nurses must agree to work a minimum of 45 weeks each year, with 20 hours per week dedicated to clinical hours.
The Virginia State Loan Repayment Program could grant registered nurses, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists up to $100,000 total toward their outstanding student loan balances for two years of service. These participants can have their commitments extended for a third or fourth year, for which they’d receive an additional $40,000 each year.
To be eligible, applicants must be working in their field at least 40 hours a week for a minimum of 45 weeks per year.
West Virginia’s State Loan Repayment Program offers student loan forgiveness for nurses practicing full time for a minimum of two years in underserved rural areas.
Qualifying sites must be in a designated HPSA. Eligible candidates can receive up to $40,000 for a two-year commitment and may receive an additional $25,000 each for another two years if the contract is extended.
Through the Health Professions Loan Assistance Program, nurses in Wisconsin may receive up to $25,000 in loan assistance. Eligible candidates must commit to working at least three years in a qualified underserved or urban community.
Wyoming’s NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program offers loan assistance for nurses working full time in qualifying HPSAs. Eligible candidates will need to commit to at least two years of service in exchange for repayment of 60% of their remaining student loans. Extending the contract for a third year allows them eligibility to have an additional 25% of their loans covered.
On its surface, student loan forgiveness may sound like the perfect deal; however, like with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to pursuing these types of programs.
Here are a few details you should consider before signing on to a student loan forgiveness program:
You may be relieved of at least some of your student loan debt. This can free up your finances for other goals, such as buying a car or a home.
You may have the opportunity to work in an underserved area of the U.S. and make an impact on a community.
You'll have less job flexibility, since you'll be required to live and serve in a particular area for a certain period of time.
You may be required to pay a federal income tax based on how much debt is forgiven.
You may have to make payments during your commitment until you fulfill your contract.
Student loan forgiveness isn’t the only way to manage your debt more easily. There are a variety of other routes you can take if participating in a federal or state forgiveness program doesn’t work for you.
Here are some ways that might help you repay your nursing school loans more easily. (See our nursing school repayment guide for more details.)
- Consider an income-based repayment plan: If you’re struggling to keep up with your federal student loans, there are income-based repayment (IDR) plans you can explore. IDR plans can bring down your monthly payments, fitting them to be more in line with your current income level. These plans typically take into account income, costs of living and family size.
- Refinance your loans: If an IBR plan isn’t a good fit for you, there’s also the option to refinance your student loans. Essentially, when you refinance your student loans, you’re getting a new loan with new terms and interest rates. This may make your payments much more manageable if you weren’t able to initially afford your monthly payments. But beware: Student loan refinancing may cost you the support and benefits that come with federal loans, so be sure to do your research.
- Consolidate your loans: Instead of paying multiple lenders at once, with debt consolidation, you can roll all your loans into one. You’ll want to shop around for the right loan as, ideally, you’ll want to go with a new debt consolidation loan that will allow you to pay less than you already are.
- Make extra payments: If you want to reduce your overall balance, make extra payments on your student debt. The smaller your balance is, the less you’ll have to pay on interest overall and the sooner you can pay off your loans.
Final word for nurses on student loan forgiveness
Student loan forgiveness for nurses is available through many programs, but they may change annually based on available funding. It’s important to familiarize yourself with eligibility requirements and application deadlines.
In addition, keep in mind that some awards may be considered taxable income, so be sure to read the fine print and factor a potential tax bill into your debt repayment plan.