Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

November 18, 2014

Nurses play a vital role in any healthcare facility. From comforting patients to delivering treatments, they shoulder many responsibilities each day, even as they juggle several patients simultaneously. Without their constant support and attention, not many patients would be able to stage a recovery from their illnesses and injuries.

Yet, becoming a nurse is hardly an easy task. It requires a lot of education that often comes with a high price tag. It is hardly a surprise then that the country is experiencing a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs). According to the American Nurses Association:

  • The rising number of people in the over-65 age group will put a strain on the healthcare system in the US, because of their various medical and health-related needs
  • The average age of employed RNs has increased from 42.7 years in 2000 to 44.6 years in 2010 – an increase by two years

Interestingly though, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 19 percent growth rate in the employment for RNs from 2012 – 2022. This is higher than the BLS forecast of an 11 percent average growth rate for all occupations. However, the recent recession resulted in experienced nurses delaying their retirement. This made it even more difficult for entry-level nurses to find a job.

The expense of nursing school, coupled with the lack of a proper job, has made it very difficult for nurses to acquire the relevant qualifications needed for meeting the shortage of RNs across the country. Given this situation, the federal government provides various student loan forgiveness programs for nurses.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular loan forgiveness programs for nurses.

1. The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program: This program is the revamped version of the erstwhile Federal Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program. It helps RNs (including advanced practice RNs and nursing faculty) by paying off 60 percent of their unpaid nursing student loans in just two years. In addition, it pays off an additional 25 percent of the original balance for an optional third year. The next application period will commence from January or February 2015.

Eligibility: To qualify, borrowers will need to be licensed RNs, who have completed their training. They must have a diploma or be associates, baccalaureates or graduates). In addition, they will need to work at an eligible critical shortage facility on a full-time basis.

2. The Federal Perkins Loan Discharge / Cancelation for Full-time Nurses: The program offers a loan forgiveness of up to 100 percent for full-time nurses or medical technicians. However, this is applicable only for borrowers who have five years of qualified employment as a nurse. In all other cases, the borrowers earn benefits on an incremental basis.

Eligibility: Borrowers would need to obtain the application form from the college or university that issued the Perkins Loans. They would need to submit the forms once they graduate.

3. The Iowa Registered Nurse and Nurse Educator Loan Forgiveness Program: The State of Iowa offers this program to RNs working in Iowa and nurse educators teaching at eligible Iowa colleges and universities. The program awards a maximum annual award of 20 percent of the borrower’s total eligible federal student loan balance (inclusive of interest and principal). However, the maximum award cannot exceed the average resident tuition rate prescribed for students attending Iowa’s Regent Universities for the first year after the borrower’s graduation.

Eligibility: Borrowers will need to submit their applications once they graduate. They would also need to work as nurse educators or RNs in Iowa not prior to July 01, 2007

4. The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program: This program awards borrowers with up to $50,000 in lieu of two years of service if they practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) of 14 and above (Tier I). If the borrowers practice in an HPSA of 13 and below, they could receive up to $30,000 in exchange for two-years of service.

Eligibility: To avail the benefits of this program, borrowers will need to be licensed primary care medical and dental & behavioral health providers. They must be working in or have accepted an offer to work in an NHSC-approved site. In addition, they should have commenced working by July 15, 2014.

5. The Students to Service Loan Repayment Program: This program offers tuition and loan repayment assistance of up to $120,000 in lieu of at least three years of service in HPSAs with the greatest need.

Eligibility: The program accepts students in their final year of medical school. It also accepts allopathic and osteopathic medical students in their final year at an accredited medical school.

6. Public Service Loan Forgiveness: This program encourages individuals to enter and to continue to work in public service jobs on a full-time basis. On meeting the qualifying criteria, the program will forgive the remaining balance of the borrower’s Direct Loans.

Eligibility: To qualify for a loan forgiveness, the borrower will need to make 120 qualifying payments to the William D Ford Federal Direct Loan Program on their loans. In addition, they will need to make these payments while working full-time for certain public service employers in areas that include health and education. However, only payments made after October 01, 2007 qualify under the terms of this program.

Nurses need to acquire years of education in demanding programs. As a result, many nurses often graduate with enormous amount of student loan debt. So, nurses often take up jobs that help them tackle their student loan debt, instead of going into fields where the shortages are critical. Given the shortage of nurses and the intense efforts needed for becoming a nurse, these loan forgiveness programs help nurses to follow their vocation, without having to deal with unwieldy student loan debts.