What should students know about nursing loan forgiveness programs?

Articles | Nursing Resources

Nursing school is an investment in your professional career. A valuable tool for improving your performance and advancing in the workplace, a degree may be the next logical step in your work as a nurse. But whether you plan to enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, or pursue a Master of Science in Nursing—Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN—FNP) or Doctor of Nursing Practice—Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP—FNP) degree online with Bradley University, paying all the fees out of pocket may not be an option. In that situation, student loans can make it possible for you to further your education and career without delay.

After graduation, you normally will make monthly payments on the balance of your loans until the amount is paid off completely. Most of these debts typically carry a grace period, which means that you do not need to start making payments until half a year to a year after you graduate, depending on the terms. Many of these loans do not collect interest while you are still in school.

However, nursing students are not alone when it comes to paying off student loans. Multiple programs can help with loan payments. If you are trying to create a plan for paying off your student loans after completing a DNP or other nursing program, consider the following nursing loan forgiveness programs:

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
Every day, individuals across the United States live without the basic preventive care and other health services they need to live healthy lives. To improve patient care in underserved areas, the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program was created to help nurses pay off up to 85 percent of their qualifying student loans through working in these areas for a minimum of two years.

To be eligible, you must be:

  • A registered nurse.
  • Qualified as an advanced practice registered nurse or nurse faculty member.
  • Paying off qualifying debt.
  • Educated from an accredited nursing school in the U.S. or a U.S. territory.
  • Working full-time in a critical shortage facility with high-need or an accredited nursing school.

Through the repayment program, 60 percent of your unpaid nursing debt will be paid over two years. Students will then have the option to extend their loan for a third year, during which you will receive an additional 25 percent off the original balance amount for a total of 85 percent over the course of service.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), students have the remainder of their student loans forgiven after making 120 qualifying monthly payments as part of a qualifying repayment plan while being employed full-time by a qualifying employer. Working full-time is defined as either meeting your employer’s definition or working 30 hours or more a week, whichever number is higher. If they are working multiple part-time positions, they may qualify if they average at least 30 hours a week.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, qualifying employment includes:

  • Not-for-profit organizations, specifically those tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Other not-for-profit organizations that work to provide particular types of qualifying public services.
  • Government organizations at the federal, state, local or tribal level.

Working full-time with the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps also qualities a candidate for this program. Employment with labor unions, for-profit organizations or partisan political organizations do not. Nonprofit organizations also don’t qualify if they are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Any loan under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program qualifies for PSLF. However, other federal student loans may become eligible if students consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Perkins Loan Discharge or Loan Cancellation for Nurses
Federal Perkins Loans are offered to both undergraduate and graduate students at 5 percent. Borrowers can take out $5,500 a year for undergraduate programs or $8,500 a year for graduate-level studies. As long as students are enrolled in school at least half time, you will not have to begin repayments until graduation. At that time, graduates have a nine-month grace period until payments are due.

Do you have Perkins Loans? You may be able to have the balance forgiven. If you work full-time as a nurse — which the Information for Financial Aid Professionals defines as “a licensed practical nurse, a registered nurse or other individual who is licensed by the appropriate state agency to provide nursing services” — you can receive up to 100 percent of the amount canceled. You must be in a position where you provide direct patient care.

You will need to contact your loan servicer to arrange the forgiveness of your Perkins Loans.

A nurse, holding a chart, talks to a child and her mother in an exam room

Faculty Loan Repayment Program
To help recruit the next generation of health care professionals, the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) offers payment assistance to students who pursue careers as a faculty member at a health profession school. Through this program, you may receive payment assistance up to $40,000, as well as funding to specifically offset the tax burden.

To apply for the FLRP, you must:

  • Have completed a qualifying health profession certificate or degree.
  • Have lined up at least two years of employment as a faculty member at a qualifying health profession institute.
  • Come from a disadvantaged background, whether economically or environmentally.

Applications for the FLRP open every year in May, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). You can sign up for notification emails at the HRSA Health Workforce website.

State programs
In addition to federal programs, nurses are offered a number of loan options at the state level.

For example, nurses in California are eligible for the State Nursing Assumption Program of Loans for Education. Nurses who serve at a regionally accredited college or university in the state may be able to receive up to $25,000 in loan repayment.

In Illinois, the Veterans’ Home Medical Providers’ Loan Repayment Program offers up to $5,000 a year in the form of loan repayment to nurses who work in veterans’ homes.

The Kansas State Loan Repayment Program, similar to some federal options, offers health care professionals repayment assistance in return for a two-year minimum commitment to an eligible practice designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

Be sure to research if any such programs are offered in your state to help ease the burden of loan repayment.

If you have more questions about taking out and paying off student loans in conjunction with Bradley University’s online MSN—FNP or DNP program, contact the admission office today. Worry about student loans should not stand in the way of furthering your career through an advanced degree.

Recommended reading:
Pursuing a graduate degree after years away from school
Why FNPs are a good fit for underserved communications