What You Need to Know About Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

Learn if you qualify for federal programs

Cheerful Latino Nurse With Stethoscope Walks in Hospital Halls

Becoming a nurse is a highly respected career choice, but the journey to certification doesn’t come cheap. The average cost of becoming a nurse can be prohibitive for many wishing to enter the profession, making student loans a lifesaver. After graduation, when it comes time to start repaying those loans, there are student loan forgiveness programs specifically for nurses to consider. 

Federal Loan Repayment Options

The type of loan you take out will influence the repayment option for which you can apply. Research all your options before deciding on one for the best result.

1. Perkins Loans Discharge or Cancellation

Perkins loans are low-interest loans issued to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate significant financial need. Those in certain professions, including nursing, may be eligible for discharge or cancellation of their loan after a specified amount of time serving the public. (As of June 30, 2018, there were no further Perkins loans dispersals, but if you borrowed a Perkins loan before that, this information could pertain to you.)


As of Oct. 7, 1998, nurses and medical technicians could cancel up to 100% of their Perkins loans after a minimum of five years of eligible service. Cancellation offers a rate at which the loan principal is forgiven on an annual basis leading up to five years of service, which ranges from 15% to 30%.

Keep in mind, total payment amounts still include accrued interest. Each amount canceled per year includes that accrued interest.


Receiving a discharge means that your loan is completely forgiven and that you will be pardoned from repayment. The conditions for being granted discharge of your loans are narrow, largely applying to those experiencing bankruptcy, permanent disability, a closure of the educational institution before completion of study, or death.

How to Apply

To apply for cancellation or discharge, you’ll need to reach out to the school that issued the Perkins loan, or your loan servicer. Contact your school’s financial aid office or communicate with your loan servicer to request the appropriate paperwork and get further information.

2. Loan Repayment Through NURSE Corps

NURSE Corps offers applicants the ability to work for a minimum of two years in a Critical Shortage Facility, or to participate in a nursing education program as nurse faculty, in exchange for payment of up to 85% of their outstanding nursing loan debt. This program provides helpful aid to health facilities with a critical shortage in staffing, while supporting participants financially with loan repayment aid.

To be eligible for loan repayment through NURSE Corps, you must be one of the following:

  • Registered and licensed as a nurse (RN)
  • An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)
  • A nurse faculty member with debt that qualifies for the program

How to Apply

To apply for the NURSE Corps program, create an account on the NURSE Corps portal and submit an application. 

Before applying, read through the information to make sure you are an eligible applicant for loan repayment through NURSE Corps. You can check if your school of nursing is listed as a credible institution—therefore making you eligible for the program—on the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).

3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

PSLF, short for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, is a valuable program for any federal Direct Loan recipient working full-time for an eligible employer, such as a government agency or nonprofit organization. This program forgives the outstanding balance on your student loans after 10 years of 120 qualifying payments under certain federal repayment plans. Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan are eligible plans for PSLF, but you must meet all additional terms and conditions of the program as well. Also, keep in mind that when it comes to a standard repayment plan, if you make 120 of your payments you won’t have any balance left to forgive. So, while it is a qualifying plan, you technically need to have an IDR plan for PSLF to work for you. You can see if you qualify on the Federal Student Aid website.

How to Apply

After submitting 120 payments, or 10 years of qualifying payments, fill out the PSLF application. You will then mail your application to FedLoan, the U.S. Department of Education’s loan servicer, for the program. Keep in mind, payments must have been made after Oct. 1, 2007, to count toward your total number of payments.

Article Sources

  1. Federal Student Aid. "Perkins Loans," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  2. Federal Student Aid. " Other Employment or Volunteer Service That Qualifies for Perkins Loan Cancellation," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.

  3. Federal Student Aid. "Applying for Cancellation or Discharge," Accessed Sept. 16, 2019.

  4. Health & Resources Services Administration. "Determine Eligibility and Apply to the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP)," Accessed Sept. 16, 2019.

  5. Federal Student Aid. "Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool ," Accessed Sept. 16, 2019.

  6. Federal Student Aid. "What Is a Qualifying Repayment Plan?," Accessed Sept. 21, 2019.