What You Need to Know About Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Working in underserved communities can help you pay off your debt
Becoming a nurse is a highly respected career choice, but the journey to certification doesn’t come cheap. The cost can be prohibitive for many wishing to enter the profession, making student loans a lifesaver.
Still, loans have to be repaid, and when it comes time to start repaying, the cost can be a big financial burden. Whether you’ve just started your schooling or you’ve already graduated, it’s important to understand all your loan repayment options. Many loan forgiveness programs apply to nurses, at both the federal and state level. Most require you to work in underserved communities, often for at least two years, but some or all of your loans may be forgiven as a result.
Here’s a list of federal and state programs available, including which nursing professions qualify and how much assistance you may be able to get.
Many programs require nurses to work in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) in exchange for loan forgiveness. Use this online search tool to find HPSAs in your state.
Federal Loan Repayment Options
There are a number of possible ways to reduce your federal loan burden.
Perkins Loan Cancellation or Discharge
If you have a Perkins loan, a low-interest loan for students with significant financial need, you may be able to get it discharged or canceled. (As of June 30, 2018, there were no further Perkins loan dispersals, but if you took out a Perkins loan before that, it can still be called off.)
Nurses can get up to 100% of their Perkins loans canceled after five years of eligible service in their field. (Each year of service cancels a bigger percentage of the loan principal and accrued interest.) In addition, special circumstances may warrant a complete discharge of your loan, meaning that you will be fully pardoned from repayment. The conditions for discharge are narrow, including bankruptcy, permanent disability, a closure of the educational institution before completion of the study, or death.
To apply for cancellation or discharge, you’ll need to reach out to the school that issued the Perkins loan or your loan servicer. Your school’s financial aid office or the servicer will provide you with the necessary forms and instructions.
NURSE Corps will pay up to 85% of your outstanding nursing loan debt if you work in one of the nation’s thousands of Critical Shortage Facilities, or teach nursing at an eligible institution. Registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and nurse faculty members will receive 60% of their outstanding balance by committing to an initial two-year service contract and an additional 25% if they serve for the third year. Critical Shortage Facilities are public or private nonprofit facilities serving an HPSA.
To apply for the NURSE Corps program, create an account on the NURSE Corps portal and submit an online application. (You can make sure your school of nursing makes you eligible for the program by checking the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).
National Health Service Corps (NHSC)
The NHSC is another federal initiative that provides scholarships and loan repayment options for health care providers like nurses who are willing to work in areas of the country with limited access to care. Full-time participants can get $30,000 to $50,000 in loan repayment funds for an initial two-year commitment; part-timers, $15,000 to $25,000.
In addition, this program offers a Substance Use Disorder Workforce loan repayment program and a Rural Community one. Some states, including Alabama and Hawaii, rely on NHSC programs in lieu of their own nursing loan repayment programs.
To be eligible for this program, you must be licensed as a nurse practitioner (including with a psychiatric specialty) or certified nurse-midwife.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a valuable program for any recipient of a federal Direct Loan who works 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 or 120 qualifying payments under certain federal repayment plans.
Payments made under both income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan qualify, but you must meet all additional terms and conditions of the program as well.
You must change to an IDR plan to benefit from PSLF. Otherwise, once you’ve made 120 of your payments under the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan, you won’t have any balance left to forgive. You can see if you qualify on the Federal Student Aid website.
Applying for PSLF requires submitting 120 payments, or 10 years of qualifying payments. Then, fill out the PSLF application and upload, fax, or mail it to FedLoan Servicing, the U.S. Department of Education’s loan servicer for the program. Payments must have been made after Oct. 1, 2007, to count toward your total number of payments.
State-by-State Nurse Student Loan Forgiveness
There are many other opportunities for loan forgiveness, depending on the state in which you live. Here’s a breakdown by state:
Alaska offers the SHARP program, which operates similarly to the NURSE Corps. SHARP offers student loan forgiveness to nurse practitioners, RNs, psychiatric nurse specialists, and certified nurse-midwives who agree to work in areas with critical staffing shortages for a two-year period. Annual awards are either $20,000 or $27,000, based on how hard the positions are to fill.
For more information, visit the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services website.
The Arizona State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) offers loan repayment options for those working for non-profit providers or rural private practices. Full-time nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives may be awarded $40,000 to $50,000 in return for a two-year service contract in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or Arizona Medically Underserved Area. (Part-timers are eligible for $20,000 to $25,000.) Smaller amounts are available in the third year and beyond if they continue in the program.
You can apply for Arizona’s SLRP through the Arizona Department of Health Services website.
If you have a bachelor’s in nursing and are currently licensed as an RN in California, you could be eligible for the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program (BSNLRP). Participants exchange a year of service in a designated region of California for an award of up to $10,000. Qualified facilities include those with a critical need for staffing, as specified by the state of California. The best part? You can receive up to three awards, for as much as $30,000 toward loan repayment.
You can get more details from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development website.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offers a program called the Colorado Health Service Corps. This program offers nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses the ability to repay student loans while assisting underserved areas. Nurses can be awarded $50,000 for a full-time position and $25,000 for part-time work if they agree to a three-year stint at a qualifying HPSA. The window for applications is usually open for 30 days at a time.
See the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website for more information.
The Nursing Incentive Program offered provides a unique funding option for nursing students. Residents of Delaware who enroll full-time in an RN or licensed practical nurse (LPN) program can qualify for a state student loan of up to $5,000 per school year, for up to four years. The recipient can then have one year’s worth of student loans forgiven for every year they work at a qualifying public or nonprofit hospital or clinic in Delaware.
Read more about the program on the state’s education department website.
Nurses in the Sunshine State may want to look into the Florida Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program. Licensed LPNs, RNs, and ARNPs can enroll in the program if they work in designated areas including state medical facilities, public schools, and teaching hospitals. The Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program will repay up to $4,000 per year for as many as four years, for a total value of up to $16,000.
See Florida’s student loan website for more details.
The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Loan Repayment Program in Georgia is for APRNs. For as many as four years, APRNs can get up to $10,000 a year in exchange for a year of full-time work in an underserved rural Georgia county.
Go to the Georgia Board of Healthcare Workforce website to learn more.
Idaho’s SLRP is for nurses, clinicians, and physicians working in federally designated HPSAs. Full-time practitioners are required to fulfill a two-year service obligation, and loan repayment awards range from $10,000 to $25,000 a year, depending on how much a participant’s employer is willing to match.
You can learn more about this on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website.
Illinois offers a couple of programs that could be a path to student loan forgiveness for some nurses.
The first is the Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program, which offers up to $5,000 per year, for up to four years, so qualified nurse educators can repay their loans. They must also be residents of Illinois, actively teaching in nursing education programs, and meet other requirements.
Nurses who work at state veterans’ homes might qualify for the other program, the Veterans’ Home Medical Providers’ Loan Repayment Program. This offers up to the same $5,000 annually, for up to four years, to certified nurse practitioners, registered professional nurses, CNAs, and LPNs working at these facilities.
Go to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission website to learn more.
A program in Indiana offers student loan forgiveness to a more limited set of nursing professionals. The Indiana Health Care Professional Recruitment and Retention Fund Program offer loan repayment to nurse practitioners, RNs and other health professionals willing to work in Indiana counties with high numbers of opioid deaths. This program is funded to provide awards of up to $20,000 each to 30 applicants per year, for up to four years.
To apply, go to the Indiana State Department of Health website.
The Iowa Health Care Loan Repayment Program offers student loan repayment assistance to full-time RNs, advanced registered nurse practitioners, and nurse educators who work in designated areas for five consecutive years. You’ll receive 20% of your total qualified student loans (or $6,000, if that’s less) for each of the five years.
To qualify, nurses must work in a less-populated service commitment area and nurse educators must teach at eligible colleges or universities in Iowa.
Learn more on the program’s website.
The Sunflower State has the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), which requires health care professionals to make at least a two-year commitment to work at an HPSA in the state. Nurse practitioners can get up to $20,000 for each of the initial two years of service and then may extend the contract in one-year increments, getting $15,000 for the third year, $10,000 for the fourth and $5,000 for the fifth year of service.
You can find program applications on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website.
The Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program is open to nursing professionals licensed in Kentucky, including nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, RNs, and psychiatric nurse specialists.
These professionals must make at least a two-year commitment to work full-time in an HPSA. The loan repayment is provided in a mix of federal loans and a 50/50 match from a sponsor, such as an employer, non-profit, or community organization. The maximum annual award, including the match, is $10,000 to $20,000, depending on discipline, so the two-year commitment would yield as much as $20,000 to $40,000 for your loans.
Go to the program website for more information.
Louisiana’s State Loan Repayment Program applies to some nursing professionals. Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists can work full-time at an eligible health care facility in an HPSA in Louisiana. In return, they’ll get $45,000 in student loan repayment for a three-year commitment, paid out as $15,000 annually.
Learn more on the program’s website.
RNs who hold a degree from a Maryland college can qualify for assistance through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program. To be eligible, the nurse must work full-time at a nonprofit or government organization located in this state and earn no more than $60,000 ($130,000 in combined income for married participants).
The student loan assistance provided here is awarded annually over three years. The award amount is tied to the total student loan balance, with a maximum of $30,000 ($10,000 a year) paid toward balances over $75,000.
The website for the program can provide more information.
Advanced nursing professionals could qualify for student loan repayment assistance through the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program for Health Professionals. This includes nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse specialists, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse-midwives.
The program requires a commitment of two years working in underserved communities in Massachusetts and awards up to $25,000 a year, for a total of $50,000 in repayment assistance.
Check the program’s website for more details.
The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program offers up to $200,000 in tax-free funds over a period of up to eight years. Eligible candidates include nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives who commit to a two-year service at a not-for-profit clinic located in an HPSA.
Learn more about Michigan’s repayment program on this state website.
Minnesota has a couple of different programs that could help nurses with their student debt. The Minnesota Nurses in Long Term Care Loan Forgiveness program offers $6,000 a year, for up to $24,000 over four years, in student loan repayment funds to RNs and LPNs who work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
The Minnesota Nurse Faculty Loan Forgiveness program is for licensed nurses who are studying to teach advanced nursing. It requires a three-year commitment (and the maximum is four years) to teach in a postsecondary program in Minnesota. Participants will receive $11,000 per year, for a total award of $33,000 to $44,000.
See the state’s website for more information about nursing student loan forgiveness.
The Nurse Loan Repayment Program (NLRP) in Missouri offers RNs, APNs and nurse practitioners in the state repayment of their eligible educational loans. RNs can get a maximum of $10,000, and other more specialized nurses can get $20,000, with a minimum obligation of two years in an underserved area.
Get more information on the program’s website.
The Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program offers student loan assistance to RNs who work at the Montana state hospital or prison. The repayment depends on the student loan balance, with the maximum annual award being $3,750, or a total of $15,000 paid out over four years.
To apply or find out more, visit the Montana University System website.
Nebraska’s Loan Repayment Program for Rural Health Professionals is a matching program that gives nurse practitioner participants student debt relief up to $30,000 per year for a total of $90,000. Nurse practitioners living in Nebraska who are willing to commit to three years of service in a specified care-shortage area are eligible for this program as long as their employer matches 50% of the funds.
To apply or get more information, visit the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website.
This state has the Nevada Health Service Corps for loan repayment help, administered by the Nevada State Office of Rural Health. Amounts of loan forgiveness vary for two years of full-time service in an underserved area of the state. RNs, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists are eligible to apply.
Learn more on the program’s website.
Certain nursing professionals can make a service commitment of three years or more in an underserved area of New Hampshire to receive student loan repayment help. This assistance is provided through the New Hampshire State Loan Repayment Program and is open to the nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse specialists, and certified nurse-midwives.
Participants receive $45,000 for the three-year commitment, with the option to extend for two more years to get an additional $20,000.
See the program’s website for more information.
New Jersey has a more limited loan repayment option with the Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program. It offers an unstated amount of assistance, sending funds directly to the participant’s student loan servicers when program requirements are satisfied. These requirements include having a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and working as a full-time faculty member at a New Jersey school of nursing for five years.
Find out more at the program’s website.
The Nursing Loan-For-Service Program provides loans as well as forgiveness for nursing students. Participants are eligible for up to $12,000 a year in student loans, based on the student’s financial need, for a maximum of five years. The student commits to practicing in a designated New Mexico shortage area and will get a portion of their loan forgiven for each year of service, for up to 100% forgiveness.
Additionally, nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses may qualify for the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, which requires a two-year, full-time service commitment in a New Mexico medical care shortage area. Awards of an unspecified amount are paid quarterly to the nurse’s student loan servicer.
For more information, go to the New Mexico Higher Education Department website.
Registered and licensed nurses with a master’s degree or higher in New York state might want to consider teaching as an option to help with nursing school debt. The NYS Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program offers student loan assistance to attract more nursing professionals into faculty and teaching positions in New York.
Nurses who work as educators in the state can receive up to $40,000 toward repaying student debt total, paid out at a rate of $8,000 per year.
Go to this state website to find out more.
Nursing professionals such as nurse practitioners and psychiatric nurse specialists could qualify for the North Carolina State Loan Repayment Program. This offers up to $50,000 in student loan repayment assistance for two-year service commitments to provide primary and psychiatric care in rural communities.
Go to the program’s website for further information.
North Dakota has the ND Health Care Professional Loan Repayment program. It provides up to $4,000 a year, or as much as $20,000 over five years, to qualified APRNs who work in eligible underserved areas. A community match of $400 per year ($2,000 total) is required.
Read more about applying for this program on the state’s website.
Through the Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program, Ohio nursing students are not only eligible for assistance in paying for their education, but the loans may qualify for cancellation. Participants can get up to $1,620 per year in student loans. If they work full-time as an LPN or RN in Ohio for at least five years after graduating, those loans are eligible for full cancellation.
Find out more details at the Ohio Department of Higher Education website.
The Nursing Student Assistance Program in Oklahoma offers loans for students pursuing nursing degrees, with a maximum award of $2,500 per year. These student loans can then be forgiven if the recipient completes a service obligation in a qualifying underserved area. Every year of service cancels out one year’s worth of aid.
Go to the program’s website to apply.
The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program is open to RNs, psychiatric nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. It offers repayment assistance equal to 50% of your total student debt balance (between $5,000 and $35,000 per year) for a two-year, full-time commitment working at a non-profit in an HPSA. Participants can renew a contract for up to two additional years for further repayment assistance.
Go to the Oregon state website for more information about this program.
The Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program (LRP) normally offers nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives up to $60,000 in student loan repayment assistance for working full-time ($30,000 for part-time) as primary-care providers. Participants must complete a two-year contract in an HPSA.
For more information, visit the program’s website.
The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program in Rhode Island offers student debt repayment for providers including RNs, APRNs, and nurse practitioners. Participants must make a two-year commitment to work full-time at an eligible worksite in an HPSA. Award amounts aren’t specified, but you can find out more at the program’s website.
Tennessee's Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program offers student loan forgiveness to Tennessee residents willing to work as a teacher or administrator at a Tennessee college or university nursing program. Here’s how it works: nurses registered in Tennessee can be awarded a student loan-scholarship of up to $7,000 per year of full-time graduate nursing school enrollment. The loan amounts are then forgiven at a rate of 25% for each year that the recipient is employed full-time at an eligible nursing program.
The state’s website for this program has more information.
Under the Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program, Texas provides partial student loan reimbursements or stipend payments to non-physician health care providers who agree to work full-time in medically underserved areas of the state for at least one year. Awards are for up to $10,000. (Stipends are awarded to those without a loan balance.)
For more information, go to the Rural Health Information Hub website.
Nursing professionals in Vermont can get assistance with repaying student loans through two programs that require at least a year of work in an eligible underserved area. APRNs and certified nurse midwives can get $10,000 to $20,000 per year through the Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program for Health Care Professionals. RNs and LPNs also can get up to $6,000 a year through the Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program for Nurses (RN and LPN). For APRNs and nurse midwives, the funding must be matched by an employer.
Visit the website for more details.
The Virginia State Loan Repayment Program offers aid to health care professionals who are willing to commit to a minimum of two years of work in a health care shortage area. The maximum award for a four-year service period is $140,000, which is to be used toward a qualifying educational loan. There must be a dollar-for-dollar match from the participant’s employer to qualify. Nurse practitioners, RNs, and certified nurse midwives are eligible.
See the Virginia Department of Health website for more details.
The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) administers the state-level Health Professional Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) and the Federal-State Loan Repayment Program (FSLRP), which can help RNs, LPNs, nurse practitioners, or certified nurse-midwives with student loan assistance.
Under the HPLRP, RNs and LPNs must work at approved, high-need worksites for a minimum of three years full-time or five years part-time. In return, they can get an award of up to $75,000, if that doesn’t exceed their debt amount. Under the FSLRP, RNs, nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives must work full-time for two years. In return, they can get up to $70,000.
See this reference guide (latest available is for 2019), if you’d like to find out more.
West Virginia’s State Loan Repayment Program provides up to $90,000 in potential assistance to nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives who work in a qualified clinic within an HPSA: An initial two-year commitment qualifies you for $40,000 in assistance and an additional two-year commitment is worth $25,000 per year.
Here’s the West Virginia program’s website.
Certified nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners in this state should look into the Health Professions Loan Assistance Program. These professionals can qualify for up to $25,000 in student loan repayment help paid out over three years—if they meet employment requirements. Specifically, they must work full-time in an HPSA.
Go to the program website to get more details.
Open to nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives, the Wyoming State Loan Repayment Program offers up to $20,000 in loan repayment in exchange for two years of service in the program. Similar to many of the other state programs, the goal of the Wyoming State Loan Repayment Program is to increase health care providers in its federally designated HPSAs.
For more information, check out the Wyoming Department of Health website.
States Without State-Level Programs
Some states do not offer specific state-level programs for nurses (or are not currently funding them), but federal-level programs like the NHSC or NURSE Corps may apply to nurses in those states.
Be sure to research all your options so you don’t miss an opportunity to earn assistance for paying off your nursing student loans.
- South Carolina
- South Dakota