Do Nurses Qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)? Yes

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Updated on September 16, 2023

Yes, nurses employed by government or nonprofit organizations qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. But there are nuances to consider:

  • Employment Criteria: Your nursing title doesn’t determine your eligibility; your employment setting does. You must be employed full-time by a government or nonprofit

  • Payment Requirements: Complete 120 income-based loan payments while employed full-time by a qualifying

  • Loan Balance Forgiveness: After 120 payments, any remaining loan balance will be forgiven and tax-free.

  • Employment Certification: Keep your PSLF eligibility on track by annually submitting an Employment Certification Form or doing so whenever you switch jobs.

Note: Contract nurses technically employed by a private agency but working at a government or nonprofit hospital rarely qualify for PSLF. The program assesses eligibility based on your official employer, not the location where you perform your work.

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How to Identify If You Qualify for PSLF as a Nurse

Wondering if you’re on track for Public Service Loan Forgiveness? Start by using the PSLF Help Tool’s employer search function on You’ll need your employer’s Employment Identification Number, easily found on your W-2, to use the tool.

Here’s a deeper dive into key qualifying factors:

  • Employment Conditions: Full-time commitment is non-negotiable. You must work an average of 30 hours per week or more to be in the PSLF. Part-time work at two or more qualifying employers can also meet the eligibility requirements if you average more than 30 hours per week combined.

  • Types of Employers: Your employer is your golden ticket. Aim for qualifying organizations like government entities (federal, state, local, or tribal) or nonprofits. Many hospitals operate as 501(c)(3) not-for-profit entities, making them prime candidates for PSLF. Your specific nursing role takes a backseat to your employer’s qualifying status.

  • Special Work Areas: Working in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) doesn’t guarantee Public Service Loan Forgiveness eligibility. The key factor for PSLF is employment by a government or nonprofit. While HPSA work may not qualify you for PSLF, it can provide access to specialized programs like the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.

How to Confirm Eligibility With Your Employer

  • Discuss Employment Status: Chat with your HR department or supervisor about your organization’s status. Is it a government entity or a nonprofit? They should clarify this for you.

  • Complete the PSLF Form: Your employer is vital to helping you fill out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form. This two-sided document is a cornerstone of your qualification process.

  • Verify Employer Eligibility: If you’re still uncertain, use the Federal Student Aid’s Search Employer Eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) tool to double-check.

How to Confirm Eligibility With Your Loan Servicer

  • Discuss Eligibility: Engage with your loan servicer about your loan types and repayment plan. You must have Direct Loans and pay them under a qualifying repayment plan to meet the PSLF eligibility requirements.

  • Submit Forms to MOHELA: Send your completed forms to MOHELA, the official PSLF. They coordinate with other servicers to confirm your qualifying payments and employment.

  • Track Your Payments: Keep a vigilant eye on your qualifying payments. Update your PSLF forms annually or whenever you switch jobs, aiding MOHELA in tracking your loan forgiveness journey.

Types of Loans Eligible for PSLF

Federal student loans made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualify for PSLF so long as they aren’t in default.

If you have older Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans or Federal Perkins Loans, know these types are not directly eligible for PSLF. But you can make them PSLF-eligible. Here’s how:

  1. Consolidate to Qualify: Convert your FFEL Program loans or Perkins Loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. This makes them eligible for PSLF. Plus, if you consolidate before the end of 2023, you can get retroactive PSLF credit for time spent in repayment, deferment, and forbearance.

  2. Resolve Defaulted Loans: If you have defaulted Direct Loans, you can still make them PSLF-eligible. Pick loan rehabilitation or another form of consolidation. Learn more about the Fresh Start Student Loan Program.

  3. Private Loans? A No-Go: Unfortunately, private student loans can’t be folded into a Direct Consolidation Loan and are not eligible for PSLF. This is why you should avoid refinancing federal loans with a private lender. Sure, you might get a lower interest rate if you refinance, but you’ll lose the forgiveness and repayment options that the federal government.

By acting quickly, especially before the 2023 cutoff for the IDR Waiver, you can optimize your loans for PSLF eligibility.

Maintain open communication with your loan servicer and keep an eye on your payment history to ensure you’re on the path to loan forgiveness.

How to Apply for PSLF as a Nurse

  • Step 1: Confirm Your Eligibility: Work full-time for a qualifying employer. Ensure your loans are under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and not in default. Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.

  • Step 2: Make Your Payments: Complete 10 years of PSLF-qualifying payments. Make sure these payments are within 15 days of the due date and that you’re employed full-time by a qualifying organization when you make them.

  • Step 3: Fill Out the PSLF Form: Download the PSLF & TEPSLF Certification & Application form. Complete your section and have your employer fill out theirs. Use the PSLF Help Tool for guidance if needed.

  • Step 4: Submit Your Application: Send the completed PSLF form to your loan servicer for review. Wait for confirmation on your qualifying payments and employment status.

  • Step 5: Keep Records and Follow-Up: Maintain an open line of communication with your loan servicer. Update your PSLF forms annually or when there’s a change in your employment.

Common Challenges and Mistakes

Here’s a breakdown of common pitfalls and how to sidestep them:

  1. Lack of Complete Information: Misunderstanding the nuances of PSLF can derail your eligibility. Make sure you understand the criteria inside and out.

  2. Skipping the Employment Certification Form: While not mandatory, annual ECF submission keeps your loan servicer in the loop and helps catch errors early.

  3. Missing the Payment Mark: Underutilizing income-driven repayment plans can lead to unqualified payments. Make sure your plan qualifies for PSLF.

  4. Wrong Repayment Plan: To qualify, you must be on an income-driven repayment plan. Being on an incorrect plan can get you disqualified.

  5. Non-Qualifying Employers: Your employer must be a government or nonprofit. Double-check their status to avoid unpleasant surprises.

  6. Failing to Consolidate: Got FFEL or Perkins Loans? You must consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan to be PSLF-eligible.

  7. Unresolved Defaulted Loans: Any defaulted Direct Loans need rehabilitation or another form of consolidation for PSLF

  8. Flawed Application: Mistakes like typos or incomplete paperwork can jeopardize your application. Double-check before submitting.

Other Loan Forgiveness Options for Nurses

While Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a valuable program, it’s not your only ticket to loan freedom. There are multiple paths to reduce or eliminate your student loan debt.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: LRPs target registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty. Work in underserved communities at eligible healthcare facilities or nursing schools, and you could get loan repayment assistance after a few years of service.

  2. National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment: This program rewards primary care clinicians, including nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists, and others who commit to working full-time at a Critical Shortage Facility, meaning that it is in or serves a Health Professional Shortage Area.

  3. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (IHS LRP): Commit to a two-year service term in American Indian or Alaska Native communities, and you could have up to $40,000 of your student loans covered.

  4. Perkins Loan Cancellation: Full-time nurses can see up to 100% of their Federal Perkins Loans canceled after five years of qualified service.

  5. State-Specific Programs: Don’t overlook your home state. State loan repayment programs can also help reduce your student loan balance by making payments directly to your lender.

  6. Military Loan Repayment: For those in or considering military service, there’s potential loan forgiveness of up to $65,000 through Military Loan Repayment Programs.

  7. Army Nurse Corps & Healthcare Professions Loan Repayment Program: Enlist in the Army Nurse Corps, and you could be eligible for as much as $250,000 in student loan repayment through the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program.

Each of these student loan forgiveness programs has its own rules and requirements, so a thorough investigation is in order. Also, funding may be limited, and program details can change—staying informed is your best defense.

Recent Changes and Updates to PSLF

Effective July 1, 2023, the Biden administration overhauled the PSLF Program to make the path to loan forgiveness more accessible and flexible:

  • Weighted Average for Consolidated Loans: Say goodbye to the all-or-nothing approach to Direct Loan consolidation. Now, consolidated loans inherit a weighted average of previous qualifying monthly payments, allowing you to retain some credit towards PSLF rather than starting over.

  • Expanded Deferment and Forbearance Periods: More deferment and forbearance periods now count towards PSLF. This includes periods for cancer treatment, economic hardship, military service, AmeriCorps, and certain administrative forbearances.

  • ‘Buy Back’ Option: You can now ‘buy back’ non-qualifying deferment/forbearance periods from the S. Department of Education by making an extra payment equal to what you would have paid under an IDR plan.

  • Simplified Employment Criteria: The new rules have streamlined the definition of full-time employment to an average of 30+ hours per week. Contractors and adjunct faculty may also qualify under specific conditions.

  • Relaxed Payment Rules: Payments can now be made late, in multiple installments, or as a lump sum and still count towards PSLF, thanks to the new regulations.

Bottom Line

Qualifying for PSLF as a nurse can be complex, but you don’t have to go it alone. Avoid common pitfalls borrowers face and maximize your benefits by talking to experts who understand the ins and outs of the system.

Ready for a personalized plan to get rid of your student debt?

Book a call with our team today and take the first step toward financial freedom.

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How Does Full-Time Employment Work for Nurses in Hospital Settings for PSLF?

To qualify for PSLF, you only need to average 30 hours per week. The new rules eliminate the requirement that your employer considers you a full-time employee to be eligible for PSLF, making qualification more straightforward.

Does Working for HCA Qualify for PSLF?

No, employment with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) doesn't qualify for PSLF, as it's a private, for-profit organization and doesn't meet PSLF criteria.

Does Employment at a Skilled Nursing Facility Qualify for PSLF?

PSLF eligibility hinges on your employer's status, not your role. Working for a public-sector nursing facility may qualify, but employment at a private nursing home won't meet PSLF criteria.

Does Travel Nursing Qualify for PSLF?

Generally, travel nurses employed by for-profit agencies don't qualify for PSLF. But, if employed by a government or nonprofit organization, you may be eligible for the program.

Does Per Diem Nursing Qualify for PSLF?

Per diem nursing could qualify for PSLF if you meet the full-time employment criteria with a qualified employer. "Full-time" status isn't an automatic disqualifier. Use the PSLF Help Tool to check your employer's status.

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