Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses: Top Programs in 2023

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Updated on September 16, 2023

Nursing professionals often face a significant financial burden, with graduate nursing students accumulating a median debt between $40,000 and $54,999.

Student loan forgiveness programs play a crucial role as a lifeline for those navigating this debt. Among the various national, state, and hospital-level programs available, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) forgiveness are the most popular options for many nurses.

Ahead, we’ll explore these programs and other forgiveness options, discuss their impact on nurses and communities in need, and help you determine the best path to tackle your student loan debt.

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What is Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses?

Student loan forgiveness for nurses refers to various programs that either reduce or eliminate outstanding student debt for qualified nursing professionals.

These programs aim to ease the financial burden of student loans and incentivize nurses to work in specific settings or locations, such as underserved communities or public service roles.

Significance for Nurses and Their Career Paths:

  • Financial Relief: Nurses can reduce or eliminate their student loan debt, allowing them to focus on their careers and personal lives.

  • Encouraging Work in Underserved Areas: Programs often target areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals, improving healthcare access for those communities.

  • Attracting Talent to High-Need Specialties: Loan forgiveness can incentivize nurses to pursue specialized fields in high demand.

  • Promoting Public Health: Nurses working in underserved areas help improve overall community health and well-being.

  • Support for Further Education: Loan forgiveness can make additional education more financially feasible, resulting in a more skilled workforce.

  • Strengthening the Nursing Profession: These programs contribute to a more vital nursing profession and ensure communities have access to high-quality nursing care.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness for First Responders

National Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

There are several national student loan forgiveness programs available to nurses. These programs provide financial relief by reducing or eliminating student loan debt for eligible nurses who meet specific requirements.

Biden Administration’s Student Loan Cancellation Plan

  • In August, the Biden administration announced a plan to provide relief of up to $20,000 per federal borrower, with $10,000 for most borrowers and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.

  • This plan would apply to borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021.

  • The plan is currently awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court, and its fate is uncertain due to legal challenges.

  • The federal government has paused student loan payments and froze interest rates for borrowers until later this summer.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

  • PSLF is a federal program that forgives the remaining balance on Direct Loans after making 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

  • Full-time nurses can qualify if they work for a government, non-profit organization, or other qualifying public service employers.

  • Nurses must be employed full-time and make on-time payments under an income-driven repayment plan for ten years.

  • Where to Apply: PSLF Program

Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

  • IDR plans offer reduced payments over 20 or 25 years, then forgiveness of the remaining balance.

  • The Biden administration announced the IDR Waiver, which adjusts the rules on which payments count, providing relief for millions of borrowers.

  • For more information on the IDR Waiver, read our in-depth article: One-Time IDR Adjustment

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

  • NCLRP offers loan repayment assistance to registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNS), nurse practitioners (NPs), and nurse faculty members who work in underserved areas or teach at accredited nursing schools.

  • Participants can receive up to 60% of their loan balance for nursing education debt forgiven in exchange for two years of service.

  • An additional 25% can be forgiven for a third year of service.

  • Where to Apply: Nurse Corps LRP

The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

  • This program offers loan repayment assistance to primary care medical, dental, and mental health clinicians, including nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives.

  • Participants must work in an approved Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and be a Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provider.

  • Awards range from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the HPSA score and commitment length.

  • Where to Apply: NHSC LRP

Perkins Loan Cancellation

  • Nurses with Federal Perkins Loans can have up to 100% of their loans canceled if they work full-time in a qualifying nursing role.

  • Cancellation is granted incrementally over five years, with increasing percentages forgiven each year.

  • Where to Apply: Contact your school’s financial aid office or loan servicer for application information.

Military Loan Repayment Programs

  • Various branches of the military offer loan repayment assistance for nurses who serve in the Armed Forces, e.g., the Army Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program, which offers up to $250,000 in student loan forgiveness for nurses, paid directly to your lender.

  • Programs and eligibility vary by branch, but nurses can receive up to $40,000 per year in loan repayment assistance.

  • Where to Apply: Visit the military branch’s website for information on loan repayment programs.

Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program

  • This program offers loan repayment assistance to healthcare professionals, including nurses, who commit to working in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

  • Participants can receive up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance for a two-year service commitment.

  • Where to Apply: IHS LRP

Other Federal Programs

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program: Offers loan repayment for nurses involved in research projects. Where to Apply: NIH LRP

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Loan Repayment Programs: Offers loan repayment for nurses working in certain public health fields or research. Where to Apply: CDC LRPs

These national student loan forgiveness programs, along with the Biden Administration’s proposed plan, provide various opportunities for nurses to reduce their student loan debt while contributing to communities in need and advancing their careers.

Related: Medical Student Loan Forgiveness

State-Level Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

Many states offer their own student loan forgiveness and state loan repayment programs specifically designed for nurses to attract and retain professionals, particularly in underserved or rural areas.

Related: Rural Student Loan Forgiveness

While these programs’ requirements, benefits, and application processes vary by state, many offer repayment assistance programs to repay federal and private student loans.

We have compiled detailed information on state-specific programs, which you can find in our comprehensive guide on state-program student loan forgiveness.

Here are a few examples of state-specific programs:

Florida: Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program

  • Offers up to $4,000 per year for a maximum of four years to help nurses working in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas.

  • Requires a two-year service commitment.

  • More information: Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses in Florida

Pennsylvania: Primary Health Network (PHN) Charitable Foundation’s Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program

To determine if your state offers a loan forgiveness program for nurses, consult your state’s Department of Health or higher education website.

Check the eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and available benefits before applying.

Hospital-Specific Repayment and Reimbursement Programs

In addition to national and state-level loan forgiveness programs, many hospitals and healthcare systems offer loan repayment or reimbursement programs as part of their employee benefits package to attract and retain skilled nursing professionals.

Related: VA Student Loan Forgiveness

These programs are typically designed to help nurses repay their student loans faster or cover the costs of continuing education and professional development. Here are a few examples of hospital-based programs for nurses:

Mayo Clinic’s Education Debt Reduction Program

  • Offers up to $12,000 per year for a maximum of seven years to help eligible nurses repay their student loans.

  • Available to registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists who work at Mayo Clinic facilities.

  • Requires a three-year service commitment.

  • Where to Apply: Mayo Clinic Education Debt Reduction Program

New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Tuition Assistance Program

  • Provides tuition reimbursement for eligible employees pursuing a degree in nursing or a related healthcare field.

  • Covers up to $5,250 per calendar year for full-time employees and up to $2,625 for part-time employees.

  • Available to employees who have completed at least one year of service at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

  • Where to Apply: New York-Presbyterian Hospital Tuition Assistance Program

Dignity Health’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program

  • Offers loan repayment assistance for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals employed by Dignity Health.

  • Provides varying amounts of assistance based on position, employment status, and location.

  • Requires a service commitment, which varies by program and position.

  • Where to Apply: Dignity Health Loan Repayment Assistance Program

To find hospital-specific loan repayment or reimbursement programs, consult your employer’s human resources department or explore benefits packages at hospitals where you are considering employment. Remember to review the eligibility requirements, service commitments, and application processes before applying.

Eligibility Criteria and Application Process

While each student loan forgiveness program has its own eligibility criteria and application process, some general requirements are common across multiple programs.

Below, we provide an overview of these requirements and the application process for different programs.

General Eligibility Requirements for Forgiveness Programs

  1. Employment Status: Most loan forgiveness programs require you to be employed as a nurse, nurse practitioner, or in a related nursing field. The specific employment criteria may vary depending on the program. Some require full-time employment or a certain number of hours per week.

  2. Loan Type: Eligibility for loan forgiveness often depends on the type of student loans you have. Generally, federal student loan forgiveness programs apply to federal loans only. In contrast, private or institutional loans may be eligible for state, hospital-specific, or private forgiveness programs.

  3. Service Commitment: Many forgiveness programs require a multi-year service commitment for full-time work, which means you need to work for a certain number of years or in a specific role, location, or facility to qualify for loan forgiveness.

  4. Licensing and Certification: Nurses often need to hold a valid license or certification in their field to be eligible for loan forgiveness programs.

Specific Requirements and Application Process for Different Programs

Public Service Loan Forgiveness:

  • Eligibility: Full-time employment at a qualifying public service organization, including government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

  • Required Payments: Make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan.

  • Where to Apply: PSLF Help Tool

Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness:

  • Eligibility: Enroll in one of the IDR plans, such as Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE).

  • Required Payments: Make 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments, depending on the specific IDR plan.

  • Where to Apply: Federal Student Aid

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP):

  • Eligibility: Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse faculty employed at a critical shortage facility or an accredited nursing school.

  • Service Commitment: Minimum two-year commitment.

  • Where to Apply: Nurse Corps LRP

State-Level Loan Forgiveness Programs:

  • Eligibility and Application Process: Varies by state and program but typically requires a nursing degree, full-time work, and a multi-year service commitment. Consult your state’s Department of Health or Education for specific requirements and application processes.

Hospital-Specific Repayment and Reimbursement Programs:

  • Eligibility and Application Process: Varies by hospital and program. Consult your employer’s human resources department or explore benefits packages at hospitals where you are considering employment.

Pros and Cons of Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

Student loan forgiveness programs offer significant financial relief for nurses burdened with student loan debt. But weighing the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing these programs is essential to determine if they are the right choice for you.

Pros of Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

  1. Financial Relief: The most apparent advantage of student loan forgiveness is the potential to have a significant portion, if not all, of your student loan debt, eliminated. This can substantially reduce your financial burden and provide more financial freedom.

  2. Incentive to Serve Underserved Communities: Many forgiveness programs, like the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, encourage nurses to work in underserved areas or critical shortage facilities. This can be a rewarding experience and provide valuable career development opportunities.

  3. Career Growth: Loan forgiveness programs often come with employment opportunities in prestigious institutions or organizations, providing opportunities for professional growth and networking.

  4. Increased Job Satisfaction: Knowing that your student loan debt is being reduced or eliminated can lead to increased job satisfaction and reduced financial stress.

Cons of Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

  1. Service Commitments: Many loan forgiveness programs require a service commitment, meaning you may need to work in a specific location, facility, or role for a predetermined period. This may limit your job flexibility or require you to work in areas where you might not otherwise choose to live.

  2. Long Waiting Periods: Some forgiveness programs, like PSLF and IDR forgiveness, require significant qualifying payments (120 payments for PSLF and 20-25 years for IDR forgiveness). This means you’ll need to stay committed to the program for an extended period before receiving forgiveness.

  3. Taxes on Forgiven Debt: The forgiven loan amount may be considered taxable income for some forgiveness programs. This could result in a higher federal income tax bill in the year your loans are forgiven.

  4. Complexity and Bureaucracy: Navigating the application process, eligibility criteria, and keeping up with program changes can be challenging and time-consuming.

Alternative Ways to Manage Student Loan Debt

Student loan forgiveness programs can be a great option for nurses seeking to reduce their student loan burden. However, there are alternative methods to manage your student loan debt if forgiveness programs aren’t the right fit for you or if you’re looking for additional ways to ease your financial strain.

Enrolling in Income-Driven Repayment Plans

IDR plans adjust your monthly federal student loan payments based on your income and family size, potentially lowering your monthly payment.

After 20-25 years of qualifying payments, any remaining loan balance may be forgiven. It’s essential to note that the forgiven amount might be considered taxable income.

Where to Apply: Federal Student Aid: IDR Plans

Refinancing Student Loans

Refinancing involves taking out a new loan with a private lender to pay off your existing student loans. This option can potentially lower your interest rate, resulting in reduced monthly payments and overall interest costs. Keep in mind that refinancing federal loans with a private lender means you’ll lose access to federal benefits, such as IDR plans and forgiveness programs.

Where to Apply: Use an online student loan refinance marketplace like Credible

Employer Repayment Assistance

Some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as part of their employee benefits package. These programs typically involve the employer making monthly contributions towards your student loans, helping you pay off your debt faster. Check with your employer to see if they offer such a program.

Impact of Loan Forgiveness Programs on Communities in Need

Student loan forgiveness programs for nurses not only benefit individual healthcare professionals but also have a positive impact on underserved communities.

Many programs, such as the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, require participants to work in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) or medically underserved areas.

These programs incentivize nurses to serve in communities where they are most needed, helping to alleviate healthcare disparities and improve access to quality care for vulnerable populations.

By working in these underserved areas, nurses contribute to the overall health and well-being of the community while also benefiting from loan forgiveness or repayment assistance.

Bottom Line

Navigating student loan forgiveness programs for nurses can be complex, but the benefits are significant. Don’t let student loan debt hold you back.

As a lawyer specializing in student loan forgiveness, I can help you create a personalized strategy for tackling your loans efficiently.

Schedule a call today and take the first step towards a debt-free future.

Together, we’ll work to get your loans forgiven quickly while minimizing your payments. Don’t wait—start your path to financial freedom now.


Do all nurses qualify for student loan forgiveness?

Not all nurses qualify for student loan forgiveness. Eligibility depends on various factors, such as your loan type, your employment setting, and the specific forgiveness program requirements. It’s essential to research each program to determine your eligibility.

Will student loans be forgiven for nurses?

Several student loan forgiveness programs are available specifically for nurses or healthcare professionals. Depending on the program and individual circumstances, these programs can help nurses eliminate or significantly reduce their student loan debt.

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