Student Loan Forgiveness for Rural Medical Practitioners

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Updated on April 30, 2023

Whether you were drawn to a rural community for a better quality of life, competitive compensation, and a lower cost of living, or you’re a soon-to-be graduate who recognizes the pressing need for healthcare professionals in underprivileged regions, you share a common goal: to find student loan forgiveness programs for those serving in rural areas.

Healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and others who work in rural America may be eligible for student loan relief programs offered by the federal government and state-level loan repayment programs designed specifically for those serving in health professional shortage areas.

Ahead, we’ll explore these rural medicine student loan forgiveness programs in detail.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness Age 65

Student loan forgiveness programs

Federal programs

There aren’t any federal student loan forgiveness programs specifically designed for healthcare providers that work in rural areas. But that doesn’t mean relief is off the table for them. They may still qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program or Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness.

Related: PSLF Medical School: How to Maximize Relief

Both programs are only open to those with federal student loans.

The PSLF Program forgives your loan balance after a decade of payments while working full-time for the government or nonprofit hospital or clinic. Meanwhile, IDR Forgiveness writes off your remaining balance after you’ve made 20-25 years of monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan.

For a limited time, the Education Department is reviewing borrowers’ payment histories and providing retroactive credit toward both forgiveness programs. The IDR Waiver is expected to help millions of borrowers get three years closer to loan forgiveness and immediately cancel the debts of tens of thousands of people.

If you’ve had your student loans for a few years, it may be worth checking if you meet the eligibility requirements for these programs.

Related: VA Student Loan Forgiveness

State programs

While the federal government may not offer a specific rural medicine loan forgiveness program, certain states have taken it upon themselves to support the next generation of healthcare heroes.

Take South Carolina, for example, with its Rural Practice Loan Forgiveness Program. That program offers aspiring physicians up to $150 thousand for agreeing to provide vital primary and critical care services — family medicine, obstetrics, gynecology pediatrics, psychiatry, primary care physicians, etc. — in underserved rural areas under a multi-year service commitment.

Programs like these are valuable opportunities for medical students starting on their journey. But for those who have completed their training, state loan repayment programs may be the way to go.

NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment for opioid fighters

For those looking to fight the opioid epidemic in America’s rural communities, the National Health Service Corps Rural Community Loan Repayment Program (LRP) is the solution.

The LRP, in coordination with the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, provides loan repayment awards to providers in exchange for delivering evidence-based substance use treatment and opioid use disorder treatment services.

To be eligible, you must be:

  • A US citizen or national

  • A provider in Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

  • Fully licensed and trained to practice in your discipline

  • Having student loan debt from education in your discipline

  • Working or have accepted a position at an NHSC-approved rural SUD treatment facility

  • Use your facility’s HPSA score for primary care or mental health/behavioral health.

If you’re a clinician in these disciplines, you could receive up to $100 thousand for full-time service or $50 thousand for half-time service towards repaying qualifying education loans:

  • Allopathic/osteopathic physicians

  • Physician assistants

  • Psychiatrists

  • Nurse practitioners

  • Certified nurse-midwives

  • Psychiatric nurse specialists

  • Health service psychologists

  • Licensed clinical social workers

  • Marriage and family therapists

  • Licensed professional counselors

  • SUD counselors

  • Pharmacists

  • Registered nurses

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists

In exchange for your service, you’ll enjoy loan repayment, flexible service options, and the opportunity to increase access to primary care in rural communities.

Check the eligibility requirements and sign up for the newsletter to stay informed about the 2023 application period.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

How to find rural areas eligible for loan forgiveness

The search for rural medicine loan forgiveness can seem daunting, but the Federal Government has set the stage with clear criteria for identifying areas of need. These areas are considered Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) or Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA-Ps).

Enter the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), a Federal program under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)/Department of Health and Human Services with a mission to bridge the gap between medical professionals and underserved communities. The NHSC website is a treasure trove of information, including their online database, HPSA Find, which lists all approved federal sites for loan forgiveness programs.

With this valuable resource at your fingertips, you can zero in on your path to serving rural communities in need while getting the relief you need and deserve.

State loan repayment programs

State Loan Repayment Programs (SLRPs) are programs designed to help medical professionals in repaying their student loans in exchange for serving in approved sites, typically in rural or underserved communities. These programs are funded by the state government, and some states receive grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support these initiatives.

With over 40 states receiving grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to fund these programs, the opportunities to make a difference are abundant.

Don’t be fooled by the different names these programs go by — whether it’s called an incentive plan, loan forgiveness plan, or scholarship — they all serve the same purpose of supporting those who dedicate their careers to serving others.

Related: Do Healthcare Workers Qualify for Loan Forgiveness?

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has all the information you need, including a database of State Loan Repayment Programs, and you can always reach out to your SLRP contact or State Office of Rural Health for more details.

Eligible medical professionals for SLRPs can include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dental professionals, mental health professionals, registered nurses, pharmacists, and substance abuse counselors, among others. The eligibility criteria, service obligations, and loan repayment amounts can vary between states.

In the end, SLRPs are a way for medical professionals to turn their passion for serving others into a tangible reality, with funding and resources available through the HRSA and the National Health Service Corps.

Bottom Line

For all medical professionals — whether you’re a nurse, nurse practitioner, physician, or any other healthcare worker — there are many loan forgiveness and repayment programs that can help you conquer your student loan debt.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn, I’m here to help.

Book a call with me, and let’s take a deep dive into your student loan situation.

Together, we’ll chart the best course of action to eliminate your student loan balance, reduce your monthly payments, or achieve whatever financial goal is most important to you.

UP NEXT: Medical School Loan Forgiveness Programs

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