Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Nicolas Cesare  | 

Going to school to become a nurse is one of the hardest educational programs that you can undertake. Between studying, textbooks, and a strenuous course load, nursing students don’t have a lot of time to pull an income that will help pay for college. For this reason, nursing students are especially vulnerable to having large amounts of student debt after graduation.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about loans stopping you from achieving your dream of becoming a nurse and helping others. There are many student loan forgiveness programs for nurses that can help current and future nurses shake off leftover student loan debt.

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program

Sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program will pay up to 85% of the student loan balance of qualifying nurses. In order to qualify you must:

  • Be a licensed registered nurse, an advanced practice registered nurse, or a faculty member teaching nursing.
  • Have a degree in nursing from an accredited school located in the United States or its territories.
  • Work full-time in a facility with a critical shortage of nurses in a high need area or work full-time at an accredited school for nursing (if you are a faculty member).

If you apply and are accepted into the program, the HRSA will pay 60% of your unpaid debt related to your nursing education over the course of two years. You can take on an additional year of service after the first two to earn another 25% of the balance that you started the program with.

Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge

Certain students who demonstrate exceptional financial need may be eligible to receive Perkins Loans. These loans are administered through individual schools — as opposed to the Department of Education — and they carry unique benefits such as low interest rates and special conditions for loan forgiveness.

It’s possible to get complete loan forgiveness for nurses on Perkins Loans. As long as you are registered and working full-time as a nurse, you are eligible to have up to 100% of your Perkins Loans forgiven over the course of five years. Perkins Loans are administered by individual schools, so you should contact your school’s financial aid office to learn about loan forgiveness for your nursing program.

Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

The federal government offers a broad program that forgives student debt in exchange for certain kinds of public service. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program will forgive 100% of your remaining balance of federal student loans after 120 months of making payments under an income-driven repayment plan while working full-time in one of the following:

  • A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
  • Another nonprofit without 501(c)(3) status
  • A government agency at any level of government (federal, state, or local)

If you work as a nurse for any of these qualifying organizations and you continue to make on-time student loan payments while you do, you can have your remaining student loan balance forgiven after 10 years.

If you are already working for a qualifying organization, make sure that you fill out an employment certification form as soon as possible.

Hospital and Employer Loan Repayment or Tuition Reimbursement Programs

There are many student loan assistance programs available through the government, but private hospitals and other employers are also willing to support their nurses. Nurses are in high demand all across the country, so when you are interviewing for jobs, be sure to ask potential employers what kind of benefits they can offer regarding student loan assistance.

Military Health Professions Student Loan Forgiveness

If you decide to take your nursing skills to the military, you may become eligible for unique military student loan forgiveness programs. Exact benefits will depend on the military branch that you enlist in and the nature of your service. As a general principle, you should expect to spend at least six years in the military to unlock the full benefits and you can expect active duty postings to receive larger assistance packages than Reserves.

State-Sponsored Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

In addition to federal student loan forgiveness programs for nurses, there are also some programs available at the state level. State funding for these programs isn’t as reliable as funding on the federal level, so be sure to check in with your state government to learn which programs are current. Here are some programs that are currently helping nurses with student loan forgiveness at the state level:

Arizona Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

The Arizona State Loan Repayment Program provides up to $50,000 for the first two years and then less for subsequent years of full-time employment in areas that are experiencing a shortage of nurses. You can apply for this program through the ADHS website.

California Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

Registered nurses in the state of California may qualify for the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program. This program provides up to $10,000 for nurses who agree to to fulfill a one-year service obligation in areas of California that do not have enough nurses to fulfill their needs. If you’re a nurse in California, you can apply through the CalREACH portal.

Illinois Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

Illinois residents can qualify for student loan assistance if they work in qualifying veterans homes that are experiencing a nursing shortage. If you are eligible for the Veterans’ Home Medical Providers’ Loan Repayment Program, then you may receive up to $5,000 per year for a maximum of four years in exchange for your service. Download an application from the ISAC website in order to apply.

New York Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

New York residents who have lived in the state for at least 12 months can apply for the NYS Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program. This program provides $8,000 per year up to $40,000 total for registered nurses with at least a master’s degree who commit to working on the faculty of a nursing school in the state of New York.

Washington Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

The Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program provides up to $10,000 to selected applicants, depending on available funding. Selected applicants must commit to working full-time as a nurse in designated rural community in Texas for at least one year in order to receive the benefit.

Nursing is a difficult profession to break into, but many government agencies and healthcare providers understand that. Work with your federal and local governments to find loan repayment programs that will help you cover the cost of nursing school.


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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.

This post was updated March 27, 2018. It was originally published March 30, 2018.