Nursing School Debt: Repayment Guide for Nurses

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A career in nursing is a great choice for many reasons: You get to help people and earn employable skills and a good salary. In fact, the mean salary for a registered nurse in May 2017 was around $74,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But despite those positives, there’s one major drawback: nursing loans. In a 2016 survey, graduate-level nursing students said they expected to leave their program with a median debt of $40,000 to $54,999, according to a report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

If you’re feeling the burden of paying off your student loans before even seeing a patient, know you have options. Here are some nursing school loan repayment options you should consider.

How to pay off nursing loans

In 2016, 69% of graduate nursing students took out federal loans, according to the AACN report. These loans are put on a 10-year repayment plan. But you have other ways of repaying your federal debt.

Graduated Repayment Plan

With this plan, your payments start at a lower amount and then increase about every two years. Although you’ll still pay off your loan in 10 years, this repayment plan makes it easier to afford your payments when you’re first starting out.

Extended Repayment Plan

You must have over $30,000 worth of Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) to qualify for this repayment plan. Payments can either be fixed or graduated. Although you’ll end up paying more overall, your loan will be paid off within 25 years.

Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans

Among graduate nursing students who took out federal student loans, only 22% surveyed by the AACN planned to take advantage of an IDR plan.

Enrolling in an IDR plan could lower your monthly payments since the amount you pay would be based on a percentage of your discretionary income. You might not even have to make a payment. This is especially helpful if you’re just starting your nursing career and don’t have extra cash available.

Here are the four main options available:

Remember that eligibility requirements vary by option. Your repayment period would also become either 20 or 25 years. That could mean you’ll be in debt longer and pay more in interest over time.

Direct Consolidation Loan

If you took out multiple federal loans, you could combine them with a Direct Consolidation Loan. That way, you’d have only one monthly payment to make. Although you’d lower your monthly payments, your interest rate could rise with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Further, if you’ve been working toward loan forgiveness under an IDR plan or through another program, consolidating your loans would erase your progress.

Refinancing nursing school loans

While you might have scored some grants and scholarships, you might have taken out nursing loans to fill a funding gap. Whether you have federal or private student loans, refinancing can help you reduce your payments and interest charges.

With student loan refinancing, you take out a new loan with a private lender to pay off existing education debt. You could get a better interest rate or repayment schedule on the new loan. But there are many pros and cons of refinancing to consider.

Here are some benefits to refinancing your nursing loans:

  • You could get a lower interest rate: One of the main reasons to refinance your loans is to reduce the interest you pay over time. Shopping around to find a lender who will give you a lower rate than your current one could lead to major savings.

  • Consolidate monthly payments: If you have multiple student loans, you could combine them into one loan. You’d then have only one monthly payment to manage.

But, you should consider some drawbacks before taking out a new loan:

  • Repayment terms aren’t as flexible: Federal student loans have many repayment plan options. If you refinanced your federal education debt into a private loan, you’d lose access to IDR plans.

  • You lose access to federal protections: Private loans aren’t eligible for federal forbearance, deferment, or forgiveness programs.

Student loan forgiveness for nurses

If you have federal education debt from nursing school, you could qualify for these student loan forgiveness programs.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

The AACN report found that 57% of surveyed nurses planned to take advantage of PSLF. Under this program, you could have certain federal debt forgiven after you make 120 qualifying payments.

To be eligible for this program, you must work full time for a qualifying employer, such as a government or nonprofit organization. You should also be making payments under an IDR plan.

Only Direct Loans qualify for PSLF. If you have an FFEL or Perkins Loan, you’ll need to consolidate it into a Direct Consolidation Loan before the payments you make would qualify for PSLF. Note that any payments you made on an FFEL or Perkins Loan before consolidation won’t count toward PSLF.

Be sure that using this program is worth the 10 years of service. You can do this by using our PSLF calculator.

Federal Perkins Loan cancellation

Have a Federal Perkins Loan? Work full time as a nurse? Then 100% of your loan could be canceled or discharged.

To qualify for loan cancellation, you must work full time as a nurse or medical technician and provide services directly to patients.

To have your Perkins Loan discharged, you must meet one of these conditions:

  • Bankruptcy
  • School closure
  • Total and permanent disability
  • Disability due to military service
  • Spouse of a victim of 9/11

It’s important to note that the Perkins Loan program expired on Sept. 30, 2017. So, you must have borrowed before that date to be eligible.

Military repayment programs for nursing loans

Members of the armed forces could qualify for certain repayment programs. Consider the following.

Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (ADHPLRP)

The Air Force is in need of medical professionals and seeks out nurses. To incentivize nurses into the military, the ADHPLRP offers student loan repayment up to $40,000. This is in exchange for a minimum of two years of active-duty obligation or one year for each annual payment, whichever is greater.

Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP)

Nurses can get repayment assistance of a maximum of $40,000 per year minus taxes. Among other criteria, you’ll need to serve in the armed forces as an officer in the selected reserve. Only certain loans, such as those in the Direct Loan Program, are eligible. Be sure to check if your loans qualify.

Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program

Through the Army, nurses can get up to $120,000 (or $40,000 a year) of loan repayment for three years of service. You can also get a sign-up bonus of up to $10,000. That will certainly make a dent in your student loan debt.

Healthcare Professional Loan Repayment Program

As a member of the health care team for the U.S. Army Reserve, you could earn up to $50,000 in nursing loans repayment. You get $20,000 a year for two consecutive years of service, plus $10,000 for a third year. You might also be eligible to participate in another incentive program.

Other government-sponsored repayment programs

In addition to offering loan forgiveness and repayment for military service, the government has other programs to help you repay your nursing school debt.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program

In an attempt to bring better medical care to underserved areas, the NHSC has a program that pays up to $50,000 toward your loans in exchange for two years of service. The amount repaid on your nursing loans is dependent on the area you serve.

NHSC Zika Loan Repayment Program

As part of an effort to help areas affected by the Zika virus, the NHSC is looking for nursing specialists willing to work for three years at approved sites. For your commitment, the organization will repay up to $70,000 of your nursing loans.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program

IHS clinicians who serve American Indian or Alaska Native communities can get help repaying student debt. In exchange for two years of service, you can earn up to $40,000 in loan repayment. You might be eligible for more money with additional service.

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program

In exchange for working full time for two years in a high-need facility, you can get up to 60% of your student loan debt forgiven. An additional 25% of your original balance can be forgiven for your third year of service.

Nursing loan repayment assistance programs by state

There are many state-sponsored programs that help nurses pay back student loans. Check out these student loan forgiveness programs for nurses. Just know that these programs can change and are dependent on funding.

Paying back your nursing school loans

Although you might be overwhelmed with student loan debt from nursing school, you should feel more confident knowing that there are tons of loan repayment options. Whether you choose a federal repayment plan, refinance or consolidate your loans, or sign up for a military program, reducing your debt is possible.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit, email us at, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.