Working as a nurse can be a great way to give back to the community. And while it can be a lucrative field with in-demand jobs, it can also lead to hefty student loans.
But there are many programs available that provide student loan forgiveness for nurses, offered both by the federal government and by individual states.
If you’re a nurse with student loans, check out our complete guide to student loan forgiveness for nurses.
Student loan forgiveness for nurses: National programs
To start, take a look at national programs that nurses across the country have access to. These often depend on the type of work you do or on the type of student loans you have.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is geared toward nurses who work in underserved communities at critical shortage facilities (CSFs).
Registered nurses who work at least 32 hours a week at a qualified facility can get 60% of their student loans paid off over two years of employment. Borrowers have the option of getting an additional 25% of their loans paid off by the Nurse Corps program for a third year.
Applications are only accepted once a year. Before applying, check out the program requirements and guidelines to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
If you work in the public sector, you may be able to get your federal student loans forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness after working full time and making 120 payments, which do not need to be consecutive.
Federal direct loans in good standing (for example, not in default) are eligible for forgiveness. Borrowers must work at least 30 hours per week for a government or nonprofit, including a nonprofit hospital, to be eligible.
Only payments made after October 2007 qualify for this program. To help you stay on track, be sure to fill out an employment certification form and submit it to FedLoan Servicing, which is the loan servicer for this particular program. Unlike forgiveness through an income-driven plan, your forgiven balance under PSLF will not be considered taxable income.
Having your student loans forgiven through PSLF is difficult, however, due to the specificity of the program’s requirements. As of December 2018, less than 1% (262 people out of 38,460 applicants) received forgiveness, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Federal Perkins loan cancellation and discharge
If you have federal Perkins loans and work as a full-time nurse, you may qualify to get up to 100% of your loans discharged. While new Perkins loans are no longer being made to students, borrowers who already have them can still get them canceled according to the rules of the program.
Nurses must be employed full-time to qualify for discharge, and loans will be forgiven incrementally over five years. You must apply either through the school that disbursed the Perkins loans to you or through your loan servicer.
National Health Service Corps
Through the federal Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, nurse practitioners or certified nurse-midwives who work in facilities that are located in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas across the country may be eligible for loan assistance.
The program requires a two-year commitment in exchange for an award of up to $50,000 for full-time workers and up to $25,000 for part-time workers. Apply online and provide additional supporting documentation as required.
Student loan forgiveness for nurses: State programs
Depending on where you live, your career may qualify you for additional state-based options for student loan forgiveness. Check out the programs available below.
Alaska’s SHARP program is designed to recruit health care professionals to work in specified shortage areas in exchange for loan assistance.
Nurses are eligible for loan repayment under the Tier 2 program and can receive up to $27,000 per year in loan assistance, depending on their positions. Eligible sites must be designated service shortage areas, and each site must offer an employer match as part of the program.
Under the Arizona Loan Repayment Program, qualified health care professionals working in Health Professional Shortage Areas can receive loan assistance to help pay off their student loan debt.
Nurse practitioners can either work full- or half-time and must commit to working at a qualified site for at least two years. Nurses can receive up to $50,000 in repayment assistance for the first two years.
Live in the Golden State? If you’re a nurse, you may qualify for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Loan Repayment program.
Registered nurses who work in a Health Professional Shortage Area or Medically Underserved Area can receive up to $10,000. You must commit to working for one year at a qualifying organization. Recipients can be awarded up to three times.
Loan forgiveness for nurse practitioners is available through the Colorado Health Service Corps program. Nurse practitioners who work in a Health Professional Shortage Area may be eligible for loan assistance.
Nurses must work for a period of three years at a qualifying organization. This program offers assistance for nurses on both a full-time and part-time basis. Full-time nurses can receive up to $50,000, and nurses who work half-time are eligible for up to $25,000.
The Florida legislature created the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program in 1989 to encourage nurses to work in Health Professional Shortage Areas in exchange for loan repayment assistance. The program offers up to $4,000 per year for a maximum of four years to nurses who work full time at qualifying organizations.
In order to participate, nurses must be licensed in the state of Florida as an LPN, RN or ARNP and have student loans from a nursing education program.
Nurse practitioners in Hawaii who work in Health Professional Shortage Areas may be able to receive loan assistance through the Hawaii State Loan Repayment Program.
Applicants must work full-time for two years or half-time for four years at a qualifying organization. This is a grant-funded program, which means the amount awarded depends on the funds available.
Under the Idaho State Loan Repayment Program, practitioners who work in Health Professional Shortage Areas may be eligible for awards from $10,000 to $25,000 each year for two years. This program is available to a variety of health care professionals who work in a nonprofit or public setting. Funds must be matched dollar-to-dollar by the employer.
Nurses in Illinois who commit to working in veterans’ homes may be eligible for loan assistance of up to $5,000 per year for four years.
To be eligible for the Veterans’ Home Nurse Loan Repayment Program, nurses must be Illinois residents, meet certain licensing requirements from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and have their employment verified in good standing by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Iowa Registered Nurse and Nurse Educator Loan Forgiveness Program awards the lesser of $6,000 or 20% of the recipient’s student loan balance to qualifying nurses employed in Iowa.
Nurse educators are also eligible for the program if they teach at an eligible college or university.
Applicants must be employed full time and be in good standing with their federal student loans. Eligible candidates may qualify for forgiveness for no more than five straight years.
Under the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program, nurse practitioners can receive up to $20,000 in repayment assistance by committing to work in a Health Professional Shortage Area for two years. The program is competitive and open to other health care professionals, too.
The Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program is unique in that it offers loan repayment as a 50-50 match. In other words, for every dollar provided by the program, there must be a match of the same amount by a sponsor, such as an employer, foundation or friend.
Nurse practitioners in Kentucky can take advantage of this program if they work in a Health Professional Shortage Area for two years. Nurses can receive repayment assistance between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on their designation.
The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program was created to encourage health care professionals to serve in rural or inner-city communities in exchange for loan assistance.
Nurses who work full time at a designated Health Professional Shortage Area or a nonprofit may be able to receive up to $15,000 each year with a three-year commitment. Eligible nurses must be licensed in Louisiana and be in good standing with their student loans.
Through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program, Maryland residents who work as nurses at qualified organizations serving low-income and underserved residents may be eligible for loan assistance.
Eligible candidates must have nursing degree or diploma, be employed and have earned a degree in Maryland. School nurses do not qualify. In addition, your gross salary may not be more than $60,000. Award amounts depend on how much student loan debt you have; they can range from $1,500 to $10,000 per year over three years.
The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program offers loan assistance for nurse practitioners who work in underserved communities. Nurses who work full time and commit to working at least two years in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area can receive up to $200,000, which is tax-free, to pay back their student loans for up to eight years.
The Minnesota Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program offers repayment assistance to licensed practical or registered nurses who work with people with developmental disabilities or in a licensed nursing home. The program requires a commitment of at least two years, which can be extended for another two years in nursing homes.
Eligible candidates may receive $5,000 each year, with a maximum award of $20,000 over four years.
The Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program offers loan assistance for registered nurses who work full time at a Montana state hospital or state prison. Eligible candidates must submit proof that their current loan balance is at least $1,000.
The amount awarded depends on the number of candidates, as well as available state funding. Program participants can apply for repayment assistance for up to four years.
The Nebraska Loan Repayment Programs are a group of matching-fund programs to recruit health care professionals in Nebraska. Local entities will match state dollars in order to assist with employees’ loan repayment.
Nurse practitioners are eligible for this program if they commit to working for two to four years in a designated shortage area. The contract period is three years for one program and two years, with the possibility of a two-year contract extension, for the other. Eligible candidates can receive up to $15,000 each year.
The application committee will review the program(s) you qualify for. If you qualify for both, they will likely recommend one to sign up for, but you’ll get to make the final choice.
Under the New Hampshire State Loan Repayment Program, select nurses who work in underserved areas may be eligible for awards of up to $45,000. Eligible candidates must work full-time for at least 36 months. If interested, candidates can extend the program for another two years and receive an additional $20,000.
The New Mexico Health Professional Loan Repayment Program offers financial assistance to advance-practice nurses who work full time in a medical shortage area for two years. Eligible candidates must be residents and licensed in New Mexico.
The program is federal- and state-funded. Award amounts are not listed on the website, but it does note that those working in Health Professional Shortage Areas are offered federal funding first and receive top priority.
The New York State Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program was created to attract adjunct clinical faculty and nursing faculty members to teach in New York state. The program offers registered nurses with graduate degrees who have worked as educators in the field of nursing up to $40,000.
Eligible candidates can receive $8,000 per year for five years under this program.
Under the Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program, Ohio nursing students who plan on working as instructors or nurses post-graduation may be eligible for loan assistance. This program offers a loan of up to $1,620 for the 2019-2020 academic year, and nurses can get up to 100% of the loan canceled after working as a full-time nurse in Ohio for five years.
Through the Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment (SLRP) program, a variety of health care providers, including nurse practitioners and registered nurses, are eligible for repayment assistance by working in a Health Professional Shortage Area. Employers are required to match the award.
There’s a two-year service requirement for full-time providers and a four-year service commitment for those employed part-time. Providers may be eligible for two one-year extensions after their initial commitment. Awards are based on a variety of factors but are ultimately equivalent to a percentage of your loan balance.
The Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment program offers loan assistance for registered nurses who work in designated Health Professional Shortage areas. Eligible candidates can receive up to $60,000, while half-time workers can receive up to $30,000. The service commitment is two years.
Under the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment program, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists and registered nurses who work in Health Professional Shortage Areas may qualify for loan assistance. Award amounts vary, and recipients are required to make a two-year commitment for full-time work and a four-year commitment for part-time work.
In addition, nurse educators in Rhode Island may be eligible for the Nurse Educators Loan Forgiveness Program, which offers awards for nursing faculty of 60% of a participant’s total qualifying loan balance after two years, and an additional 25% of the original balance for an optional third year.
The Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program was created to encourage Tennessee nurses to become educators. To be eligible for student loan forgiveness for nurses, candidates must be residents, have a nursing license and be enrolled in a higher education nursing program.
Candidates must work full-time for four years to have their loans forgiven. This program is a type of student loan that will be forgiven after working as a teacher for a period of time.
The Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program offers loan reimbursements to health care providers who are not physicians. Eligible candidates must commit to working for at least 12 months and can receive awards of up to $10,000.
Vermont’s Educational Loan Repayment Program for Nurses offers a maximum annual award of $6,000. The service commitment is usually 12 months in an underserved area designated by the program. To qualify for the program, nurses must agree to work a minimum of 45 weeks each year, with 20 hours per week dedicated to clinical hours.
The Virginia State Loan Repayment Program could grant practicing nurses that have obtained a post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s degree in nursing up to $100,000 total toward their outstanding student loan balances.
Eligible candidates must commit to two years of service, which you can extend for a third or fourth year and receive an additional $40,000 annually. In order to be eligible, applicants must be working in their field at least 40 hours a week for a minimum of 45 weeks per year.
West Virginia’s State Loan Repayment Program offers student loan forgiveness for nurses practicing full-time for a minimum of two years in underserved rural areas.
Qualifying sites must be in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area. Eligible candidates can receive up to $40,000 for a two-year commitment and may receive an additional $25,000 for another two years if the contract is extended.
Through the Health Professions Loan Assistance Program, nurses in Wisconsin may receive up to $50,000 in loan assistance. Eligible candidates must commit to working at least three years in a qualified underserved or urban community.
The Wyoming State Loan Repayment Program offers loan assistance for nurses who work full time in qualifying Health Professional Shortage Areas. Eligible candidates must commit to working for at least two years in exchange for an award of up to $20,000.
Student loan forgiveness for nurses is available through many programs, but they may change year to year based on available funding. It’s important to familiarize yourself with eligibility requirements and application deadlines.
Additionally, some awards may be considered taxable income, so be sure to read the fine print and factor a potential tax bill into your debt repayment plan.
Laura Woods contributed to this report.