Loan Repayment Programs for Nursing Students

Nurses are in high demand, and some of the most needy areas -- urban as well as rural -- have a hard time attracting candidates. Nursing schools are also struggling to find teachers; part of the problem is that the schools can’t afford to pay master’s or doctoral level nurses as much money as those nurses could command elsewhere. For these reasons, many organizations offer loan repayment. If you fulfill a service obligation, your educational debt will be erased.

There are a number of loan repayment programs, some financed by the government, others by private institutions. The terms vary. Some governmental agencies offer both loan scholarship and loan repayment programs. One of the key differences in these cases is that you apply for the loan scholarship to help you meet costs while still in school; if you don’t apply or don’t make the cut, you can apply for loan repayment afterward. Does this mean that you always apply for loan repayment programs after you graduate? No. Some agencies refer to their programs as loan repayment even though they put money up front while you’re in school.

Loan Repayment Programs for Nurses

Many nurses turn to the HRSA, which operates under the banner of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The HRSA has several programs for nurses at the RN level or higher. You apply for the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program after completing your degree and securing full-time employment. Preference is given to nurses who 1) have a high level of debt respective to their salary and 2) work in a type of facility that is experiencing a severe shortage. Nursing homes, rural health clinics, and critical access hospitals are among the facilities currently experiencing the greatest need; you can look on the HRSA site to see the full list. If you work at an eligible site for two years, you will see 60% of your debt paid for you. The government will make payments toward your debt during that time, but if you fail to meet be your obligation, you must pay it back with interest. In this case, you would also be disqualified from similar programs in the future. (If, on the other hand, you want to put in a third year, you’ll see even more of your debt repaid.)

The national government also runs the Faculty Loan Repayment Program, the Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program, and the National Health Services Corps. The latter is reserved for nurse practitioners and other medical professionals who can deliver primary care. You have to work at an approved facility, but you may work as little as half time (at a lower repayment rate). Two years of full-time employment can see $60,000 of debt repaid.

Some states offer their own loan repayment programs. There are more programs available for nurse practitioners and nurse midwives than for nurses with lower levels of training. The Minnesota Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program is for nurses at the LPN and RN levels; nurses must work in the areas of highest need (nursing homes and intermediate care facilities for people with mental retardation). Minnesota will give you $3,750 dollars a year to pay off your loans, but if you fail to put in three years of service, you owe the money back with interest.

Vermont is another state that offers loan repayment for nurses from the LPN level on. You may serve for as little as one year or as much as four. California’s SNAPLE NSF program is for RNs. You may apply before you graduate or up to a year after graduation. To qualify, you must take a position at a state facility that has a greater than 10% vacancy rate.

Is there anyone else besides the government who may pay your loan? It could be your own local hospital! Some offer loan forgiveness packages as a sign-on bonus. Some offer loan scholarships to very highly qualified candidates while they’re still in school.

Put time into researching what is available locally as well as nationally and you will most likely come up with an opportunity that works for you.

Contact Information for Loan Repayment for Nurses

NELRP

PH: 800-221-9393

Website: hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/repayment/nursing/overview.html

IHS

PH: 301-443-3396

Website: ihs.gov/JobsCareerDevelop/DHPS/LRP

NHSC

PH: 800-221-9393

Website: nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment

Minnesota Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program

PH: 651-201-3870
Email Contact: amy.vallery@state.mn.us

Website: health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/funding/loans/index.html#4

Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program

Website: med.uvm.edu/ahec/downloads/2010_Nurse_ELR_Application.pdf

California SNAPLE

Website: csac.ca.gov/doc.asp?id=1249

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