Not to use the “Q” word, but student loan providers were awfully quiet for a few years. But they won’t be for long. In September 2023, the multi-year pause on student loans is set to end, with payments due starting October 2023.
With over $1.75 trillion in total student loan debt in the United States, it’s clear why the subject has been dominating public discourse.
Here’s what nurses need to know about student loans and nursing student loan forgiveness, with tips backed by financial experts.
Avoid Student Loan Repayment or Forgiveness Scams
When looking for a loan repayment program, ensure you know how to spot a scam and which forgiveness programs are reputable. Borrowers can access two things that scammers prey on: financial and personal information.
Elaine Rubin, the Director of Corporate Communications at Edvisors, says that she has encountered several counterfeit organizations in her experience. “These organizations cold contact borrowers by calling, emailing, or texting to let them know they qualify to have their student loan forgiven or have payments reduced to $0”, she explains.
Rubin also has experience working with the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. “A key sign is that these companies don’t know anything about the borrower, including their name,” she says. The scammers often start the conversation confidently, leaving little time for the victim to ask questions. Rubin recommends you don’t give away confidential information without being sure who you are providing the information. Only correspond with the federal government or your loan service provider directly.
Other Ways to Help with Student Loans
Not everyone will be able to qualify for a loan repayment program.
Here are a few other ways to reduce the burden of your student loan payments:
- Refinance your loan: You may refinance your loan if you have a better financing option with a lower interest rate, loan consolidation, or more flexible payment terms.
- SAVE Plan: Rubin says that the SAVE plan is a recent development under the federal government, designed to be another version of an income-driven repayment plan.
- “The new SAVE Plan will be available when loans re-enter repayment in September 2023”, she explains.
- Sign up for automatic payments: Todd Stearn, the founder and CEO of www.TheMoneyManual.com says, “Many lenders will reduce your rate by 0.25%” for signing up for automatic payments. Log into your loan account or contact your lender to learn more.
Nine Student Loan Repayment Programs Backed By Experts
As there is no universal loan forgiveness, you need to qualify for a specific forgiveness program to have your loans forgiven. Here are some reputable programs to look into.
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
What is it: Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal program that forgives the remaining student loan balance for borrowers working full-time for qualifying public service employers after making 120 qualifying monthly payments. Ensure you understand what constitutes a qualifying payment in a PSLF program.
Who qualifies: Borrowers who work for government organizations, non-profit organizations, or other qualifying public service entities while making payments under an eligible repayment plan may qualify for PSLF. Rubin says many nurses may qualify for PSLF because they may work for government agencies, public schools, or 501(c)(3) non-profit hospitals, often eligible for PSLF.
Where to learn more: Use the PSLF tool on the Federal Student Aid website.
2. Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
What is it: Stearn recommends the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program because “It is from the Bureau of Health Workforce, a part of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), of the US Department of Health and Human Services. This a government organization aims to ensure we have enough qualified health care workers.” Nurse Corps and volunteer programs provide loan repayment or forgiveness opportunities for nurses working in underserved areas or providing healthcare services to vulnerable populations.
Who qualifies: Eligibility criteria vary depending on the program, but nurses working in designated underserved areas or with specific organizations serving underserved communities may qualify. Rubin says, “This program is highly competitive and requires a two-year service commitment in a critical shortage facility located in a Health Professional Shortage Area or a nurse employed at an eligible nursing school.”
Where to learn more: Visit the HRSA Health Workforce website.
3. Perkins Loan Forgiveness
What is it: Rubin says, “If a nurse has a Federal Perkins Loan, that loan may be eligible for up to 100% forgiveness after five years of eligible service of their Perkins Loan. These loans haven’t originated since 2017; however, many of these borrowers are still in repayment. To qualify for Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation, the loan cannot be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.”
Who qualifies: Individuals that have Federal Perkins Loan may be eligible.
Where to learn more: Contact your school’s financial aid office or visit the Perkins Loan forgiveness page on the Federal Student Aid website.
4. Native American Loan Forgiveness Program
What is it: Native American loan forgiveness programs provide loan repayment or forgiveness options specifically for Native American individuals who work in healthcare or serve their Native American communities.
Who qualifies: Eligibility requirements vary based on the specific program, but Native American individuals working in designated healthcare positions or tribal organizations may qualify.
Where to learn more: Contact Native American tribal entities and healthcare organizations, or visit the Indian Health Service website for information.
5. National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program
What is it: The NHSC Loan Repayment Program offers loan repayment assistance to healthcare professionals, including nurses, who work in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and provide primary care services.
Who qualifies: Eligible healthcare professionals, including nurses working in HPSAs and meeting specific requirements, may qualify for loan repayment assistance through the NHSC program.
Where to learn more: Visit the NHSC Loan Repayment Program website.
6. Income-Driven Repayment (IDR)
What is it: Stearn says that nurses with federal student loans should consider Income-Driven Repayment plans. “These plans are based on your income, family size, and loan balance and can lower your payment significantly, potentially down to $0 a month.” After a certain period of repayment (typically 20 to 25 years), the remaining loan balance may be forgiven.
Who qualifies: Borrowers with federal student loans who enroll in an eligible IDR plan and make qualifying payments for the required period may qualify for forgiveness.
Where to learn more: Visit the official Federal Student Aid website to explore different IDR plans, calculate estimated payments, and learn more about forgiveness options under each scenario.
7. Employer-Sponsored Loan Forgiveness
What is it: Employer-sponsored loan forgiveness may be part of an employee benefit package. Stearn says that some businesses may offer employees student loan repayment assistance because it encourages nurses to stay with the company.
Who qualifies: Eligibility for employer-sponsored loan forgiveness varies by employer. Some companies offer this benefit to all employees, while others may have specific criteria such as length of employment or job role.
Where to learn more: Inquire with your employer’s HR department or benefits coordinator to learn if your company offers an employer-sponsored loan forgiveness program and to understand the specific eligibility requirements.
8. State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)
What is it: State-based loan repayment programs (SLRPs) are offered by individual states to healthcare professionals, including nurses, who work in designated underserved areas or critical shortage facilities within their state.
Who qualifies: Eligibility criteria and benefits of SLRPs vary by state. Nurses working in qualifying areas within a state may be eligible for loan repayment or forgiveness programs.
Where to learn more: Visit the HRSA Health Workforce website.
9. Military Loan Forgiveness Programs
What is it: Military loan forgiveness programs provide loan repayment assistance to service members and veterans who have served in the military.
Who qualifies: Eligibility for military loan forgiveness programs varies based on specific criteria, such as length of service, military branch, and job specialty.
Create Your Debt Care Plan
With student loan repayment underway in 2023, take time to explore ways to get your loan forgiven or reduce the financial burden of your loan. Visit reputable sources, like government or your lender’s website, to learn more information and avoid scams.
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