Nurses are healthcare professionals who make important contributions to society every day, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how nurses have played a key role in overcoming the worst global public health emergency since 1918. For this reason alone, it’s essential for nurses to know about the programs available to reduce or erase debt through student loan forgiveness.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program of the federal government providing loan forgiveness for those working for “qualifying employers” at least 30 hours per week. According to the PSLF website, “qualifying employment for the PSLF Program isn’t about the specific job that you do for your employer. Instead, it’s about who your employer is.”
The PSLF website lists the following as qualifying employers:
- Government organizations (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal, including the military)
- 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations
- Peace Corps
If your employer is a not-for-profit lacking 501(c)(3) status, you may still be eligible. Employers fully excluded from the program are “labor unions, partisan political organizations, and for-profit organizations, including for-profit government contractors.”
As reported by Fortune Magazine, the “largely failed” PSLF program has recently been updated by the Biden administration. The article states, “Before the overhaul of the program…98% of borrowers who had applied for forgiveness were denied by the program because of several hurdles with the approval process. Now PSLF borrowers will be able to retroactively count payments that had been made under a loan program that didn’t qualify.”
Please see the PSLF website for more information about the types of loans that qualify for the program, which include William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans (frequently referred to as “Direct Loans”).
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program covers up to 85% of unpaid debt from the nursing education of RNs, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and nurse faculty (NF).
In order to qualify, a nurse must be employed full-time in what’s known as a “Critical Shortage Facility” (CSF), or serve as faculty at an eligible nursing school. According to the HRSA website, a CSF is “a public or private health care facility located in, designated as, or serving a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA); a HPSA is an area lacking enough primary care or mental health professionals.”
The nurse must also have received their education from an accredited nursing school in the United States or a U.S. territory. This helpful document explains aspects of the program in detail.
The Navient Multi-State Student Loan Settlement
A program some nurses may be eligible for is connected to a legal settlement from accusations of abusive and deceptive loan practices by Navient, a large corporation servicing student loans.
In simple terms, borrowers whose loan may be cancelled will receive a notice from Navient by July 2022, along with refunds for payments that were made on the loan after June 30 2021. If you’re eligible for the $250 restitution you’ll receive a postcard. If you qualify, the only thing you need to do is update or create your studentaid.gov account to ensure the U.S. Department of Education has your current address.
The settlement was led by Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, and California, and was joined by attorneys general in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge
Some nurses may be eligible for cancellation and discharge of up to 100% of federal Perkins Loans in exchange for five years of service approved under the program.
The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge program says that nurse applicants must be employed full-time, with loans forgiven over the course of a five-year period. Applications for forgiveness are submitted through the original school attended by the nurse.
National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) offers certain groups of service workers a number of loan repayment plans. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) employed in NHSC-approved “urban, rural, or tribal communities with limited access to care” are included in this particular program.
The Loan Forgiveness Landscape
Many people have said over the years that nurses deserve loan forgiveness as a way for the country to thank them for their service. Hard-working nurses provide important health-related services to millions of Americans, and nursing faculty help to educate future generations of nurses. Without nurses, what would happen to our country’s health? Nurses are essential public servants who deserve access to programs that assist with loan repayment and forgiveness, and we can only hope that more nurse student debt relief will be made available in the years to come.
Nurses with outstanding student loans should stay aware of changes happening in the student loan forgiveness landscape. As noted in the description of the Navient settlement and the newly updated PSLF program, changes in programs and applicant eligibility do happen, often with positive results for those wanting some relief from their student loan debt.