Congrats! You have fulfilled your dream of becoming a nurse practitioner. Now, about those loans… Graduating from your NP program with a mountain of debt can certainly dampen your spirits. The excitement you feel about your new career path is met with worry and fear over your financial situation. Conquering student loan debt is no easy task, but fortunately many programs and employment opportunities offer loan repayment help for NPs.
You’re not alone in your loan repayment woes. The total U.S. student loan debt is nearing an astonishing $1 trillion. Acknowledging the hardship of paying off student loans post-graduation, the U.S. government has been rolling out new programs to help recent (and not-so-recent) grads get on their feet. These new loan forgiveness and repayment plans remain underused leaving plenty of opportunity for prospective enrollees. By taking the time to understand loan repayment programs, many nurse practitioners will find themselves eligible for help in the debt relief process.
If you are swamped with student loans, check out these programs to see if they can offer you some reprieve.
Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
Founded with the mission of providing the highest level of physical, mental, social and spiritual health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program (IHS LRP) awards up to $40,000 towards the repayment of student loans in exchange for a two-year service commitment to practice full-time at an Indian health program site. These opportunities aren’t just for NPs living on a reservation. The IHS has career opportunities across the country and does not require that applicants to the program are American Indians.
National Health Service Corps
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) offers loan repayment assistance to health care providers serving in areas of medical need. Nurse practitioners practicing in an area designated as medically underserved may be awarded up to $50,000 in exchange for two years of full-time service. The amount awarded varies between $30,000 and $50,000 depending on the level of medical need where the NP practices. Even if living in a rural community isn’t appealing to you, it’s worth looking into the NHSC loan repayment program. Many medically underserved areas are within commuting distance from suburban and urban communities. You just may be able to remain in the city while practicing in an underserved community.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
Serving America’s medically underserved communities, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program pays off 60 percent of unpaid nursing student loans in just two years and an additional 25 percent of the original balance for an optional third year of practice. Nurse Corps members much practice at one of thousands of designated hospitals or clinics across the country. The program is available not only to nurse practitioners, but diploma, associate and bachelor’s prepared nurses as well.
U.S. Military Loan Repayment Programs
The U.S. Navy offers an excellent loan repayment package for nurse practitioners willing to serve at sea. With a maximum yearly loan repayment of $40,000 (minus 25% federal income taxes), nurse practitioners can pay off loans quickly with just a few years of military service. The National Guard offers similar opportunities for NPs willing to sign up for duty. Family Nurse Practitioners can receive $20,000 towards student loans for a three-year contract.
National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment
Interested in research? Then this loan repayment opportunity is for you. The National Institutes of Health awards up to $35,000 towards student loans for a two year commitment to conducting clinical research. Research can be funded by a domestic nonprofit organization, or the U.S. federal, state or local government. If you’ve got a bent for research this opportunity will surely give you a head start on your paying back your student loans.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was created to encourage individuals to enter and continue working in full-time public service positions. Applicants to the program must have made at least 120 payments on qualified loans. If your loan does not qualify, there are some steps you can take to consolidate your loan into a format that will qualify for repayment. What qualifies as a public service position? Nurse practitioners working for a non-profit or government organization providing emergency management, care for individuals with disabilities and the elderly, and/or public health services are eligible.
Income-Based Repayment Plan
After graduating not only with an undergraduate nursing degree but also with a master’s level nursing education chances are your student loan payments are pretty steep. The Income-Based Repayment Plan offered through the federal government makes student loan debt more manageable for graduates with high loan debt relative to income. Based on the average nurse practitioner income, most NPs won’t qualify for these financial hardship loan repayment opportunities, but it’s worth looking into.
State-Based Loan Repayment Programs
Can’t find a federal loan repayment program that’s right for you? Check your state’s loan repayment listings. Like the federal government, many states provide loan repayment opportunities for nurse practitioners. The Association of American Medical Colleges provides a helpful list of state-based loan repayment programs for medical providers.
Employer-Based Loan Repayment Opportunities
Some employers offer loan repayment as part of an employment package for nurse practitioners. This offering not only confers tax advantages to both you and your employer, it helps you become debt-free more quickly. When looking for jobs online, try including “loan repayment” as a search term to find these positions more easily.