Student loan forgiveness

Student Loan Forgiveness For Healthcare Workers: 7 Options 

student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers

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If you’re a healthcare worker, you may have taken on significant student loan debt to pay for medical school. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median student debt among medical school graduates who borrowed loans is $200,000. Fortunately, there are options for student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers.

If you qualify for any of these forgiveness programs, you could see part or all of your student loans wiped away.

What is student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers?

Student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers will forgive part or all of your student loans, usually in exchange for qualifying service. There are various federal forgiveness programs that provide relief for federal student loans.

Many states also offer student loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) to workers in underserved communities or shortage areas. If you qualify for an LRAP, you can often use the financial assistance to pay off federal or private student loans.

The eligibility requirements and application processes will vary by program, but most require a certain number of years in a qualifying workplace or community.

7 options for student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers

There are a number of student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers options, whether you’re a physician, nurse, licensed clinical social worker, veterinarian, dentist, medical researcher, or hold another occupation in the healthcare field.

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness for healthcare workers

While not specifically designed for healthcare workers, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program worth exploring. PSLF will forgive the remaining balance of your federal Direct student loans after 10 years of eligible service.

Specifically, you must work full-time for a nonprofit organization or government employer, such as a hospital or academic institution. Multiple part-time jobs also count, as long as your hours add up to 30 or more per week.

You also must make 120 qualifying payments on an income-driven repayment, such as Income-Based Repayment or Pay As You Earn. You can use the online PSLF Help Tool to check if you qualify for the program.

This tool also helps you generate the PSLF & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application. It’s a good idea to submit this form every year to make sure you’re on track to receiving loan forgiveness. Make sure to save a copy for your records, too.

If your application to PSLF is approved, the government will forgive your entire loan balance. Another benefit — you won’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.

2. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Programs

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) offers several student loan repayment programs for healthcare workers. Most require two or three years of service in a designated shortage area.

Here are the NHSC programs:

  • NHSC Loan Repayment Program: This program offers up to $50,000 to primary care medical, dental, and mental health providers who works for two years in a health professional shortage area (HPSA). If you work part-time, you could receive student loan assistance of $25,000. It’s also possible to receive additional student loan relief if you extend your contract beyond two years.
  • NHSC Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: The Nurse Corps program will pay off 60% of your student loan debt over two years, plus an additional 25% if you work for a third year. You must be a registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse, or nurse faculty working in an eligible critical shortage facility or accredited school of nursing.
  • NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program: This program offers up to $75,000 in student loan assistance for three years of full time work (and half that amount for part-time work). To be eligible, you must work at an eligible substance use disorder treatment site in a primary care medical, dental, or mental health discipline.
  • NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment Program: Similar to the previous program, this loan repayment program is designed for healthcare providers who treat substance use and opioid addiction. However, it requires you to work at an eligible site in a rural area. Borrowers could receive up to $100,000 if they work full-time for three years (and up to $50,000 if they work part-time).

3. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs

NIH provides up to $50,000 in student loan assistance annually to clinical researchers conducting biomedical or biobehavioral research. You must have a doctoral degree, such as an M.D. or Ph.D., and work at an NIH lab or other qualifying employer.

Plus, the amount you owe in student loans must be at least 20% of your salary.

4. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program

If you provide healthcare services for two years in an American Indian or Alaska Native community, you could receive up to $40,000 through the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program. This program is open to a variety of practitioners, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and more.

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Service Program

This two-year program involves working for the CDC to study disease outbreaks and other public health matters. It’s a two-year postgraduate fellowship that’s open to physicians, pharmacists, nurses, veterinarians, and other healthcare providers. If you partake in this program, you could receive student loan assistance for up to $50,000 each year.

6. Student loan forgiveness from income-driven repayment plans

Another avenue worth pursuing is the student loan forgiveness that comes at the end of your term on an income-driven repayment plan. There are four income-driven repayment plans:

All of these plans adjust your monthly student loans payments to a percentage of your discretionary income. They also extend your loan terms to 20 or 25 years.

If you’ve been paying on time and still have a balance when your term comes to an end, the government will forgive the rest. Note, however, that you may have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount (though these taxes have been waived through 2025).

7. Student loan repayment assistance from your state

While there are a number of federal student loan forgiveness programs for healthcare workers, don’t forget to check out options from your state, as well. All 50 states offer at least one student loan assistance program, and many of them are reserved for healthcare professionals.

As with some of the other programs on this list, you might have to work for two to three years in an underserved community, shortage area, or a rural area. Georgia’s Physicians for Rural Areas Assistance Program, for example, offers up to $100,000 in student loan assistance over four years to primary care doctors in rural Georgia areas.

California’s State Loan Repayment Program provides $50,000 to primary care physicians, dentists, dental hygienists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, pharmacists, and mental/behavioral health providers who work for two years in a shortage area. You could also get $20,000 per year for two additional years after that, and another $10,000 if you extend your contract for a fifth year.

The rules and award amounts will vary by program, but you can find the details on your state’s government website or by inquiring about programs with your school.

For additional options, check out my complete guide to student loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs.


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