It’s the season of giving but capturing the intended spirit of the holidays may be tough if you’re a nurse practitioner saddled with student loan debt. It may seem like all the giving you can do this year is to keep up with loan payments. Paying down student debt and incorporating payments into your family’s budget isn’t easy. So, this holiday season, give yourself the gift of making sure you’re maximizing your loan repayment assistance potential.
The first step in securing help repaying your nurse practitioner student loans is to understand how your loans might be repaid, other than with your hard-earned dollars. For nurse practitioners, there are three general categories loan repayment opportunities fall into.
1. State Student Loan Repayment Programs
Several states have adopted loan repayment programs for healthcare providers including nurse practitioners. Lawmakers in Texas, for example, recently created a program to help pay off mental health professionals’ student loans seeking to alleviate the state’s shortage of psychiatric providers. The Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program awards nurse practitioners up to $60,000 towards student loans for two-years of service practicing in a medically underserved area.
State student loan repayment programs for nurse practitioners depend on annual state budgets, may limit loan repayment to certain specialties and/or may be limited to NPs practicing in rural areas. Make sure to review your state’s student loan repayment program requirements carefully before applying.
Healthcare employers are increasingly offering nurse practitioners cash towards paying down student loans as part of a benefits package. Unlike government options, these loan assistance perks aren’t tied to financial need, medical need in your practice area, or government budgets. Health systems in rural areas and areas that have difficulty attracting nurse practitioners are, however, the most likely to offer these benefits.
If you’re looking for your employer to assist with your student debt burden, read the fine print closely. Your employment agreement may require that you’ve worked with the company for a specified period of time before loan benefits kick in and/or that you commit to a certain number of years of employment.
3. Federal Student Loan Repayment Programs
Most nurse practitioners have heard of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ loan repayment program, the National Health Service Corps. The programs awards nurse practitioners working in medically underserved areas up to $50,000 towards student loans over two years of employment. Other federal programs include the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, U.S. military loan repayment programs, and the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program.
Many stipulations are placed on qualifying for federal student loan repayment programs, so nurse practitioners must research their options for federal loan repayment carefully. Simply meeting the requirements for a program don’t guarantee that the nurse practitioner will be accepted into the program. Annual budgets and the number of applicants also come into play. Additionally, most government-based loan repayment plans require the nurse practitioner to practice in a medically underserved area. While these programs may be difficult to qualify for, they are a valuable resource for NPs who are able to take advantage of their benefits.
If you are a nurse practitioner student, or NP seeking assistant paying off student loan debt, research your options for assistance programs carefully. Your healthcare skills and background are valuable and planning ahead when it comes to your employment may be helpful in relieving the financial burden of student loans.
Are you planning to apply for student loan repayment assistance programs?