What’s the Difference Between Nurse Corps and NHSC Loan Repayment?

For nurse practitioner students and new grads, it may seem that the light at the end of the loan repayment tunnel will never appear. As if finding your first job as a nurse practitioner isn’t stressful enough, the obligation to pay down mounting student debt post-graduation undoubtedly increases the pressure you’re already under.

Loan repayment offered as part of a benefits package can help alleviate some of the financial burden. While there are several categories in which loan repayment is offered, Federal loan repayment programs offer unique opportunities for nurse practitioners and serve a dual purpose for both patients and providers by meeting the needs of the medically underserved while providing substantial loan repayment incentives in exchange for a provider’s services.

Both backed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the NURSE Corps and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) are just two federal programs in which you may be eligible for as a NP. While these do share some similarities, their incentives and requirements do have a few differences to consider before deciding which is right for you. So how do they compare and differ?

The Payments and Commitment Requirements

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NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program will repay 60% of qualifying education loans in exchange for a commitment to serve two years on a full time basis with 32 hours per week or more at an eligible Critical Shortage Facility. The program also offers a third year option in which it will repay an additional 25% of the original balance of the loan for an additional year of service.

The catch to the potential 85% payoff? Payments are subject to Federal Income Tax and Federal Insurance Contributions such as Social Security and Medicare, of which are withheld and reported directly to the IRS on the participant’s behalf. This means the nurse practitioner will be taxed on monies received from this program, an important factor to take into consideration.

NHSC Loan Repayment Program

The NHSC Loan Repayment Program offers to repay up to $50,000 of qualifying student loans. Unlike the NURSE Corps program, the award is free from Federal income tax and paid at the beginning of service, allowing you to pay down your loans more quickly. Though the payment is free from taxation, certain factors can affect how much repayment you’ll receive such as the length of your commitment, whether you serve full-time or half-time and the HPSA (Health Professional Shortage Area) score of the facility you serve in.

While the NHSC also requires two year commitment at one of its approved sites, applicants have the option to complete their commitment on a half-time basis, working between 20 – 39 hours per week or full time, working 40 hours per week. The program also offers the opportunity to receive additional repayment assistance in exchange for a longer service commitment once the two years have been satisfied.

Eligibility Requirements

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program

In order to be eligible for the NURSE Corps program, applicants must be US citizens or National and Lawful Permanent Residents, have received a graduate degree in nursing from an accredited program, as well as have a current and unrestricted license to practice as a NP. In addition, participants must be currently employed at an eligible facility for a minimum of 32 hours per week.

Loans must have been obtained prior to applying to the program and must be specific to your nursing education. Examples of loans that qualify for repayment include Nursing Student Loans that are not subject to cancellation, Stafford Loans and Supplemental Loans for Students; and consolidated loans may be eligible with within certain guidelines.

NHSC Loan Repayment Program

NHSC shares many of the same eligibility requirements as NURSE Corps such as citizenship status, education and licensure and loan qualifiers, with the exception that the program is exclusive to nurse practitioners whose specialties include Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, OBGYN, Geriatrics, Mental Health and Psychiatry.

Unlike NURSE Corps, applicants to the NHSC program do not have to be currently working at an approved service site and are able still eligible to apply if they have only accepted offer of employment, so long as the employment start date is no later than the application deadline.

Participating Facilities

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program

Eligible facilities under NURSE Corps are  public and private non-profit health care facilities that are located in or designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Critical access hospitals, public and private hospitals, outpatient clinics, residential nursing home, home health agencies, urgent care centers are just a few of the Critical Shortage Facilities that qualify. However private practice offices, clinics in prisons and correctional facilities are considered ineligible facilities by the program.

NHSC Loan Repayment Program

Approved NHSC sites are located across the US in both urban and rural areas. Designated NHSC sites must meet certain requirements and qualifications themselves in order to be eligible. Eligible sites include Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), American Indian Health Facilities, Certified Rural Health Clinics, Critical Access Hospitals, State or Local Health Departments, and School-Based Clinics, to name just a few.

Unlike NURSE’s program, private practices and correctional and detention facilities are eligible sites; however home-based care settings and inpatient hospitals such as the VA and county prisons are not.

Do you plan to apply for a federal loan repayment program for nurse practitioners?


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