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The job outlook for registered nurses is expected to grow by 12% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, you’ll have a good chance of not only finding a job, but also enjoying job security during your career.
But even though the job outlook is good, you might wonder how to pay for nursing school in the first place. The good news is that unlike some other degrees, nursing school graduates often have starting salaries that exceed their student loan debt. Eligible nurses might also qualify for loan forgiveness programs that discharge a portion of your loan balance.
Here’s what you should know about nursing student loans:
- Start with federal student loans
- Look into HRSA loans
- Consider private student loans
- Repaying nursing student loans after graduation
Start with federal student loans
While nursing programs can be expensive, nursing students can qualify for low-cost federal loans. To apply for federal federal financial aid, start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Depending on your education status and financial need, you might be eligible for the following types of federal student loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: Undergraduate students with financial need can qualify for subsidized loans. With this type of loan, the government covers the interest charges while you’re in school, as well as during any grace periods or deferment periods. If you qualify for subsidized loans, they’re your lowest-cost option.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Both undergraduate and graduate students can qualify for unsubsidized loans, regardless of financial need. With unsubsidized loans, you’re responsible for paying all of the interest that accrues on the loan, even while you’re in school.
- Direct Grad PLUS Loans: With Grad PLUS Loans, graduate or professional degree students can borrow up to the total cost of attendance. Unlike subsidized and unsubsidized loans, Grad PLUS loans also require a credit check. They also come with a higher interest rate.
- Direct Parent PLUS Loans: Parents of undergraduate students can borrow up to the total cost of attendance at the student’s college. Like Grad PLUS Loans, Parent PLUS Loans require a credit check and have a higher interest rate.
After you graduate, federal student loans come with a variety of repayment options. If you can’t afford your payments, most federal student loans are eligible for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans.
Plus, if you work for an eligible employer, you might also qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This means you could have your loan balance forgiven after working for 10 years and making 120 monthly qualifying payments.
But keep in mind that Parent PLUS Loans aren’t eligible for any of the IDR plans or for PSLF. To qualify for income-driven repayment with Parent PLUS Loans, you’ll first have to consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. After this, you can sign up for the income-contingent repayment (ICR) plan, which could make you eligible for PSLF.
Look into HRSA loans
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provides funds to participating schools to offer Nursing Student Loans. These are long-term, low-interest loans. Full-time, disadvantaged students pursuing a diploma or an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree in nursing might be eligible for these loans.
As of 2020, these loans have a 5.00% interest rate and 10-year repayment term, plus a nine-month grace period where interest doesn’t accrue.
Consider private student loans
In some cases, it might make more sense for you to take out private student loans instead of federal student loans to pay for nursing school. However, keep in mind that private student loans don’t qualify for PSLF or federal repayment plans.
There are two scenarios where applying for private student loans could be the right choice for you:
- You’ve exhausted all of the federal student loans and HRSA loans available to you: If federal student loans or HRSA loans don’t cover the full cost of your education, you might need to take out private student loans to cover your remaining balance.
- You’re eligible only for high-interest PLUS Loans: At 7.08%, Grad PLUS Loans and Parent PLUS Loans have the highest interest rate of any federal student loan. If you have good credit, you might qualify for a private student loan with a lower interest rate. This could help you save money over the length of your repayment term.
If a private student loan is better for your situation, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. With Credible, you can easily compare multiple lenders and see what rates you qualify for in just two minutes — all without affecting your credit score.
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Repaying nursing student loans after graduation
If you’re a nursing student, you have a bright future ahead of you. The median salary for nurses is $71,422 — which is well above the national median income.
When it comes to paying off your federal nursing student loans, both loan repayment assistance programs and loan forgiveness programs are available. In fact, there are several student loan forgiveness programs for nurses that might forgive up to 100% of your remaining loan balance if you qualify.