Guide to Nursing Student Loans: What You Should Know

By Jennifer Calonia · June 11, 2024 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Guide to Nursing Student Loans: What You Should Know

Pursuing a nursing program can lead to a rewarding career, but as the cost of higher education grows, paying for nursing school might just cause your blood pressure to rise.

Financial aid, including nursing student loans, can help fill the gap between money on hand and education costs, but it’s good to think about your future pay compared with the debt you’re willing to take on.

Keep reading to learn more on nursing school loans, the different types of student loans available, and alternative ways to pay for nursing school.

What Are Nursing School Loans?

Nursing school student loans are a type of financial aid available to eligible college students who are enrolled in a program for licensed practical or vocational nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or nurse anesthetists.

Depending on the loan program, federal student loans for nursing degrees can either be need-based or not. Another option to fill in gaps in need: private student loans.

Unlike grants and scholarships, nursing school loans must be repaid, though special programs like the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program offer loan forgiveness.

Most loan programs, federal and private, have a grace period during school and after graduation before repayment must begin.

Types of Loans Available for Nursing School Students

The Department of Education provides options for federal nursing student loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.

Eligible borrowers can also explore private student loans for additional funding, if needed.

If you do borrow, you’ll be in good company. Take a guess at how many people have student loans. The answer is about 45 million Americans; the vast majority have federal student loans.

And the cost of nursing school? It varies by institution and length of study. Getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing generally costs the same as most bachelor’s degrees.

Direct Subsidized Loans

A Federal Direct Subsidized Loan is available to undergraduate students who are enrolled at least half-time at a participating school. Students are required to demonstrate financial need to qualify.

If a nursing student qualifies for a Direct Subsidized Loan, the school determines how much they can receive for that academic year. The government pays the interest that accrues on the loan while the student is enrolled at least half-time, during a six-month grace period after leaving school, and during any deferment granted for economic hardship, cancer treatment, or a few other reasons.

In comparing subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans, the first type favors borrowers more, thanks to how accrued interest is paid.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students. These loans are not based on financial need, but schools still decide how much students can borrow toward an academic year.

The key difference with this nursing loan option is that students are responsible for interest charges as soon as the loan funds are disbursed.

Direct PLUS Loans

Another federal option for nursing student loans is the Direct PLUS Loan. Grad PLUS Loans are available to graduate students who are pursuing an advanced degree like a Master of Science in Nursing.

Parents of an undergraduate student can help fund their child’s education through a Parent PLUS Loan; undergrads don’t have direct access to this loan option.

Direct PLUS Loans are non-need based and require a credit check. Borrowers are responsible for all interest that accrues. They can receive up to the school’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received.

Private Student Loans

Nursing students who need funding beyond federal student loans can consider private student loans. Private student loans are offered by private financial institutions like banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

Each lender has its own eligibility requirements, interest rates, and loan terms. If you’re eligible for a private student loan, your interest rate and loan details will depend on various factors, including your credit score. Most lenders welcome your bringing a solid cosigner aboard.

Pros and Cons of Loans for Nursing School

The average student loan debt among all health care professionals can be eye-opening, yet healers usually feel the need to heed the call, no matter the cost.

Nursing student loans can be a fast way to finance your college education. However, before jumping in, weigh the benefits of student loans against their disadvantages.



Quick financing for college costs Will make years of payments after leaving school
Some student loans let you borrow up to the cost of attendance Can cause borrowers to postpone other life goals during repayment
Can make paying for higher education possible for those who are ineligible for other types of financial aid You may need a cosigner to qualify
Repaying student loans on time can help build your credit history Defaulting on student loans can harm your credit and result in additional financial hardship

Applying for Nursing Student Loans

The process to apply for nursing student loans depends on the loan option chosen.

Comparing Loans

If you’re thinking about taking out student loans, you might want to compare federal student loans you might be offered in your aid package, as well as private student loans.

Prioritizing federal student loans before private student loans can be a good idea, since federal loans offer advantages like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives any remaining federal student loan balance after certain borrowers make 120 qualifying payments.

If private nursing student loans are still needed to pay for college, check offers across multiple private lenders. Comparing a handful of private student loan offers can help you find competitive rates and terms.

Applying for Loans

Federal nursing student loans and private student loans have distinct application processes. You must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) before the academic year to see if you’re eligible for federal aid.

Private student loans don’t require the FAFSA. Instead, private nursing student loan applications can be submitted online, in person, or by mail, depending on the lender. They require the would-be borrower, or a cosigner, to meet credit and income requirements.

After Applying

It’s a good idea to start the process early when seeking federal student loans for your nursing education. The time between submitting the FAFSA and disbursement of the loan funds to your school can be months.

The turnaround time after applying to receive private student loan funds can be notably shorter. Getting pre-qualified for a loan can take just minutes.

In general, if you’re approved for a private nursing student loan, you can expect to wait up to 10 weeks after your loan is approved to receive the funds.

Alternative Financing Options for Nursing Students

Securing nursing school student loans is only one of many ways to finance your higher education. Other options include personal loans, grants, and employer sponsorship.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are a general-purpose loan option that can be used toward nursing school. A credit check is required.

Repayment begins as soon as funds are disbursed. Check your rate and decide if a personal loan makes sense. One perk of personal loans is you could get funding within 24 hours of loan approval.


Grants are provided through the federal government, state, your school, nonprofit entities, and private organizations. Since grant funding doesn’t need to be paid back, this aid alternative lets nursing students leave school with less student debt.

Employer Sponsorship

If you plan on working while you’re enrolled in nursing school, you can ask if your company has a sponsorship program. Generally in this situation, your employer will send funds directly to your school.

Private Student Loans From SoFi

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


How do nursing students get loans?

Nursing students can see if they’re eligible for federal student loans by submitting the FAFSA. Private nursing student loans are also available through various private lenders.

Can nursing school loans be forgiven?

Nursing professionals might be eligible for loan forgiveness through federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.

What is the average student loan amount for a nurse?

The median student loan debt among nurses ranges from $40,000 to $55,000, according to the most recent report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Those who pursue a Master of Science in Nursing are often left with more than $47,000 in student loan debt, according to NurseJournal.

For perspective, in terms of educational investment and earnings, registered nurses earned a median annual wage of $86,070 in 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. RNs usually have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, who complete a state-approved educational program that typically takes about one year, had median pay of $59,730 per year.
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, who must earn at least a master’s degree, had median pay of $129,480 per year.

Photo credit: iStock/erdikocak

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender