It’s no secret that medical professionals are in high demand right now. You can thank the aging population in the U.S. As patients with long-term illnesses age, they need more care. And nurses are one of the professions where demand is very high. In fact, job growth in nursing is expected to rise 15% in the near future . That’s a very fast clip.
You may have selected nursing as your career because you found the high demand for candidates compelling. In addition to job growth, it’s a profession that usually turns into immediate employment after graduation, and it offers lucrative salaries—all appealing reasons for potential nursing professionals to consider. No doubt, you did.
But there is a downside, especially for nurses with post-graduate education. While the highest paid nursing positions require extra education, additional degrees or certifications also mean more student loan debt.
Fortunately, the federal government anticipated this issue, and they are trying to put nurses in places with the most need and simultaneously get them out of debt. For a commitment to work in one of these needy areas for a certain period of time, the government is willing to help pay off some of your nursing school debt.
Requirements for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
In order to be considered for Nurse Corps Loan Repayment, there are some key requirements you have to meet. The program is very selective, so you need to be sure you can compete. Of the 8,501 applications the government received in 2017, only 501 were initially accepted . Checking off as many of the eligibility requirements as possible will give you the best chance of success.
So what are the requirements? The first is you have to be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or permanent resident who is licensed as a registered nurse. Next, you have to be working full-time at one of the Critical Shortage Facilities the government recognizes in an underserved area, or at a nursing school. (The government has a tool you can use . to find the facilities on the list.) Third, you have to have graduated with a nursing degree from an accredited nursing school in the U.S. or its territories.
Since the program is so competitive, the government gives preference . to nurse faculty with the greatest financial need who work in a school where at least 50% of the students are from a disadvantaged background. Preference is also given to registered nurses working at facilities with the highest need for nurses.
What Am I Agreeing to with the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program?
One of the primary reasons for the program is to place qualified professionals in areas where health care is most needed. So many U.S. residents go without needed treatment because there’s a shortage of health-care workers where they live. By participating in the program, you can realize your passion for providing much-needed care to people who really need it.
You’d also be committing to work in a Critical Shortage Facility for two years, full-time. In some cases, nurses can continue for an additional year.
Once your service commitment to the Nurse Corp Loan Repayment Program is completed, the program will pay 60% of your unpaid nursing debt for two years. If you’re fortunate to get a one-year extension, the government will pay back 25% of the original loan balance. Keep in mind you’ll have to pay taxes on the amount of the loan repayment you receive.
Are There Other Loan Repayment Options for Nurses?
If you are a nurse practitioner, you can tap into National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, which offers the opportunity to wipe out all student loans if you continue at a qualifying facility beyond the initial service term. Nurse practitioners often have master’s degrees that allow them an expanded level of autonomy, so they frequently have more debt than registered nurses.
The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program has two levels of funding, depending on the need of the facility. High-need facilities provide $50,000 for student loan debt for full-time workers or $30,000 for part-time workers. Both require a service commitment of two years. But if you’re selected to continue past the service term, you can get more debt paid off.
Refinancing your nursing school loans can help you get a lower interest rate and new loan terms on your student debt. When you refinance a with a private lender, you’re subbing out your old loan, along with its interest rate and term, and getting a brand-new loan.
The lower interest rate or shorter term can either lower your monthly payment or reduce the time it takes to pay off the loan. Check out this student loan savings calculator to get a clearer picture on how student loan refinancing can save you money.
Although often used interchangeably, consolidating student loans is not the same as refinancing. Like any other consolidation loan, you’re combining all your loans — with their various interest rates and terms — and folding them into one loan with a new interest rate.
One thing to watch out for with debt consolidation, however, is that you have the ability to extend your term to lower monthly payments. While it may help in the short term to manage your budget, you’re adding years to your loan, and you’ll pay more interest over time.
Also, many folks go through the government’s Direct Student Loan Consolidation Program, but it doesn’t offer some of the same benefits as refinancing your debt. For example, it also only allows you to consolidate public loans, not private.
What If I’m Not Selected or Don’t Qualify?
With competition so high for loan payment programs, many applicants won’t be selected. And if you’re not working at a Critical Shortage Facility, you’re not going to qualify. And others may complete their service commitment, but still struggle with student loan debt. But there’s a smart option to consider that can help you manage student loan debt beyond the Nurse Corps Loan Payment Program or the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.
Refinancing your student loans can be a great idea for people who are established in their careers and have built up a solid credit rating. In other words, you’re at a much better place financially now than when you first took out the loans. Depending on your credit score and other factors, you could qualify for a lower interest rate.
You also have the option of choosing a fixed-rate loan or a variable-rate loan. If you like the idea of having a set payment amount, month after month, a fixed-rate loan fits the bill. If you can live with flexibility, a variable-rate loan follows the market, which means it could start lower but then rise. Of course, when rates rise, so does your payment amount.
So, at the end of the day, even if you don’t qualify for Nurse Corps Loan Repayment or the National Health Care Service Loan Repayment program, you can take advantage of refinancing.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE.SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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