Dealing with student loan debt can feel like quite the burden. If you can’t make the payments or feel like you’ll never pay off the debt student loan forgiveness may help.
You still have to make loan payments, and it’s not an overnight solution, but it may help in the long run. With regular payments and service in particular areas, you may pay just a fraction of your student loans.
Here’s how it works.
First, figure out what type of loans you have. If they are federal student loans, you have student loan forgiveness options. If they’re private, you don’t have these options, but can talk to your loan servicer about any programs they have.
Nurses often qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan. If you work for a 501(c)(3) hospital, you qualify. Essentially, you must work for a tax-exempt charity or government agency to qualify.
Here’s how it works:
· Get on an income-driven repayment plan (more on this below)
· Make 120 payments (doesn’t have to be consecutive)
· Complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification form yearly
· After 10 years, complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications
As long as you were on an income-driven payment plan and made 120 payments, you should have the remainder of your loans forgiven. The income-based repayment plan reduces your payments so there is a balance to forgive. If you stay on the standard repayment plan, there’s nothing to forgive.
Income-driven repayment plans decrease your payment based on your current income. At the most, you’ll pay 15 percent of your discretionary income. Here are the income-drive payment plan options:
· Income-Based Repayment Plan – Your payments are 10 percent of your discretionary income, but not more than the 10-year standard repayment.
· Pay as you Earn Plan – Your payments are 10 percent of your discretionary income, but not more than the 10-year standard repayment.
· Income Contingent Repayment Plan – Your payments are the lesser of 20 percent of your discretionary income or your payment over a 12-year period based on your income
Nurses or anyone in the healthcare industry have a few other options for student loan forgiveness, including:
· National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Nurse practitioners and other specialized nurses may qualify for this loan forgiveness program.
If you are eligible and commit to two years of service at an NHSC site, you may have between $30,000 - $50,000 of student loans forgiven.
· Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
If you work in a Critical Shortage Facility full-time, you may get up to 60 percent of your loans forgiven. This is usually in exchange for a 2-year commitment. If you commit to a third year, they may forgive an additional 25 percent.
· Faculty Loan Repayment Program
If you work in a teaching profession in the healthcare industry (such as teaching other nurses), you may receive up to $40,000 in loan forgiveness in exchange for a 2-year commitment.
· NIH Loan Repayment Program
If you have a focus on biomedical or biobehavioral research, you can receive up to $35,000 in student loan forgiveness for your time doing research.
If you think you qualify for one of the above plans, follow the steps below to apply for the appropriate program.
Each student loan forgiveness program has different qualification and application requirements. Know the information they require, the applications you must complete, and any follow up you must do, such as with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
If you forget to complete your PSLF certificate each year, your payments and year in service won’t qualify, pushing back your efforts.
Figure out which Income-Based Repayment plan suits your income. What can you afford and which do you qualify for? If your income changes throughout the years, you can change income-based repayment plans. Always talk to your loan servicer and make sure you’re on the plan that works right for you.
The lower the payment you can get, the more money you’ll have forgiven after your 10 years of payments. If you’re on the standard plan, you’ll pay the loans off in 10 years, which means nothing is forgiven.
Using the income-based repayment plans to your advantage, you can lower your payments, especially when you first graduate and make little money. This means you’ll have a larger balance after the 10 years of payments that will be forgiven.
Make your payments on time every month. If you run into trouble, contact your service right away.
If you need to defer your payments for the time being, let them know. Your loan servicer may have options for you so you don’t lose the progress you’ve made on the payments.
Once you reach the milestone, apply for final loan forgiveness. Don’t assume it will happen automatically – it won’t.
You must apply for the program and have proof that you meet all the qualifications. Keep your certifications throughout the years and proof of your payments so you can get the loans forgiven right away.
2020 was a strange year, and one that hurt many people financially. If this sounds like you, it’s a great time to get on an income-based repayment plan and work your way toward student loan forgiveness.
Nurses have many options to get some or all of their student loans forgiven. Determine what you think will work for you, and get the ball rolling to make your way to student loan forgiveness.