Being a Nurse is a Great Career! Student Loans, Not So Much!
Nursing jobs offer job security, prestige, personal satisfaction, and excellent wages and benefit packages.
The nursing profession needs quality nurses, and that translates to educated nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a nursing shortage through 2020.
A gallop poll survey ranked nurses as “the most trusted profession for 15 years in a row.” Jobs are plentiful as nurses work in every state, city, and town in a wide variety of roles earning good wages and excellent benefits. Also, nurses have the incredible satisfaction of saving and changing patient’s lives.
The Nursing Profession Needs Educated Nurses
There is a nationwide campaign for nurses to achieve higher education. Studies show that patient outcomes improve dramatically when the bulk of the nursing workforce is BSN-prepared. Some hospitals may require baccalaureate degrees and some states are mandating BSN in 10 programs. Advanced nursing education to BSN and beyond is becoming the norm and quality education does not come cheaply.
Quality Nursing Education Does Not Come Cheap
Your grandmother was right. Cheap is expensive, and when applied to nurse education it can be deadly. Every nurse aims to be the best he or she can be, and provide the best patient care. The nursing profession struggles to maintain enough nurse educators to fill the need, so spots at quality colleges and universities are in high demand and they can be expensive.
Nursing School Student Debt
All of these pluses of pursuing an advanced degree do not negate the pain of paying off student loan debt. The countrywide crisis of crushing student debt has spearheaded a movement to lessen the financial load for students, and this includes nurses.
Even the money savvy ADN-prepared RN who is going to school with employee tuition reimbursement escapes the entirely of student debt. The question is no longer about the necessity to return to school, but rather what are the options to help pay for it.
Alas, There is NO Magic Pill
There may be no magic pill, but there is help out there for the stalwart and persistent individual. Finding student loan forgiveness or assistance programs can be as daunting as sitting for the NCLEX exam, but if you’re a nurse, you survived that and had a proven track record for success. A nurse who puts the same diligence given to patient advocacy into seeking student loan options is bound to find some success or at least a little relief. It isn’t easy, and it takes some research and forethought, but it’s possible.
Figuring Out Your Options
The nurse audience for this article is one who has already thought through all of her current options such as employer tuition reimbursement, grants, scholarships, and other opportunities.
First, take a deep breath. Second, congratulate yourself on your decision to pursue an advanced degree or the accomplishment of obtaining one! Figuring all of this out requires the same skillset used in triaging multiple emergency patients, taking complicated verbal orders in chaos, or just about any other nursing task. You’ve got this covered.
After you get grounded, figure out where you are right now at this exact minute as that will determine what course to plot moving forward.
- Are you still in school?
- Are you planning to stay at your present job or are you willing to relocate or switch positions?
- Where are you in your life’s journey? A new nurse just starting her career has different goals and options than an older nurse in an established position.
Making an Investigative Plan and Starting at the Beginning
Start at the beginning as that’s the only place to start. Begin by making a list and spending some time reading about your options. You did not learn 206 bones in a day, and you are not going to figure out the financial labyrinth of student loan options with one read-through.
Start with investigating your loans if you’ve not already done so to outline how you financed your loans or how you are going to fund future loans. Knowing this information will help organize your search.
Then, spend some time at federal loan ground zero and discover what student loan forgiveness is and what it isn’t at Federal Student Aid. According to the site, not all federal loans have the same cancellation, forgiveness, or discharge options.
Federally Funded Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Fortunately, there are several federally funded nurse loan forgiveness programs, but they are not one-size-fits-all, so a careful review is in order. Grab a cuppa coffee and a comfy seat and review the following possibilities!
- The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC)
The Nurse Corp Repayment Program pays up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt if employed for a Critical Shortage Facility for two years.
- Perkins Loan Discharge or Loan Cancellation for Nurses
With this loan, 100% Perkins Loan forgiveness is available after five years of nursing employment in a qualified facility.
- The Public Loan Service Forgiveness Program
This program may be helpful to a nurse who works in public service and loans are eligible for forgiveness after ten years or 120 payments. Candidates must meet program conditions and work 30+ hours a week.
State Funded Student Loan Forgiveness Options
Many states offer student loan forgiveness options that vary from state to state. Student Loan Hero provides a complete list of state loan forgiveness options. Some states, such as Alabama, do not have student loan forgiveness options, but many do. Check out your state and see what your options are as they are all different.
The Armed Forces all offer varying student loan assistance options on their websites. The Navy offers up to $40,000 a year in repayment assistance for persons who practice medicine while in service.
Other Options for Student Loan Forgiveness
Student loan debt is a pressing topic and on people’s minds. CNN Money reported that student loan debt is over 1.5 trillion dollars and is at crisis proportions. Just because there is not an appropriate option to meet your needs today, does not mean there will not be one tomorrow. Many companies are now offering student loan assistance as a benefit option.
The nurse who applies the same passion and persistence to finding student loan assistance options as they do for patient care is well on their way to obtaining some debt relief.
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