Travel Nursing: Student Loan Forgiveness Options

travel nursing professionals in hospital

If you’re interested in a travel nursing career, you’ll need a nursing degree. With nearly 70% of all nursing students using student loans to cover the costs of education, it makes sense to talk about how you can pay back loans. Whether you’re currently in school, just graduated, or have been working as a nurse for years, it’s important to know what your options are. Let’s discuss some career options that may help you pay back your loans. 

You Need Education to Pursue a Travel Nursing Career

One of the most basic travel nurse requirements is education. This typically involves receiving an associates or bachelors degree in nursing from an accredited school before taking the licensure exam in your state. Many nurses use student loans to cover the cost for nursing school. Therefore, there is a chance you will have some student loan debt once you graduate. If you have student loans, there are many ways you can start repaying them.

Travel Nursing Can Help You Pay Back Student Loans for Nursing School

Travel nursing isn’t a loan forgiveness program per se. However, many nurses find themselves drawn to traveling because of the incredibly competitive compensation packages offered. Traveling nurses often make significantly more than permanent nurse staff. How much does a travel nurse make? It’s impossible to give an exact figure on how much you can make in your travel nursing career. However, compensation packages often include competitive salaries, amazing benefits, and even bonuses. Many professionals find that they are able to reach many of their financial goals by working as a traveling nurse because of the salary opportunities. This is particularly true if you’re traveling to areas with high demand for nurses who are willing to pay a premium. Some nurses find that travel nurse pay helps them pay off their loans sooner than expected. So, keep this in mind as you explore your career options.  

future travel nursing professional wearing BSN stoles for graduation
If you're interested in travel nursing, you likely need a college degree. That may mean you have student loans to pay off after graduation.

Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

Also, many nurses take advantage of special student loan forgiveness programs which help wipe out or repay some or all of their student loan debt for nursing school. There are typically specific criteria to qualify for these programs. Keep in mind these programs may limit you in the types of facilities you work in or how long you need to stay with each employer. However, forgiveness programs can also be incredibly helpful. You should weigh the pros and cons of these programs for your specific situation. 

Of course, you should always check with each specific program for guidelines and eligibility. Here are a few of the more common student loan forgiveness options nurses often use:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness  Program

One option for nurse student loan forgiveness is through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This is a program that forgives the remaining balance of your federal student loans after you make at least 120 monthly payments. Essentially, with this program you pay your monthly payment for 10 years and, if you qualify, anything left is forgiven. However, for this program you must work for a qualified employer for those ten years. Qualified employers might include government agencies and non-profit organizations. If you’re a full-time volunteer for Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, you might also qualify for PSLF. After those 10 years working as a nurse in specific facilities, then you’re free to pursue a travel nursing career, sans student loan debt.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

The Nurse Corps loan repayment program is another potential option. This is for nurses working in underserved communities at critical shortage facilities. With this program, you can get up to 60% of your loans paid while working in qualified facilities for two years. If you stay a third year, you can get an additional 25% of your loans paid off. Once again, this requires you to work a certain amount of time in specific facilities, such as public hospitals, non-profit hospitals, charitable/free clinics, or residential nursing homes. Therefore, using this program does place certain limits on nurses.

However, keep in mind that travel nursing typically requires you to have at least two years of experience before taking assignments anyway. So, you might want to take advantage of this program for two or three years before beginning your career as a traveling nurse.

National Health Service Corps Forgiveness Program

The National Health Services Corps (NHSC) forgiveness program is another option that requires at least two years of working in an approved facility. This program requires you to work at an NHSC approved site. For this program you can work either full-time or half-time for two years to receive some loan repayment on qualified loans. Once again, you might think about taking part in this program while gaining experience for a travel nursing career.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

If you have a Perkins loan from nursing school you’re still paying on, then you may be eligible for loan cancellation. The Perkins loan program ended in 2017, with the last of the funds disbursed in 2018. However, if you still have one of these loans, you may qualify for loan forgiveness. Generally, if you’ve worked as a nurse full-time for five consecutive years in a health practitioner shortage area, you may be eligible.  

Indian Health Service Forgiveness Program

Nurses who work in underserved American Indian or Alaskan Native communities for at least two years may be eligible for the Indian Health Service forgiveness program. Nurses don’t need to be of American Indian descent for this program, but must work at facilities in qualified communities. You can receive up to $40,000 toward your student loans under this program.

State-Level Programs

Also, there are many state-level programs that can help with student loan forgiveness or repayment for nurses. Each program varies, so double check with your state. However, usually you will need to meet certain residency criteria. Also, most programs require you work for a certain amount of time in shortage areas or in certain types of facilities. 

Other Options for Repaying Nurse Student Loans as a Travel Nursing Professional

There are also other options you might look at to help with your student loan debt as a travel nursing professional. For instance, you might consider enrolling in income-based repayment plans. These programs typically require you to pay a certain percentage of your salary, rather than a set dollar amount. This might be helpful for many nurses, particularly those just starting out in the industry. 

Travel Nursing Made Simple with AHS NurseStat

Interested in travel nursing? Want the freedom and flexibility of traveling across America doing what you love? At AHS NurseStat, we are here to help you do just that. As a travel nursing agency, our goal is to match you with the right assignments based on your goals. Our recruiters are always available to talk about your career and help you find your next assignment. We are a nurse staffing agency that cares and puts your needs first. Find a nursing job by browsing our job board or talking to a recruiter today.

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