By Kat Tretina, Student Loan Hero
Working as a nurse can be rewarding, but getting the necessary education and licenses can be expensive. Depending on your area of study, the cost of a nursing degree can be as much as $118,000. With such a high price, it’s likely you took out federal or private student loans to afford school.
While you can make an excellent salary as a nurse, your student loan payments can eat up a lot of your monthly income. Luckily, there are different ways you can reduce your student loan burden. Here are four options that can help you manage your nursing school debt.
1. Check out the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
Millions of Americans go without preventative medical care because there’s a lack of healthcare professionals. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration aims to address this problem and help nurses afford their degrees through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program. If you qualify, this program could pay for up to 85 percent of your unpaid nursing debt over the course of three years.
To be eligible, you must be a licensed nurse, nurse practitioner, or nurse faculty member. Your nursing education must be from an accredited institution within the United States, and you must work in a designated Critical Shortage Facility.
2. Sign up for an income-driven repayment plan
If you’re struggling to afford your monthly payments and you have federal student loans, you may be eligible for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Under an IDR plan, the government extends your repayment term and caps your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income.
With this approach, your payment may be dramatically reduced. Signing up for an IDR plan can help you stay on top of your payments while freeing up money in your budget for other essentials, such as rent or utilities.
Depending on which plan you sign up for, you will make payments for 20 to 25 years. If your loan is not paid off at the end of your repayment term, the government will forgive the remaining balance.
IDR plans do come with possible drawbacks. By adding 10 or more years to your repayment, you will likely pay more in interest over the life of your loan. What’s more, you may be taxed on any debt that is forgiven. However, if you need help affording your payments, IDR plans can help you avoid defaulting on your loans.
3. Search for state repayment assistance programs
Many states, including California, Florida, and New York, offer student loan repayment assistance programs for nurses who live and work in the area. Depending on the state, you could have some or even all of your loans repaid after fulfilling the program’s requirements.
Use this searchable student loan repayment program database to find nursing assistance programs in your state.
4. Refinance your loans
If you have student loans, high-interest rates can cause your balance to grow over time. Even if you’re able to make your payments each month, a large percentage of it will go towards interest, so you make little progress paying down the principal.
One option to save money or reduce your monthly payment is to refinance your loans. By refinancing, you take out a new loan with a private lender. The loan will typically have different repayment terms, such as a new interest rate, monthly payment, and length of repayment.
If you can get a lower interest rate on your refinanced debt, more of your payments will go towards the principal, helping you get out of debt faster. In addition, a lower interest rate can save you hundreds or even thousands over the length of your loan.
Managing your loans
While your student loans can be a burden, there are plenty of options available to make repaying your debt more manageable. Make sure you research forgiveness and assistance programs and compare refinancing offers to save the most money on your loans and become debt-free faster.
Kat Tretina is a writer for Student Loan Hero, a company that helps borrowers manage and eliminate over $3 billion dollars in student loan debt. Kat writes about student loan repayment, side hustles, and other personal finance topics. Her work has appeared in publications like the Huffington Post, Money Magazine, Business Insider, and more.