The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides several loan forgiveness programs to encourage health professionals to work in health professional shortage areas.
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP). In exchange for a 2-year commitment to work in a shortage area, primary care physicians, dentists and behavioral/mental health professionals may receive up to $60,000 to help them repay qualified education loans. Participants have the option to extend their service to receive additional loan repayment assistance. Half-time service may also be eligible, but involves a lower amount of repayment assistance or a longer commitment. This loan repayment assistance is tax-free.
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (formerly the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program). In exchange for a 2-year commitment to work in a shortage area, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses may receive loan repayment assistance for up to 60 percent (30 percent per year) of the original balance on their qualified education loans. Participants may extend their service for a third year for an additional 25 percent in loan repayment assistance. This loan repayment assistance may be taxable.
- Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP). In exchange for 2 years of service teaching future health professionals, medical school faculty from disadvantaged backgrounds may receive loan repayment assistance up to $40,000 plus additional funding paid directly to the IRS to offset any federal income and FICA tax liabilities.
A few other government agencies also offer student loan forgiveness programs:
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers the NIH loan repayment program to a small number of scientists, researchers and health professionals conducting medical research inside and outside the NIH. Applicants must have student loan debt that is at least 20 percent of the applicant’s annual salary. The loan repayment program provides loan repayment assistance of up to $35,000 per year, plus a payment directly to the IRS to offset part of the taxes associated with the loan repayment assistance.
- The U.S. Navy offers the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) to encourage individuals with degrees in allopathic or osteopathic medicine, dentistry, nursing and other health professions to join the U.S. Navy or extend their active duty commitment. Medical and dental professionals may receive loan repayment assistance of $40,000 per year minus about 25 percent withholdings for federal income taxes. Servicemembers incur a minimum of two years of Active Duty Obligation or one year for each year of loan repayment assistance, whichever is greater. The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army offer a similar Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (ADHPLRP).
- The Indian Health Service (HIS) offers the IHS Loan Repayment Program to encourage health professionals to serve Native American Indians and Alaska Natives. In exchange for a 2-year commitment to work at an Indian health program site, participants receive up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance ($20,000 per year) plus payments to the IRS for federal income and FICA taxes. Additional loan repayment assistance may be obtained with additional years of service.
- The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) to encourage veterinarians to serve in veterinary shortage areas. In exchange for a 3-year commitment, veterinarians receive up to $75,000 ($25,000 per year) in loan repayment assistance for veterinary school loans.
The Federal Perkins Loan provides loan forgiveness for full-time nurses and medical technicians providing health care services. It also provides for forgiveness for full-time speech language pathologists, if the pathologist has a Master’s degree and works exclusively with schools that are eligible for assistance under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The amount of the loan forgiveness includes the interest that has accrued during the year and is set at 15 percent during each of the first two years of service, 20 percent per year during the third and fourth years and 30 percent during the fifth year.
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) publishes a database of federal and state loan forgiveness programs for health professions students.
Information about student loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs for physical and occupational therapy may also be available from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).