Student Loan Forgiveness for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers are revered as heroes, but their service often comes with the crushing burden of student loan debt. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that licensed healthcare practitioners carry anywhere from $40,000 to $200,000 of health education debt. With soaring demand for patient care and healthcare occupations rapidly rising, the United States must address two significant hurdles: tackling an acute workforce shortage and helping alleviate financial burdens on recent graduates weighed down by substantial student loan debt. One solution is healthcare loan forgiveness programs. 

Healthcare professionals bear the heavy burden of tuition debt, but fortunately, loan forgiveness programs are available to help alleviate this strain. Participating in initiatives such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program can significantly reduce medical school loans while providing access to care for underserved communities. These options financially benefit eligible individuals and contribute locally and nationally by bolstering healthcare systems. 

This comprehensive guide covers the multiple federal and state-based student loan forgiveness programs available to healthcare workers to help them reduce or eliminate their debt. Read on to learn about 11 student loan forgiveness plans for healthcare workers and researchers.

What Are Healthcare Loan Forgiveness Programs?

Healthcare professionals, researchers, and other eligible professionals have the potential to receive financial assistance for student loan debt through various forgiveness programs tailored toward them. These initiatives are often tied to working in a federally-designated underserved area. One example is the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program which provides up to $75,000 for a three-year commitment, providing critical services in federally-designated underserved areas.

This is one of several programs designed to alleviate the burden of educational debt, allowing qualified professionals to continue providing care where it’s most needed. The sections below provide a comprehensive list of healthcare loan forgiveness programs.

Benefits of Healthcare Loan Forgiveness Programs

Loan forgiveness programs positively affect healthcare by helping providers, personnel, patients, and public health in simple yet effective ways: 

  • Providers: individuals benefit from increased financial security and freedom.
  • Personnel: loan forgiveness attracts highly-qualified students and graduates while addressing labor shortage issues (e.g., nursing education).
  • Patients: care outcomes are optimized when healthcare workers are supported in the workplace. 
  • Public Health: researchers that spend less time worrying about finances can spend more time finding cures.

Who Qualifies for Healthcare Worker Loan Forgiveness Programs?

Generally, most loan repayment assistance programs have similar eligibility criteria, including holding a current and valid healthcare provider license.

Here is a list of licensed health professionals that qualify for healthcare worker loan forgiveness: 

  • Acupuncturists
  • Audiologists
  • Behavioral & Mental Health Counselors
  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)
  • Civil Engineers
  • Chiropractors
  • Clinical Laboratory Scientists (CLS)
  • Clinical Psychologists (PhD or PsyD)
  • Dental Assistants
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Dental Therapists
  • Dentists
  • Environmental Engineers
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN)
  • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)
  • Marriage & Family Therapists (MFT)
  • Medical Laboratory Technicians (MTS)
  • Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
  • Optometrists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Physician Associates (PA) 
  • Physicians (Allopathic and Osteopathic)
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP)
  • Registered Dieticians
  • Registered Nurses (RN)
  • Registered Nutritionists
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Substance Use Disorder Counselors

Other typical eligibility qualifications include the following: 

  • US citizenship or permanent residency
  • Graduating from an accredited healthcare education program
  • Commitment to work in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)
  • Employment at an eligible facility
  • Being eligible to work as a Medicare, Medicaid, and state-based children’s insurance provider
  • Having federal student loans

Healthcare Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

While this list is not exhaustive, here is a comprehensive guide to 11 student loan forgiveness programs for healthcare workers. 

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program

The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP) offers a unique opportunity for licensed primary care clinicians in eligible fields to receive much-needed loan repayment assistance. 

In return for this assistance, participants must commit to serving at least two years at an NHSC-approved site in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). After fulfilling the initial two-year service contract, healthcare providers can apply for additional one-year service continuation contracts. 

Eligible healthcare workers include those specializing in primary care medical, dental care, behavioral and mental health, and maternity health. This program is a win-win for clinicians seeking financial assistance with their loans and patients in underserved areas needing quality healthcare services.


  • US citizenship (by birth or naturalization)
  • Be a healthcare provider listed with Medicare, Medicaid, or a state-based children’s health insurance program 
  • Current and valid healthcare license
  • Qualified student loan debt for education that resulted in a healthcare degree
  • Working at an NHCS-approved healthcare facility or site 


  • Two years (full-time or half-time)

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Full-time: up to $50,000 
  • Half-time: up to $25,000

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Loan Repayment Program

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Loan Repayment Program is a critical initiative to address our nation’s growing substance abuse crisis. As the United States grapples with the devastating effects of opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse, it has become clear that we need a comprehensive approach that encompasses prevention, treatment, and recovery. That’s where the NHSC SUD Loan Repayment Program comes in. 

By providing financial support to healthcare professionals who commit to working in communities with high rates of substance abuse, this program is helping to ensure that patients have access to the care they need to overcome addiction and reclaim their lives. It’s a vital initiative making a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and their loved ones.


  • US citizenship (by birth or naturalization)
  • Be a healthcare provider listed with Medicare, Medicaid, or a state-based children’s health insurance program 
  • Licensed to practice in the state where the participant is placed
  • Qualified student loan debt for education that resulted in a healthcare degree
  • Working at an NHCS-approved substance use disorder treatment facility 
  • An NHSC-approved mental health or primary care HPSA score


  • Three years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Up to $75,000

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Rural Community Loan Repayment Program

The opioid epidemic has hit rural communities particularly hard in recent years, leaving many healthcare providers struggling to meet the demand for treatments and services. 

Thankfully, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has recognized this urgent need and established the Rural Community Loan Repayment Program (LRP) to provide much-needed financial assistance to providers. Through this program, qualified providers can receive loan repayment in exchange for their commitment to using evidence-based strategies to combat the addiction epidemic plaguing rural communities. This initiative will provide much-needed financial support to providers and improve the health and well-being of those living in rural areas. 


  • US citizenship (by birth or naturalization)
  • Be a healthcare provider listed with Medicare, Medicaid, or a state-based children’s health insurance program 
  • Licensed to practice in the state where the participant is placed
  • Qualified student loan debt for education that resulted in a healthcare degree
  • Working at an NHCS-approved substance use disorder treatment facility 
  • An NHSC-approved mental health or primary care HPSA score


  • Three years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Full-time: up to $100,000 
  • Half-time: up to $50,000

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP)

The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP) is a critical initiative that has been put in place to attract and retain skilled nurses in underserved communities across the United States. As a part of this program, eligible nurses can receive up to 85 percent of their student loan balance paid off over two years in exchange for a commitment to work in an area lacking adequate healthcare services, known as a critical shortage facility (CSF) or an eligible nursing school as a nursing faculty member.

With over 40 percent of the US population living in rural areas, and a significant portion of these regions experiencing severe shortages of healthcare professionals, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program has become a vital tool for addressing gaps in access to healthcare. By participating in this program, nurses can lessen their financial burden and contribute to improving health outcomes for people who need it the most.


  • Licensed registered nurse (RN); or
  • Licensed advanced practice registered nurse (APRN); or
  • A certified nurse educator 
  • Completion of an accredited US-based nursing school 
  • Full-time employment in an area with a critical shortage facility (CSF); or
  • Full-time employment at an accredited nursing school


  • Three years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Up to 85 percent of unpaid nursing education debt

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Educational Loan Repayment Program for Health Professionals (ELRPHP)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Educational Loan Repayment Program for Health Professionals (ELRPHP) is a remarkable opportunity for master’s and doctoral-prepared health researchers to pursue a career in public health without the financial burden of student loan debt. By providing up to $50,000 in student loan repayment, the ELRPHP helps eligible fellows to focus on gaining unparalleled experience and serving in critical public health roles on multidisciplinary teams, including epidemic intelligence, laboratory leadership, and public health informatics. 

The ELRPHP seeks to alleviate the burden for eligible health researchers whose loans exceed 20 percent of their annual salary. It’s an opportunity for those passionate about public health to serve their country and have more financial freedom. The CDC pays the loan service provider; amounts vary depending on current funding. CDC fellows become influential leaders in the public health workforce, contributing to the mission of keeping people safe and healthy. 


  • Qualifying student loans that are federally made, insured, or guaranteed
  • US citizenship
  • A degree from an accredited institution
  • Licensed physicians, veterinarians, master- and doctoral-level nurses, and dentists


  • 2-3 years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Up to $50,000

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program 

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is a federal program that provides student loan forgiveness for those employed in public service-oriented jobs, including many healthcare positions in non-profit or government-based facilities, such as academic research hospitals, public healthcare facilities, or Veterans Affairs. 

Healthcare workers who qualify for the PSLF program can receive loan forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments on their student loan debt. Borrowers must make eligible payments under an approved repayment plan and be serviced by an approved loan servicer. After completing all eligibility requirements, healthcare workers submit a PSLF application to the US Department of Education and have their remaining student loan balance forgiven.


  • Employment at a US-based federal, state, local, tribal government, military, or non-profit organization 
  • Work full-time
  • Have Direct Loans (or consolidated Direct Loans)
  • Made 120 qualifying payments via an income-driven repayment plan


  • Ten years 

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Remaining balance after 120 qualifying payments

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs

Expanding opportunities in biomedical or biobehavioral research is vital to advancing healthcare innovation, but one of the most significant obstacles is the cost of education and training. Student debt can profoundly impact a researcher’s financial stability, especially considering that salaries in the research field may not be as high as in some private industry or private practice positions. 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs were created to address this issue, providing up to $50,000 annually towards qualified educational debt. This invaluable support helps to alleviate financial pressure and encourages the continuation of research careers, ultimately leading to advancements in science and medicine. 

The NIH offers two loan repayment programs: extramural (for researchers employed outside of the NIH) and intramural (for researchers employed by the NIH). 


  • US citizen, US national, or US permanent resident
  • Qualifying doctoral degree from an accredited institution (extramural); or
  • Qualifying associate, bachelor, or doctoral degree (intramural) 
  • Educational debt equal to or over 20 percent of the institutional base salary
  • Conducting research following federal, state, and local laws (extramural); or in a qualified research area (intramural) 
  • Employed in domestic, non-profit research funding (extramural); or 
  • Employed by the NIH (intramural)


  • One year (can be renewed annually if criteria are met)

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Up to $50,000 annually

Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program

The Indian Health Services (IHS) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) provides a vital opportunity for health professionals dedicated to serving their communities. By offering up to $50,000 in loan repayment, the program allows doctors, nurses, and other practitioners to repay their eligible health profession education loans in exchange for a two-year commitment to work in a health facility serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities. 

The program addresses the staffing needs of Indian health program facilities. It allows participants to extend their contract annually until their qualified student debt is paid. Many health professionals who enter this program for its financial benefits find that the cultural and professional rewards are equally significant, leading them to commit their entire careers to Indian health. 


  • A wide range of licensed clinical, allied, and alternative health professions, and licensed civil and environmental engineers (see the complete list here)


  • Two or more years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Up to $25,000 annually, plus funding to offset tax burdens

Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation 

As the healthcare industry faces countless challenges, the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program provides hope for those who have dedicated their careers to serving others. This program allows several public service-oriented professions, including eligible healthcare workers, to have a portion, or even all, of their Perkins loan debt canceled in exchange for their invaluable contributions to underserved communities. 

While eligibility requirements are vast, most healthcare workers, including full-time nurses, medical technicians, faculty members, and speech-language pathologists, can have up to 100 percent of their loans canceled in exchange for five years of eligible service. With the ever-increasing demand for healthcare professionals, this program supports the financial well-being of healthcare workers. 


  • Employment that qualifies for Perkins Loan Cancellation


  • 1-5 years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • 15-100 percent of the loan balance (depending on years of service)

Faculty Loan Repayment Program for Health Professionals

The Faculty Loan Repayment Program for health professionals pays up to $40,000 for faculty members teaching at approved health professions schools. The types of health disciplines are varied and include various health professions, including veterinary medicine, dentistry, optometry, public health, behavioral and mental health, allied health, registered nursing, and optometry. 

Faculty loan repayment assistance is available to faculty members in health profession disciplines from economically and environmentally disadvantaged backgrounds with eligible health professions degrees or certificates. This can help reduce economic barriers and make it easier for people to pursue careers as academic faculty at eligible educational institutions, which often face staffing shortages despite high occupational demand. 


  • Qualify as being from an environmental or economically disadvantaged background
  • Hold a degree or certificate in an eligible health profession
  • Be a current faculty member at an approved health professions school
  • Have a professional contract for two or more years


  • Two years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Up to $40,000, plus funding to offset tax burdens

State-Based Loan Repayment Programs for Healthcare Workers

The State Loan Repayment Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) helps the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) by awarding grants to states and territories. Each state sets priorities depending on its population’s most critical public health needs. Applicants accepted to this program typically agree to work in areas experiencing provider shortages for two to four years in exchange for paying their student loan debts. 

SLRP eligibility requirements, award amounts, and time commitments vary by state. Here are two examples of state-specified healthcare worker eligibility and funding distribution: 

  • Massachusetts: Awards up to $50,000 for a two-year service contract for licensed healthcare workers. Must not be concurrently committed to any other state- or federally-based loan repayment program. 
  • Kentucky: Requires applicants to be US citizens and has a funding model based on a 50/50 match, where $1 from the state of Kentucky must be matched by $1 from a healthcare facility. Awards are capped based on provider type:
    • Physicians, dentists, and pharmacists: $100,000 
    • Physician associates, nurse practitioners, and mental health specialists: $60,000
    • Registered nurses and substance use disorder counselors: $40,000 

 Eligibility (varies by state):

  • US citizenship (by birth or naturalization)
  • Hold a valid healthcare worker license (e.g., medical, dental, nursing, counseling, psychology, social work, substance abuse counseling, pharmaceutical, physician associate, etc.)
  • Commitment to work in a health professional shortage area (HPSA)
  • Work full-time or part-time
  • Be an eligible Medicare, Medicaid, or state-based children’s health insurance provider


  • Two or more years

Loan Forgiveness Amount:

  • Amounts vary by state
Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd


Rachel Drummond has written about integrating contemplative movement practices such as yoga into healthcare professions since 2019, promoting the idea that mental and physical well-being are critical components of effective patient care and self-care in the high-stress world of healthcare.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.

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