A reader completed her baccalaureate program several years ago and successfully graduated without any debt.
But she’s wondering what to do about the nursing student loans she took out for a family nurse practitioner program. According to her question, she was “kicked out” of the FNP program.
The reader’s question did not contain any details surrounding her dismissal, but she indicated that she contacted lawyers but did not receive any help.
Some of my previous blogs – such as “Nursing Students Should Know Their Constitutional Rights” and “Dismissed Nursing Student Wants To Know Her Rights” — have covered the rights of nursing students’ right who were unable to finish their nursing programs because of an unfavorable decision. For any nurse or nursing student in the same situation, reviewing those blogs can provide helpful information.
As I emphasized in previous blogs, consulting with and/or retaining a nurse attorney or other attorney is a must.
An important issue from this reader’s question that needs discussion, however, is repaying nursing student loans. Despite the fact this reader is no longer in the FNP program, that does not discharge her obligation to repay that loan.
Student loans quickly add up
Students graduating from college nursing programs have an estimated average of $40,000 to $55,000 in student loan debts. Those who graduate from nurse practitioner programs have an average student loan debt of $31,000.
Even if a recently graduated nurse or advance practice registered nurse lands a job, the salary may not be enough to balance other life expenses and cover the cost of the required repayments.
Fortunately, there are loan forgiveness programs for nurses who need to repay student loans.
All about loan forgiveness programs
One type of loan forgiveness program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
If you work for a qualifying employer the program forgives the remaining balance of all federal loans after the nurse has made a minimum of 120 qualifying monthly payments. As an example, a nonprofit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or a government organization at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal).
You cannot default on the loan and must be using a qualifying repayment plan while working for a qualified employer in a full-time role (defined by the employer) or at least 30 hours a week.
Because the application process is complex, the federal government has developed an online tool to help with the process.
A second option for you might be your own state’s loan forgiveness program. These programs vary in terms of requirements, eligibility and work mandates. Illinois, Montana, Pennsylvania and California have such programs.
Some loan forgiveness programs on nursing student loans are offered solely to APRNs, including NPs, certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists.
Some programs cover both bachelor’s degree and advanced practice nurse graduates. In addition, some programs also provide programs for nurse educators.
Implications of owing on nursing student loans
I can’t emphasize enough that no one should default on any student loan. Doing so can cause major problems in your professional practice. Your state board of nursing could impose discipline if you fail to repay your loan.
A professional licensure discipline is a public record and may prevent you from obtaining employment in your state or elsewhere. Know your state nurse practice act and its rules about whether non-payment of a loan can result in a professional licensing action.
Be sure to keep careful repayment records should there be a question about your repayment history.
Also, student loans are not easily discharged through bankruptcy proceedings. Section 523(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code discharges loans in such proceedings only when the student (obligator) shows repaying the loan would impose “undue hardship”.
“Undue hardship” is difficult to meet. Under the Brunner test, the debtor must show:
- Maintaining a minimal standard of living based on income and expenses is not possible if forced to repay the loan.
- Additional circumstances exist showing the debtor’s “state of affairs” is likely to continue “for a significant portion” of the repayment period.
- He or she made a “good faith” effort to repay the student loan, according to the Florida bankruptcy cased of Beece v. AES/Brazosus.
If you’re unable to pay back nursing student loans repayment, seek legal advice from a nurse attorney or an attorney as soon as possible.
Take these courses to learn more about educational pursuits:
Passion Meets Preparation: Delineating Terminal Degrees for a Fruitful Pursuit
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A key element of the Future of Nursing report focused on the need to double the number of doctorate-prepared nurses by 2020. The recommendation stems from the need to increase the number of nurses eligible to fulfill roles as faculty and researchers. This educational activity will provide information on three terminal degrees relevant to nursing practice, PhD, DNP, and EdD, in terms of typical scope, purpose, and career progression.
Advanced Practice Nurses: Educational Pathways for the APRN Role
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This Nursing CE course provides an overview of the advanced degrees for nursing graduate education and focuses on seeking higher education for the clinical role of the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) as a nurse practitioner. Barriers, resources available for pursuing graduate education, and other essential considerations are identified.
PhD or Professional Doctorate? Spotlight on Nurses Who Share Their Own Impactful Doctoral Journeys
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Are you considering a PhD degree or professional doctorate (DNP or EdD)? Are you questioning the differences between the two paths? Which path might be best for you? There are different concentrations for each option, and you should know your options before selecting one path over the other. We need nurses who have these experiences. Come listen to and learn from nurses who hold these degrees to help you understand more about the educational options and impact of each.