Best Nursing Student Loans
Min. credit score
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Best for All nursing students as a first choice
Federal Grad PLUS Loan
Best for Nurses pursuing advanced degrees
Best for Graduate nursing students with strong finances
MPOWER Private Student Loan
Best for International nursing students
Our pick for
All nursing students as a first choice
You may be able to borrow subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans for an undergraduate nursing degree or certificate program. Unsubsidized loans are available for graduate programs.
Federal student loans are available to nursing students enrolled at least half-time at a degree-granting institution.
- More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
- Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.
- Lower interest rates than many private lenders.
- You pay an origination fee.
- No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.
- Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000
- Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.
- Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate
Our pick for
Nurses pursuing advanced degrees
Graduate students can take out up to $20,500 annually in unsubsidized loans. You can use graduate PLUS loans to fill any remaining tuition gap.
- More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.
- All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.
- May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.
- You pay an origination fee.
- You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.
- Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.
- Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.
- Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.
Our pick for
Graduate nursing students with strong finances
You may save money with a private nursing school loan if you have good credit. These lenders offer loans specifically for advanced nursing degrees, but you can borrow any graduate school loan.
Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's private student loan. Sallie Mae offers a Graduate School Loan for Health Professions with a 15-year repayment term and the option to make 12 interest-only payments after your grace period.
- One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
- Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, who live in the U.S. and attend school in the U.S. can apply with a qualified co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.
- Minimum income: Did not disclose.
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.
Our pick for
International nursing students
Many private lenders offer student loans to international students with a U.S. or permanent resident co-signer. Fewer options are available if you don’t have an eligible co-signer.
International nursing students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status can borrow from MPOWER without a co-signer.
- Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.
- Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.
- Borrowers can request forbearance of up to 24 months, which is longer than many lenders offer.
- Payment required while in school and during the grace period.
- Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.
- MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.
- Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $100,000, limited to $25,000 per academic period.
Our pick for
Part-time nursing students
A.M. Money is one of the few lenders to offer loans if you’re attending school less than half time — for example, if you’re in a part-time CNA program.
- GPA is used to determine eligibility instead of credit or a co-signer.
- Offers a hard-to-find, temporary income-based repayment option for up to 36 months.
- All borrowers get the same fixed rate, benchmarked to the federal PLUS loan rates.
- Works with a limited list of schools.
- Charges an origination fee.
- Does not allow for bi-weekly payments via autopay.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Credit and a co-signer are not required. Approval is based on GPA.
- Minimum income: No minimum. Approval is based on GPA.
- Loan amounts: $2,001 up to the full cost of attendance, maximum $50,000
Our pick for
Nursing students without a co-signer
Avenify offers income share agreements, not student loans. Make sure you understand the difference before applying.
- Periods of unemployment count toward your payment total.
- Lending decisions are not based on your credit score.
- You receive a discount for paying off your ISA early.
- Funding is available only to nursing students.
- Nursing certificate programs currently aren’t eligible.
- You must be within 12 months of graduation to qualify.
- Eligibility is based on factors like your GPA and potential cost of living, not credit score.
- Loan amounts: $1,000 to $15,000.
- Income share percentages: Typically range from 1.5% to 7.5%; average is 3.99%.
Our pick for
Rhode Island residents
Nursing students from Rhode Island or attending school there may benefit from RISLA’s Nursing Reward Program post-graduation.
RISLA reduces interest rates to 0% for 48 months for nurses who qualify for its Nursing Reward Program. You must live and work in Rhode Island to be eligible, among other criteria.
- Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.
- You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
- Partial loan forgiveness for eligible internships; interest forgiveness for qualifying nurses.
- Fewer repayment terms available than other lenders.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 768.
- Minimum income: $40,000.
- Loan amounts: $1,500 to $45,000.
Federal student aid for nurses
Before turning to student loans, nursing students should exhaust free aid options like grants and scholarships, as well as work-study jobs.
For example, the current maximum Pell Grant of $6,195 would cover the average cost of tuition and fees at a two-year public college — $3,730, according to the College Board — if you want an Associate Degree Nursing, or ADN. It may be enough for much or all of a short-term LPN or CNA diploma program as well.
If you have to borrow student loans for nursing school, opt for federal loans before private options. Federal loans come with income-driven repayment plans, which may offer you a more affordable payment if you end up with a lot of nursing student debt or a low nursing salary after finishing your educational program.
Federal loans are also eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This program eliminates your remaining debt after you make 10 years of eligible payments while working for a qualifying nonprofit or government employer. Some private loans may be eligible for different student loan forgiveness programs for nurses.
Available federal nursing student loans
Nursing students may have access to multiple federal loan options, depending on the degree they’re getting and which school they attend. Borrow them in this order:
Subsidized direct loans are available for undergraduate nursing students — those pursuing an ADN or BSN, for example — who demonstrate financial need. The amount you can borrow in subsidized loans is limited, but these loans are a good first choice because the government pays the interest on them while you’re in school.
Nursing School Loans are a health professions student loan offered by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration available to undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. Nursing School Loans are subsidized and have no set borrowing limit. However, these loans aren’t available at every school.
Unsubsidized direct loans are available to all nursing students, though borrowing limits and interest rates differ between undergraduate and graduate programs. You always pay the interest on unsubsidized loans, making them a more expensive option than the federal loans listed above.
Graduate PLUS loans are available for graduate nursing programs, such as MSN degrees. Graduate PLUS loans are unsubsidized and have the highest interest rates and fees among all federal loans. But these loans also have the highest borrowing limits: You can take out up to your school’s cost of attendance, minus other aid received.
You must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to be eligible for any federal loan. Schools typically require the FAFSA for Nursing School Loans as well, but check to see if yours has a different process.
Private loans for nursing students
Undergraduate students may need a private loan for nursing school after maxing out federal options. Private loans require good credit and strong income to qualify; most undergraduate students need a co-signer to meet these lending criteria.
If you’re a graduate student, some lenders offer loans specifically for those pursuing healthcare degrees. These may come with lower interest rates or larger borrowing limits than traditional private graduate student loans. You could also get a better interest rate than with a PLUS loan, depending on your or a co-signer’s credit. Be sure to compare all private student loan options to get the best deal possible.
Last updated on July 10, 2023
NerdWallet's Best Nursing Student Loans of December 2023
- Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan: Best for All nursing students as a first choice
- Federal Grad PLUS Loan: Best for Nurses pursuing advanced degrees
- Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan: Best for Graduate nursing students with strong finances
- MPOWER Private Student Loan: Best for International nursing students
- A.M. Money Private Student Loan: Best for Part-time nursing students
- Avenify Income Share Agreement: Best for Nursing students without a co-signer
- RISLA Private Student Loan: Best for Rhode Island residents
Frequently asked questions
- What is a federal Nursing School Loan?
Federal Nursing School Loans are loans whose funding is from the Health Resources and Services Administration. These loans are available at participating schools for students with financial need.
- Do nursing student loans qualify for forgiveness?
If you work at a nonprofit organization post-graduation, your federal loans may qualify for loan forgiveness. Other programs are available to nurses that may also forgive private loans.
- What is the best student loan for nursing school?
Nursing students should typically use federal loans before turning to private loans. That's because federal aid offers more flexible repayment options and potential options for forgiveness.
- How much debt do nursing students have?
A nurse’s debt depends on his or her degree. Registered nurses finish school with an average debt of $19,928 (ADN) or $23,711 (BSN), while nurses with master’s degrees owe $47,321 on average.