Best Nursing Student Loans

Earnest offers the best student loans for aspiring nurses

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If you’re planning on enrolling in nursing school, student loans will likely be a necessity. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 76% of nursing students took out undergraduate student loans, and the median amount of debt was between $40,000 and $54,999.

Federal student loans are an excellent starting point, but due to annual and aggregate borrowing limits, you may need to take out private loans too. There are a wide range of lenders, but the best nursing student loans offer low interest rates, flexible repayment plans, and added benefits. We identified the top lenders and marketplaces so you can find the right student loan for your nursing program.

Best Nursing Student Loans of 2023

Best Overall : Earnest

Investopedia's Rating
4.9

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Nine-month grace period 

  • Multiple in-school repayment options

  • No fees

Cons
  • Must be pursuing a four-year or graduate degree

  • Nevada residents not eligible

  • No co-signer release

Why We Chose It

We selected Earnest as the best provider of student loans for nursing school because of its lengthy grace period and in-school repayment options. 

When you take out a loan from Earnest, you can choose a term as long as 15 years. And unlike other lenders, Earnest offers a nine-month grace period, which gives you more time to find a job and get financially settled before full principal and interest payments are due. 

It allows you to pick between variable and fixed interest rates, but it doesn’t clearly state what its annual percentage rate (APR) maximum is. And while you can add a co-signer to your student loan application, Earnest doesn’t offer co-signer releases. 

Earnest issues student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, but you must enroll at a qualifying four-year school. Associate degree or nursing certification programs aren’t eligible for Earnest’s loan program. 

Repayment Options

There are four repayment plans to choose from: 

  • Deferred: You can defer your payments until nine months after you graduate. 
  • Fixed: With fixed or flat payments, you pay just $25 per month while in school. 
  • Interest-only: During the time that you’re in nursing school, you only make payments toward the interest on your loans. 
  • Full interest-and-principal payments: While you’re a student, you make full principal and interest payments. 
Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for an Earnest student loan, you must meet the following requirements: 

  • You live in a qualifying state (all states but Nevada).
  • You are the age of majority in your state.
  • You are a U.S. citizen or have a 10-year permanent resident card.
  • You’re enrolled at least half-time in a qualifying program.
  • You are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • You or your co-signer has a credit score of 650 or higher.
  • You or your co-signer has an income of $35,000 or higher.

Student Loan Marketplace : Credible


Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Simple process

  • Free to use 

  • No origination fees

Cons
  • Terms and policies vary by lender

  • Does not work with all major lenders 

  • No added bonuses 

Why We Chose It

When it comes to private student loans, shopping around ensures you get the best rates possible. Interest rates, loan terms, and other factors vary by lender, and it can be time-consuming to get quotes and compare options on your own.

With Credible, you can answer a few questions and view loan options from several leading private student loan lenders at one time. It’s free and easy to use, and there’s no impact on your credit score. 

Because Credible is a marketplace rather than a lender, loan rates and lender policies may vary. For example, not all of Credible’s partners offer co-signer releases, and not all offer loans for associate degrees. 

Another drawback is that Credible only works with some lenders. Some leading companies, such as Discover, RISLA, ELFI, and SoFi, aren’t partners with Credible, so you won’t be able to get quotes from those lenders. 

Repayment Options

Repayment options vary by the lender issuing your loan. Depending on the loan provider, you may be able to take advantage of the following options: 

  • Full interest-and-principal payments
  • Fixed payments
  • Interest-only payments
  • Deferment
Eligibility Requirements

Each lender has its own borrower requirements, but you generally must meet the following criteria: 

  • You must be the age of majority in your state.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (international students can qualify for a loan if they have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident).
  • You must have good credit or a co-signer.

Interest Rate Negotiation : Juno

Investopedia's Rating
4.9

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Special bonuses and rates

  • Free to join

  • Rate match program

Cons
  • Cannot view rates without signing up

  • Repayment terms and policies vary

  • Must wait for the whole group

Why We Chose It

Like Credible, Juno is something like a marketplace that connects borrowers to lenders. But unlike Credible, Juno will only offer you a single lender offer at the end of the process, and it offers borrowers extra incentives, such as cash bonuses and interest rate discounts.

Juno is free to use, and when you join, Juno adds you to a borrower group. It uses that group to negotiate rates and terms with lenders. Because of its negotiations and greater bargaining power, you may qualify for better rates with Juno’s help than you’d get on your own. 

The downside? You cannot view rates without signing up, and you have to wait for Juno to negotiate terms for your group before you can take out a loan. If you’re in a rush and need financing sooner, Juno may not be the best option for you. 

Repayment Options

Juno works with several different lenders, so repayment options and terms may vary. Depending on the lender, you may have the following in-school repayment options: 

  • Full interest-and-principal payments
  • Fixed payments
  • Interest-only payments
  • Deferment
Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a loan through Juno’s partners, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • You must be the age of majority in your state.
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time at a qualifying four-year school.
  • You must have good credit or add a co-signer to your application.

Low Fixed APR : Iowa Student Loan (ISL) Education Lending

Investopedia's Rating
4.5

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Low interest rates

  • Co-signer release available after 24 months

  • Family student loans available

Cons
  • High credit score requirement 

  • Not available to Maine residents

  • Limited eligibility for non-co-signed loans

Why We Chose It

When you take out a student loan for nursing school, you can usually choose between variable and fixed interest rates. Variable rates can be appealing because they often start lower than fixed rates, but they can increase over time. By contrast, fixed rates stay the same for the entire duration of your repayment term. 

ISL Lending offers undergraduate and graduate student loans with low fixed interest rates. And if you take advantage of its autopay discount, you can lower your rates by 0.25% and save even more. 

Family members, including parents or grandparents, can also borrow money to help you pay for your education. 

ISL Lending does have high credit score requirements, but it allows borrowers to apply with co-signers to improve their chances of getting a loan. And if you make your payments on time for at least 24 months and meet the lender’s eligibility requirements, you can qualify for a co-signer release later on. 

ISL does have non-co-signed options, but they’re limited to college juniors and seniors attending college in Iowa or Illinois. 

Repayment Options

ISL Lending has three repayment options for most undergraduate and graduate student loans: 

  • Full interest-and-principal payments
  • Interest-only payments
  • Deferred payments

All non-co-signed loans have a 15-year repayment term, and flat $25 monthly payments are required while you’re in school. 

Eligibility Requirements

ISL Lending has the following eligibility requirements: 

  • You must be the age of majority in your state.
  • You must attend a non-profit, Title IV, degree-granting college, university, or non-profit school of nursing.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

ISL Lending’s loans are available to residents of every state with the exception of Maine. 

Flexible Repayment : College Ave

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Multiple repayment options and terms

  • Offers loans for associates programs 

  • Grace periods available

Cons
  • Strict criteria for co-signer release 

  • Late fees apply

  • Unclear forgiveness and deferment policies

Why We Chose It

College Ave has multiple repayment options, which can be helpful for those in nursing school. You can choose a repayment term of 5, 8, 10, or 15 years, and you can defer payments or make reduced payments while you’re in school. 

For those enrolled in an associate or bachelor’s degree program, there is a six-month grace period. Graduate and professional students can take advantage of a longer nine-month grace period before they need to start making payments.  

According to the Journal of Nursing Regulation, approximately 37.7% of nurses have an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) rather than a bachelor’s degree. While most private student loan lenders require borrowers to be enrolled in four-year programs to qualify for a loan, College Ave is one of the few that offers loans for associate programs. 

Most borrowers will need to apply with a co-signer, and College Ave has strict requirements for co-signer release; half of the original repayment term must have elapsed, and you must have an annual income that is at least twice the balance of the outstanding loans. 

Repayment Options

College Ave’s repayments terms range from 5 to 15 years, and you can choose from the following repayment options: 

  • Full interest-and-principal payments
  • Fixed payments
  • Interest-only payments
  • Deferred payments
Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a loan from College Ave, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • You must be at least 16 years old.
  • You must be enrolled at an eligible school in the U.S. 
  • You must have a valid Social Security number.

College Ave doesn’t disclose its minimum credit score or income requirements, but you generally need good credit and reliable income—or a qualifying co-signer—to get a loan. 

Best for Rewards and Discounts : Discover

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Interest-only repayment and autopay discounts

  • Good grade rewards

  • Loans for associate degree programs

Cons
  • Only one loan term for undergrads

  • No loan pre-qualification option

  • No co-signer release

Why We Chose It

Discover is one of the few lenders that doesn’t charge any fees at all; it doesn’t charge origination fees, prepayment penalties, or even late fees. It also provides borrowers with several valuable discount and rewards programs, including: 

  • Good grade rewards: If you have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in college or graduate school, Discover will reward you with 1% off your first loan amount.
  • Interest-only repayment discount: Discover will give you a rate reduction for signing up for an interest-only repayment plan. 
  • Autopay discount: Sign up for automatic payments and reduce your interest rate by 0.25%. 

Unlike other lenders that have several repayment term options, Discover has just one loan term for undergraduate students: 15 years. And while you can add a co-signer to your loan application, Discover doesn’t allow co-signer releases. The only way to remove a co-signer is to refinance with another lender. 

Discover allows students to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, but it does say that aggregate limits apply. However, it doesn’t disclose what those limits are, nor does it state if federal student loans count toward the aggregate limit. 

Repayment Options

Discover’s undergraduate loans have 15-year terms, while graduate student loans have repayment terms of 20 years.

You can choose from the following repayment options: 

  • Full interest-and-principal payments
  • Interest-only payments
  • Fixed payments
  • Deferment
Eligibility Requirements
  • You must be at least 16 years old.
  • You must be enrolled in an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate program at an eligible school.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (international students can qualify for a loan if they have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident).

Discover doesn’t disclose its minimum credit or income requirements. 

Best for Zero-Interest Repayment : RISLA


Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Interest-free loans available

  • $2,000 of loan forgiveness for internships

  • Borrower protections

Cons
  • Zero-interest program is limited

  • Low loan maximums

  • Limited repayment term options

Why We Chose It

The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) is a lender that offers student loans to borrowers nationwide. It’s a non-profit organization, so it’s able to offer lower rates and more benefits than many other lenders, such as: 

  • Income-based repayment: Similar to the federal income-based repayment program, RISLA has its own version for eligible borrowers. RISLA will adjust your payments based on your income and family size. If you still have a balance at the end of a 25-year term, RISLA will forgive the remainder. 
  • Nursing reward program: As a nurse, you may be eligible for 0% interest for 48 months. To qualify, you must have RISLA loans and work in direct patient care in a facility within Rhode Island; if you live or work in another state, you aren’t eligible.
  • Internship reward program: If you complete a qualifying internship, RISLA will forgive $2,000 of your outstanding student loan debt. 

While most of the lenders we looked at cover up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance, RISLA is more restrictive. The maximum you can borrow is $45,000 per year. 

Repayment Options

RISLA offers the following repayment options: 

  • Immediate with 10-year term
  • Deferred with 15-year term
Eligibility Requirements

RISLA requires borrowers to meet the following criteria: 

  • You must attend a Title IV degree-granting school.
  • The school must be a non-profit institution.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • You or your co-signer must make at least $40,000 per year.

Final Verdict

Nursing can be an excellent career path, so don’t let the cost of nursing school deter you from completing your education. There is a broad range of loan options for nursing school, including federal and private student loans, to help you get the financing you need. 

Overall, Earnest offers the best nursing student loans, allowing you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance without any fees. But if you’re looking for a lender that offers additional benefits and borrower protections, a lender like RISLA may be a better option with its income-based repayment program and loan forgiveness programs. 

Guide to Choosing the Best Loans for Nursing School

How to Apply for a Private Student Loan for Nursing School

Unlike federal loans, which don’t have income or credit score requirements, private student loans generally require good to excellent credit and a steady source of income. As a student, you may not meet lenders’ requirements yet, so you’ll likely need a co-signer to qualify for a nursing school student loan. 

Most private student loan lenders allow you to apply entirely online. When you apply, the lender will ask you and your co-signer to provide the following information: 

  • Personal information, including your mailing address and Social Security number
  • Your college and program
  • Requested loan amount
  • Information about your employer and income
  • A copy of your driver’s license or other form of identification

The lender will also ask you to consent to a hard credit check

Federal Student Aid for Nursing Students

Before turning to private loans, make sure to use all of the federal aid available. Federal loans usually have lower rates and more repayment options than private loans, so they’ll be less expensive over the long run. 

As a nursing student, you can use the following federal loans to pay for your education: 

  • Direct Subsidized: Direct Subsidized loans are for undergraduate students with substantial financial needs. 
  • Direct Unsubsidized: Direct Unsubsidized loans are for undergraduate and graduate borrowers.
  • Parent PLUS: Parents of undergraduate students can use Parent PLUS loans to pay for their child’s college education. 
  • Grad PLUS: Nursing students earning graduate or professional degrees can use Grad PLUS loans.

If you’re thinking about refinancing your nursing school student loans to save money, keep in mind that refinancing your federal loans will convert them to private loans. You’ll no longer be eligible for federal perks like income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness.

Scholarships and Grants for Nursing School

Nursing school students may be eligible for grants and scholarships that reduce the need for student loans. You may qualify for these awards from the federal government, states, schools, companies, or non-profit organizations. For example: 

  • Pell Grants: Pell Grants are awarded by the federal government to undergraduate students with exceptional financial needs. 
  • Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association (FNSNA): The FNSNA awards up to $10,000 per year to qualifying undergraduate nursing students. 
  • Tylenol Future Care: Qualifying students can receive up to $10,000 to pay for nursing school with the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship. 

To qualify, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and search for available grants and scholarships with tools like FastWeb, The College Board’s Scholarship Finder, and CareerOneStop

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Much Can You Borrow for Nursing School?

    Although most federal student loans have annual and aggregate limits, private student loans are more flexible. Typically, private student loan lenders allow you to borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.

  • Can Nursing School Loans Cover Living Expenses?

    When evaluating your loan application, lenders look at the school’s total cost of attendance. The cost of attendance is more than just tuition and fees; it also covers expenses like room and board and textbooks. You can use your private student loans to pay for those expenses.

  • When Do You Have to Pay Nursing School Loans Back?

    In most cases, nursing school student loans have to be repaid. There are some loan forgiveness options, but they are usually limited to certain loan types and require several years of work before you’re eligible. Otherwise, you’re responsible for repaying your loans and interest according to the terms of your specific lender—most lenders don’t require payments while you’re in school (or only require reduced payments) and provide a grace period of six or nine months after you graduate before normal payments are required.

  • Do Nursing Students Qualify for Loan Forgiveness?

    There are several loan forgiveness programs you may qualify for as a nurse: 

    • Income-Driven Repayment (IDR): Federal loan borrowers may qualify for lower payments by enrolling in an IDR plan. These plans base your payments on your discretionary income, and they extend your repayment term to 20 or 25 years. If you still have a balance at the end of the loan term, the federal government will forgive the remaining debt.  
    • National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program: Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists can qualify for up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance. In exchange, you must work full-time in a qualifying facility in a designated healthcare professional shortage area. 
    • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Nurses who work for non-profit hospitals, health clinics, or schools may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. To qualify, you must have federal loans and work full-time for a qualifying non-profit organization for at least 10 years. You must also make 120 monthly payments under a qualifying payment plan. 
    • State programs: Some states operate loan repayment assistance plans to attract healthcare workers. For example, nurses in Colorado can qualify for up to $90,000 in loan repayment assistance in exchange for a three-year service commitment. Visit your state education agency to find out if there are similar programs where you live.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has a list of national loan forgiveness programs that may help you repay your student loan debt.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected thousands of data points across 30 lenders—including loan types, interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that we help readers make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

A group of nursing school students listen to a lecture

SDI Productions / Getty Images

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
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