The Profound Effect of Nursing Student Loans

nursing student loans effect on future healthcare workers

With total student loan debt exceeding $1 trillion, it's no secret that college loan obligations are a serious stress for workers across this country. Loan repayment challenges affect every industry employing college graduates, but nowhere is this stress more profound than in the healthcare industry.

Hospitals, by definition, require an educated workforce. As employers impose increased nursing degree requirements, especially to comply with healthcare reforms, nurses' student debt grows every day. Today, a third of physician assistants graduate with $50,000 to $100,000 in loans, and a fourth graduate over $100,000 in debt. Average student debt for nurses currently hovers around $30,000. This trend holds true for doctors, as well average student loan debt for M.D's now equals $180,000.

Student Loans' Effect on Healthcare

These trends have a significant impact on your future healthcare workforce. A generation of students from low- to middle-income households is now simply being priced out of the healthcare job market. This is certainly a tragic outcome for an industry facing a major labor shortage over the next 15 years.

Those who do complete their healthcare degrees increasingly go into the most lucrative specialty fields. That leaves hospitals scrambling to fill lower-paying primary care positions and fighting to retain employees who could depart for more profitable jobs in healthcare technology and insurance.

The heavily-indebted healthcare professionals who do stick to caregiving frequently suffer their own stress-related health burdens, often due to student loan repayment. This creates a drain on employee engagement and productivity and grows employers' health care costs.

Nursing Student Loans: Avoid Associated Costs, Reap Many Benefits

First, employers should review their total benefits packages to ensure that employees' financial wellness needs are still being met as student loan debt rises. Student loan education programs, like college guidance services for employees, are one affordable way to tackle student loan debt. Communicating your tuition assistance or education reimbursement benefit is another.

These services can help employees and their children -  whose education costs further increase household debt - access the best colleges at an affordable price. College finance experts can assist with strategies for getting scholarships and discounts. They can also help devise effective loan repayment strategies and tap into programs like the the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. There are many debt aid programs that could help your hospital employees; they simply need the information on how to qualify and apply.

The end result of such programs will be a domino effect that supports all the critical areas of healthcare - the employees, the organization, and of course, the patients they serve.

Written by: Shannon Vasconcelos

About the Author

Shannon works with Bright Horizons Education & College Advising corporate clients to deliver college financing workshops and provide personalized counseling to employees. She has over 10 years of experience in student financial assistance, at Boston University and Tufts University, and has also served as an active member of MASFAA’s Early Awareness and Outreach Committee, as a trainer for DOE’s National Training for Counselors and Mentors, and as a volunteer for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.