The loan program is the state’s attempt at retaining nurses in the healthcare industry after a sharp increase in vacancies.
The Nurse Retention Loan Repayment Program officially launched in early August in Mississippi and will now be accepting applications. The program is intended to help the state retain new nurses by assisting them pay back their student loans.
The program was established during the 2023 Legislative session through SB 2373 authored by State Senator Rita Parks. It is intended to incentivize new graduates to stay in Mississippi to work as nurses.
The program, administered by the Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board, is expected to provide upwards of $6,000 per year for up to three years to help nurses pay off student loans.
“Mississippi needs to continue strengthening its pipeline of nurses and that’s what this program does,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “It’s another major step forward that will help support our great nurses across Mississippi. We will do everything we can to make our state the ideal destination for nurses to live, work, and raise their families.”
Nurses who are eligible for the program include anyone working full-time who graduated and received licensure between March 1, 2022, until September 2025. Specifics for certain date ranges do apply and include completing the appropriate MAAPP along with submitting supporting documents with a certain period of time.
In order to be considered for the program, a nurse must be a Mississippi resident, hold a current Mississippi practical nursing license or registered nursing license, be a full-time employee, be in their first year of nursing, have a postsecondary loan in their name, and have no delinquent federal, state or local loans.
If a nurse has received funds from the Nursing Education Forgivable Loan Program, they are not eligible for this program.
Applications can be made through the Mississippi Financial Aid website and must be requested every year in which someone is seeking assistance.
According to the Mississippi Hospital Association (MHA), nurse vacancies as of 2022 increased on all fronts, with RN vacancies at 24.5%. The sharp increase came during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly doubling from 12.3% mid-year of 2020 to 24.5% at the start of 2022.
The vacancy increase follows a 10-year hospital trend as the state continues to see a decrease in nurses working in Mississippi.
In 2022, there was a reported 3,038 RN vacancies in the healthcare industry, compared to 2016 at 905. LBN vacancies were not as high, at only 298 and hospital nurse assistants came in at 1,024.