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PA's Student Loan Relief for Nurses makes up to $7,500 available for student loan relief. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Getting student debt relief to PA's nurses

Nurses can apply at www.PHEAA.org/SLRN. All applications must be submitted by March 1, 2022.

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State Sen. Maria Collett, a Democrat representing the 12th Senatorial District in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, has joined forces with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to promote a new student loan program geared toward Pennsylvania nurses.

Collet and Gov. Tom Wolf have been heavily promoting the new Student Loan Relief for Nurses (SLRN) program for nurses working in the state.

According to Wolf’s spokesperson Beth Rementer, the governor supports the lawmaker’s call for an increase in funding for this program. 

"We're pleased that this program has received a strong response from our nurses, who are critical to our health system every day and especially through the pandemic," Rementer said in a statement. 

Qualified nurses can receive relief of up to $2,500 for each year of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in 2020, with a maximum benefit of $7,500 over three years. 

Nurses can apply at www.PHEAA.org/SLRN. All applications must be submitted by March 1.

The program is part of the Nursing Workforce Initiative, which uses $6.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to keep nurses in the profession during the pandemic. Of that total, $5 million will go toward nurses’ student loan relief.

Due to the enormous demand, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has received more than 8,000 applications since the program launched last Spring. 

“There’s more demand than money, and we can get the funds to do more. My hope is that this becomes law,” Collet said.

In 2017, there were about 180,000 nurses in Pennsylvania, and as of May 2020, that number has dropped to 146,000.

“We need to figure out how to show nurses in Pennsylvania that we value them more than just putting a sign in the yard,” Collett said.

In the recently released promotional video, Collett, who is herself a Registered Nurse, makes reference to the nurses across the country who have worked around the clock to care for individuals during the pandemic "while risking their own health." 

"To recognize your essential work, and offer ongoing support as you continue to keep Pennsylvania safe and healthy, I'm proud to tell you about Pennsylvania's new Student Loan Relief for Nurses Program. I've been pushing for something like this from day one,” Collet said in the video. 

The Nursing Workforce Initiative (NWI) also offers apprenticeship and industry partnerships, funded with $1 million, and residency and mentorship programs, funded with $500,000. 

The NWI’s Apprenticeship and Industry Partnership program will be operated by the Department of Labor & Industry to expose Pennsylvanians to new career opportunities in the nursing field. At least one new apprenticeship and one new industry partnership created must be targeted to underrepresented populations.

“Pennsylvania nurses have been instrumental to the commonwealth’s COVID-19 response, from bedside care and educating our communities, to supporting the commonwealth’s nation-leading vaccine distribution efforts,” Wolf said.

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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