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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

IHS Loan Repayment: Who is the Program Best For?

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Medical professionals across the country have plenty of choices when it comes to earning some student loan forgiveness.

National Health Services Corps, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and various Armed Forces programs are popular, but are they the best path to forgiveness for you?

A lesser-known program that could help healthcare providers across the country is the Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program (IHS).

Here's everything you need to know about Indian Health Services (IHS) Repayment, as well as 3 populations that this program may work best for.

What is Indian Health Services Repayment Program?

The Indian Health Services Repayment Program is a student loan forgiveness program that awards health professionals willing to complete a service requirement at a qualifying facility.

Designed to recruit and retain healthcare providers to work in facilities that specialize in serving Alaska Native and American Indian communities, IHS eligibility is open to these qualifying healthcare professionals:

  • Physicians

  • Dentists, Dental Hygienists, and Dental Therapists

  • Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Certified Nurse Midwives

  • Occupational Therapists

  • Clinical Psychologists, Counselors, and Social Workers

  • Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians

Other eligibility requirements

Eligible candidates should be committed to working in an Indian health facility and:

  • Be a United States citizen

  • Be registered for Selective Service if a male

  • Have a degree in a health profession or be in the final year of clinical training

  • Have a valid license to practice medicine

Amount of forgiveness

Participants in the IHS Loan Repayment program may receive up to $50,000 in student loan forgiveness in exchange for a two-year service commitment at a health facility that serves American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

The $50,000 in forgiveness will be provided to applicants within either 120 days from the date their service contract is signed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services representative or 120 days from their first day of work, depending on whether an applicant is already an employee at an Indian health system facility.

In addition to the $50,000, program participants may earn further forgiveness by extending their service beyond the original two-year requirement.

Who is IHS Loan Repayment best for?

Like all forgiveness programs, the Indian Health Services program is not right for everybody. But it can be a game changer for certain borrowers. In fact, we believe that IHS Loan Repayment is best for:

  • Those that live in areas with high Native American or Alaskan populations

  • Those that don't qualify for NHSC, HRSA, or Armed Forces programs

  • Optometrists, Pharmacy Technicians, and Chiropractors

Areas with Native American/Alaskan populations

Those that reside in areas with large Native American populations, particularly across the Southern and Western United States may be a good fit for IHS because of the large number of qualifying sites where the program's service requirements can be fulfilled.

IHS will help match you to an eligible site.

The large number of sites will be beneficial to borrowers looking to expand their service until all of their qualifying debt has been repaid.

Those that don't qualify for other programs

Participants in the Indian Health Services program cannot participate simultaneously in another government funded forgiveness program. This means that the following programs are ineligible to be paired with IHS:

  • National Health Service Corps (NHSC)

  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

  • Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Programs

If you're eligible for more than one of these programs, then you'll need to decide which is most beneficial for you. Our friends at Student Loan Planner can be a great help here. They've consulted over $1 out of every $1,000 in student loan debt and their consultations have saved Americans over $783 million off their student loans.

Optometrists, pharmacy technicians, and chiropractors

Optometrists, pharmacy technicians, chiropractors, and other healthcare providers/workers that don't qualify for NHSC and other more popular forgiveness programs will be happy to learn that they qualify for IHS assistance.

Other healthcare careers that struggle to qualify for many forgiveness programs but do qualify for IHS include:

  • Dieticians

  • Nutritionists

  • Acupuncturists

  • Speech Language Pathologists


The Indian Health Service Repayment Program is a lucrative student loan forgiveness program used by borrowers across the country. With eligibility open to more healthcare professions than other forgiveness programs, IHS can play a valuable role for thousands of borrowers across the country as they try to get rid of their student loan debt.

Are you an IHS participant, or considering applying for the program? Tell us about it in the comments below and we'll help you determine whether the program works for you!

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and has worked for industry leaders in both finance and healthcare.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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My friends over at Student Loan Planner have consulted with over 13,000 clients, saving them over $783 million off their student loan repayments.

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