Established in 1972, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) is one of the largest federal programs dedicated to expanding access to care in underserved communities. In exchange for a service commitment in a designated health professional shortage area, PA students and graduates are eligible for either scholarship or loan repayment aid to reduce their out-of-pocket costs for their education.
To mitigate provider shortages illustrated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has provided new resources to make participating in the NHSC easier than ever. The number of PA students participating in the NHSC Scholarship Program or Students to Service Loan Repayment Program has increased by over 680% since 2017.
PA Students in the NHSC Student Pipeline, 2017
PA Students in the NHSC Student Pipeline, 2022
NHSC Component Programs
The NHSC Scholarship Program provides direct support to health professions students for tuition and fees, other educational costs, and monthly living expenses. In exchange for a full year of financial support, NHSC scholars commit to a minimum of two years of full-time service at a qualifying practice setting. The application timeframe for the NHSC Scholarship Program typically occurs in the spring with the 2022 cycle being open between March and May.
The NHSC Students to Service (S2S) Program provides loan repayment assistance to students in the final year of their educational program. Originally created in 2012 to address acute physician and dentist shortages, eligibility for the program was expanded to PA students last year following advocacy conducted by PAEA and AAPA. In exchange for a three-year, full-time service commitment or a six-year, half-time commitment in a health professional shortage area, participants are eligible to receive up to $120,000 in repayment aid. The application timeframe for the last Students to Service cycle was open between August and December of 2021.
Beyond the S2S loan repayment program, the NHSC also operates a number of other loan repayment options for practicing PAs to expand access to primary care services, address workforce shortages in rural communities, and reduce unmet need for substance use disorder care. Participants in these programs can obtain between $25,000 and $100,000+ in loan repayment assistance depending upon the program and duration of service. The application timeframe for all of these programs was most recently open through February 2022.
In addition to programs directly administered on a federal basis, the NHSC also provides support to loan repayment programs designed and administered at the state level. Eligibility for state-based loan repayment programs, as well as maximum award amounts, are determined by each state based upon their unique workforce needs, but the vast majority of states allow practicing PAs to participate. Application timeframes vary amongst states with some states accepting applications on a rolling basis and others accepting applications for a defined period each year.
Interviews with NHSC Alumni
For first-hand perspectives on the experience of applying to and serving as a member of the NHSC, view the video interviews with alumni of the program below. These interviews provide detailed information on what applicants can expect throughout their interactions with HRSA, the process of finding an eligible service site, and the value participating in the NHSC has provided to alumni throughout the course of their careers.