Although nurses shell out less money than doctors to pay for their medical schooling, they’re often just as stressed out about how to pay for it.
About 7 in 10 nurses take out student loans to pay for their graduate program, according to a 2017 report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. What’s more, 50% stated their biggest concern after graduation was figuring out how to repay their loans.
But relocating can often help struggling borrowers get a handle on student loan payments, especially if they can combine low costs of living with a healthy salary and job demand.
So if you’re a nurse looking to jump-start your debt payoff journey, check out the following best small cities to live in and work in when paying off student loans.
To help nurses figure out whether relocating to a smaller city might be worth it, we first wanted to be able to answer the following questions:
- What annual salary can a nurse expect to earn?
- How much demand is there for nurses?
- How far will a nurse’s salary go when paying for goods and services?
We relied on three data points from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to help formulate our answers to the three questions.
- Average annual wage: The median pay for registered nurses nationally in 2017 was $70,000, according to the BLS.
- Location quotient: The location quotient compares the employment of nurses in a city to the average for the nation. If a city reports a location quotient greater than 1.0, which is the national average, nurses are more likely to be in demand in that city. Cities with ma
rks below 1.0 are less likely to offer as many employment options.
- Regional price parity: Price parity refers to varying costs of goods and services in cities, which in turn affects the purchasing power of your wages (or how much you can actually buy with your paycheck). If a city’s regional price parity is less than 100, which is the average, goods and services are less expensive in that city (so a large paycheck will go further). If a city reports a mark greater than 100, goods and services are more expensive there.
Here are the top 10 small cities that received the highest marks in these areas:
The first of two Michigan cities atop our rankings, Bay City comes with the benefit of a lower cost of living. In fact, thanks to the city’s regional price parity, the purchasing power of the average annual wage for a nurse jumps to $78,020, according to the BLS.
- Average annual wage: $69,360
- Location quotient: 1.42
- Regional price parity: 88.9
Like their neighbors in Bay City, Saginaw nurses can take advantage of the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program. It provides a maximum of $200,000 over eight years to help nurse practitioners repay their loans.
- Average annual wage: $66,030
- Location quotient: 1.58
- Regional price parity: 89.4
Despite being the most populous small city on our list, Greenville reported a relatively high demand for registered nurses. In fact, it recorded the highest location quotient of any city in our top 10.
- Average annual wage: $63,130
- Location quotient: 2.02
- Regional price parity: 88.4
Johnstown nurses can look into receiving help repaying their debt via the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. It awards up to $60,000 to full-time nurse practitioners in exchange for two years working in an underserved area. Contact the program to stay abreast of application periods.
- Average annual wage: $62,120
- Location quotient: 1.69
- Regional price parity: 87.2
Aside from being paid well, nurses in Cumberland can take advantage of the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program. In exchange for treating low-income and underserved residents, nurses can receive up to $30,000 in aid over three years if they have debt totaling $75,001 or more.