How to Pay For Nursing School: The Different Ways to Pay For Nursing School

By Sarah Collins

11/15/2021

The nursing profession is a rewarding one. Nurses have high job security and make a huge difference in people’s health. As a diverse field, nurses can pursue specialties based on their interests.

There are high acceptance rates into nursing programs as the demand for nurses continues to rise. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are becoming more popular. More nurses are pursuing advanced programs that allow them to specialize.

For those interested in pursuing a nursing degree, nursing tuition costs are a valid concern. Getting a nursing qualification like an associate degree can be expensive.

Fortunately, there are resources and strategies to help people afford nursing school in a community college, a private university, or an online university.

How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

The cost of nursing schools is determined by the type of nursing degree someone chooses to get. Other factors include the school itself and location.

Types of Nursing Degrees

There are four main types of nursing degrees. Often, a person will need to get one degree before advancing to the next. The cost will be determined by the time spent on the degree and previous degrees earned.

Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Cost varies between $6,000 and $40,000 at a public school and $30,000 and $ 100,000 at a private school. This degree takes around two years to complete.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Cost varies between $40,000 and $200,000. This degree takes around four years to complete.

Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)

Cost varies, often between $35,000 and $175,000. If someone already has a BSN, this degree will take approximately another two years to complete. It will take around 3-5 years to complete if someone only has an ADN.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Cost varies, often between $58,000 and $132,000. If someone already has an MSN, getting a DNP will take approximately another two years of education.

(Estimates were taken from the cost of nursing programs in the state of Texas and costs at top nursing schools in the country)

The type of nursing degree will determine someone’s scope of practice and ability to specialize. In general, those with an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing can practice as registered nurses (RNs).

However, graduates with a bachelor’s degree may have more opportunities to fill leadership positions. Meanwhile, those with a master’s or doctorate in nursing can specialize in provider roles like nurse practitioners or go into areas of clinical research.

Location and School

The cost of nursing school will vary based on location and type of school. Costs vary between states, with some states offering tuition assistance or lower prices to in-state residents. For example, New York SUNY schools offer some free tuition options.

Community and public colleges are typically less expensive than private schools. Prospective students must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of going to a private versus a public school.

Another option to consider is online coursework. This alternative may be cheaper than attending in-person classes, particularly if you choose not to live on campus. That way, you’d cut down on room and board costs.

However, students taking online classes still need to participate in clinicals. Doing this may be more challenging to set up if the student is taking online classes.

Financial Options Available for Paying for Nursing School

There are multiple options available to help students pay for their nursing program. These options fit into four main categories: scholarships, grants, employer assistance, and loans. There’s also the option of becoming part of the military to help pay for your nursing education.

Scholarships

Nursing scholarships are available through public and private institutions. Some nursing scholarships are available at the national level, and others are present at the state level. Scholarships are available for specific groups, and some are more generalized.

Many scholarships are specific to nursing students, like the American School Health Association School Nursing Scholarship or the “A Nurse I am” scholarship.

Other scholarships focus on specific groups like non-traditional students returning to school after some time in the workforce.

Applying for scholarships can be time-consuming. It involves searching for scholarships that you qualify for and filling out applications. To make the job easier, you can search for scholarships under three main categories:

1. The Degree You’re Pursuing (Nursing)

Searching based on the degree you’re working toward allows you to find nursing-specific scholarships. Because nurses are in such high demand, the number of scholarships available for nursing students is also high.

2. Where You Live (State and Local)

Some scholarships apply to individuals all over the United States, while others are state-specific. For example, the Agnes Naughton RN-BSN Fund is available to students in Florida.

3. Individual Characteristics (Belonging to Particular Groups)

Did you know some scholarships are specific to almost every group of people? There are scholarships for men in nursing, moms, non-traditional students, women, veterans, and single parents. Consider what groups you’re a part of and see if you qualify for any scholarship.

When applying to a school, ask about scholarships that are available through the school. Ask if there are scholarships they would recommend you use.

Finally, be honest about your financial situation and find out what scholarships you qualify for based on your income.

Grants

Grants are another source of financial aid for prospective nursing students. The terms grant and scholarship are similar, but grants are usually given based on someone’s financial need.

A few different grants available are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. These grants, provided by the federal government, are available to students who demonstrate appropriate need for financial assistance.

Students can also check for grant options from their state, nursing organizations, and schools.

Employer Assistance

Employers want nurses. Often, employers are more than willing to help cover education costs for nurses. For example, some facilities offer work-study for people in a nursing program.

With such arrangements, they’d work for the hospital in a lesser capacity, such as a care tech, to gain experience while they’re in nursing school. Positions like these can also help new nurses secure a job at a familiar location.

Other facilities offer assistance through residency programs. Residency programs help nurses who have recently graduated transition into nursing while still getting paid.

As more nurses begin to pursue BSN and more advanced degrees, employers are working to accommodate. Upon hire at a new facility, always ask about any financial assistance they offer employees for further education. Doing this can help you determine where you want to work based on your education goals.

Some hospitals will cover a specific percentage of tuition cost, while others will offer a specific dollar amount. Often there’s a time commitment involved, such as working for the hospital for a set number of years.

Ask about both the time commitment to the hospital and the amount of time they expect you to finish the degree.

Loans

Loans are money that you need to pay back with interest, and there are different types of loans. Understanding the different types can help you choose the best ones for you.

A critical component of loans is first filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help determine what loans for which you qualify. Here are the common types available to pay for your nursing program:

Direct Subsidized Loans

These loans are from the federal government and are available to undergraduate students. To get direct subsidized federal student loans, you need to demonstrate qualifying financial needs. These federal student loans have a fixed interest rate, and you don’t need to start paying back federal student loans until after you graduate.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

This type of student loans s available to undergraduate and graduate students. You don’t need to demonstrate your financial need to qualify for this loan category. While the interest rate is still low, the interest starts collecting as soon as you take out the loan.

Direct PLUS Loans

This type of loan is from the US Department of Education and has a fixed interest rate. After filling out a FAFSA form, a student also has to have a credit check to qualify.

While a PLUS loan can be paid back by the student, there are also Parent PLUS loans, where the student’s parent pays back the student loan.

Direct Consolidation Loans

This process involves combining loans to have single, monthly payments. Consolidation used to be encouraged to get a fixed interest rate. However, that isn’t the case anymore because student loans from the federal government already have a fixed rate.

Consolidating loans can help nursing students have lower monthly payments on their student loan but will ultimately increase the amount they’ll pay over time.

The best place to start the student loan process is to fill out a FAFSA form and determine what federal loans you can get. There are also options for private loans.

Keep in mind that these loans may have varying interest rates. Above all, research your options, so you can figure out what type of loan is right for you.

Military Service

Serving in the military is also a valid option to help afford nursing education. This option would likely involve enlisting into a military branch that offers tuition reimbursement for nurses who serve.

Military service could involve being in active service or being in the reserves. Consider what your goals are and whether or not military service fits with these goals. While bonuses and tuition reimbursement are great incentives, those who serve must determine if the commitment is something they want.

Different branches of the military offer different financial assistance or nursing scholarships, so be sure to do your research to understand your other options.

Creating a Plan for Paying Back

Regardless of what loans you have, creating a brilliant financial plan will help you pay them back on time. Breaking down the large amount you owe into monthly payments can help you create a realistic budget for yourself. Keep in mind the following:

  • Know how much you owe
  • Determine your monthly payments
  • Be consistent in making payments
  • Keep track of your current income
  • Create a loan payment plan with monthly income
  • Consider loan consolidation
  • Put into account other expenses

Consider asking for help in organizing and creating a plan either from an official financial planner or from someone you can trust with your financial information.

You can be lucky enough to find loan forgiveness programs. That takes away the headache of trying to pay off your private student loans or even a federal student loan. Also, you can get student loan payment deferrals to give you enough time to settle your nursing school costs.

Tuition Reimbursement for Nursing Students

As the demand for nurses increases, financial options and tuition reimbursement to help cover the cost of nursing education will also increase. The need for nurses in the United States is growing rapidly.

As noted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “The RN workforce is expected to grow from 3 million in 2019 to 3.3 million in 2029, an increase of 221,900 or 7%.”

There’s an active shortage of nurses due to multiple factors, including the aging demographic, financial resource constraints on nursing schools, and not enough staffing at hospitals.

It’s, therefore, not surprising that there are several organizations and programs, which reimburse the tuition of nurses. You can find options that help pay student loans – both private student loans and federal loans.

Programs for Tuition Reimbursement

There are other options for tuition reimbursement in both the public and private spheres. For example, the United States Army offers tuition refunds for people who join the Army Nurse Corps.

The NURSE Corps is another group that offers scholarships to nurses who agree to work in short-staffed facilities.

Some employers offer tuition refunds or student loan forgiveness for their employees. Ask about these options during your job search to help you find an appropriate employer in your nursing career.

Consider asking the following questions at job interviews:

  1. Do you offer tuition refunds for employees?
  2. Do you offer student loan forgiveness for employees?
  3. How do you go about helping employees cover the cost of furthering education?

Finding the right loan repayment programs will ease the burden of settling your nursing student loans.

How to Pay For Your Nursing School: Takeaways

Regardless of the degree you choose to pursue, nursing is a rewarding profession with many job options and specialties. The cost will vary depending on the type of nursing degree you pursue and the school you choose to attend.

Options for paying for your nursing degree fall into the four broad categories of scholarships, grants, employer assistance, and student loans. Keep in mind that asking questions and researching your options will always help.

Creating a financial plan may involve creating a monthly plan to pay back student loans. Keep in mind employer and organization tuition refund options as you seek employment.

Overall, there are plenty of resources to find the right solution to the financial needs that a nursing degree will require. Ready to get started?

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