As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. One can become a registered nurse through several different routes. For those concerned with money for nursing school, it is important to choose the path to your degree wisely.
The fastest path from classroom to workplace for those looking to become registered nurses is the associate’s degree program. Many community colleges offer nursing programs. This is good news for those of you who do not have much money for nursing school set aside. The associate degree can be gained with two years of study (as opposed to four for the bachelor’s degree), and the tuition costs of public community colleges is the lowest available. Less time in school, less money for school and you are looking at less money you have to put out!
Graduates from the associate’s degree program have the same registered nurse license as those from a bachelor’s program!
However, if you are seeking to work in nursing management, or nursing education, you are going to at least need to attain your BSN (bachelor’s of science in nursing) degree. This means selecting your school with an eye on the tuition price tag. Remember, public universities offer high quality education for a fraction of the cost for private colleges. With the current high demand for registered nurses, no one is going to differentiate between a graduate from State, and one who paid five times more for private education.
Graduates from public universities have the same certification and qualifications as those from expensive private schools!
ACCELERATED NURSING PROGRAM
For those of you looking for money for nursing school as a second career, things can be even trickier. The financing options available to those who already hold a degree are diminished, and the Accelerated Nursing Programs (which usually last from 12-18 months) are extremely intensive, making it difficult to hold down any other employment. Also, shopping around for the lowest tuition may be a moot point, as there are not a great number of institutions offering this degree option.
The best way to get money for nursing school as a second degree is to shop around local hospitals and see what sort of loan repayment programs are being offered. Of course, you will have to get student loans up front, but many hospitals off contracts to new nurses for a certain predetermined length of employment for which they will pay off x% of your student loan balance.
Those considering this type of degree may be better off (even though they hold a higher certificate already) going back to a community college and pursuing a less expensive and intensive associate’s degree in nursing.
FAFSA is your friend!
The Free Application For Student Aid is your first step to money for nursing school. If you do not already hold an advanced degree, based upon your income and family size, you may be eligible for federal aid to cover much, or even all, of your nursing school expenses.
- Grants – For those with the least ability to pay for higher education, the government is GIVING money away! An education grant is money the government has set aside to help financially disadvantaged students pursue higher education and forge a more lucrative future for them. By filling out the FAFSA form, you will be notified if you do or do not qualify for education grants. The beautiful thing about a grant funded education is this: it never has to be paid back!
- Subsidized Student Loans – The government backs a large number of loans each year which carry the lowest of all interest rates. These loans also do not gain interest while the student is in school, or later down the road, while the student is in forbearance or deferment. Subsidized loans are the way to go if you are forced to borrow money for nursing school. By filling out the FAFSA application, you will be told if you qualify for such a loan.
- Unsubsidized Student Loans – These are still backed by the government, but to a much lesser degree. These loans do build interest as the others do not. Only take unsubsidized loans out if you cannot get enough money for nursing school with grants and/or subsidized student loans.
This option is the least appealing. There are private institutions which offer education loans to students, but the interest rates are much higher for these loans than those backed by the federal government. Use a private loan only if your FAFSA application did not provide any money for nursing school and you cannot afford to pay out of pocket.
SCHOLARSHIPS and GRANTS
- Nursing Scholarship Program – This program furnishes more than two hundred awards each year. The recipient in turn must agree to work at least two years in a healthcare related profession, which is the goal to begin with so this is a win-win opportunity if you qualify.
- Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students – Beyond the traditional grants and loans the government provides through FAFSA, if you still need money for nursing school, check with your school’s financial aid office. They will be able to tell you if you qualify for this federally funded scholarship program set aside for those enrolled in nursing programs (among others) and how to apply.
- Minority Scholarships and Grants – If you are a member of a minority group (African American, Native American, LGBT, etc.) there are organization dedicated to the advancement of your people. When looking for money for nursing school, it is a great idea to look to these organizations for aide.
- University/College Scholarships/Grants – Every university and college has its own list of scholarships and grants sponsored either by their institution or those who support their institution. Check with the financial aid department of your proposed institution for a list of sources to apply to.
- Professional organizations – There are many professional organizations in the healthcare industry who offer money for nursing school students. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, The American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and The Gerontological Society of America are just a few of the professional organizations who offer such programs. Sometimes membership in their organization is a prerequisite for eligibility. See their websites for more information.
LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAMS
- Federal – If you have made it through the nursing school process and found gainful employment, congratulations. Also, it is not too late for you and your search for money for nursing school. The federal government sponsors a student loan repayment program for nurses who agree to serve in those areas with an especially high need. The Nursing Education Loan Repayment program pays back 60% of a qualifying registered nurse’s outstanding student loan balance for only two years serving in such facilities. If these nurses stay on for three more years, the government will then pay 25% more of their loan balance, for a total repayment of 85%!
- Facilities – Individual facilities also offer repayment programs to pay back what the government does not. Check with local hospitals to inquire about their student loan repayment loans and what their requirements are.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are looking for money for nursing school, just remember, where there is a will, there is a way!