The field of nursing is one of the most in-demand occupations, with more than 2.4 million practicing registered nurses in the United States alone. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 623,000 nursing jobs will be required to be filled between 2002 and 2012 due to growth alone, giving nursing the honor of being the field with the highest growth potential of any other occupation.

Thousands of men and women alike are competing for these spots, particularly with the economy being in the lowest slump in decades. These motivated people are flooding into nursing schools nationwide, looking to change careers and make a difference in the world of medicine.

Nursing School Comes at a Significant Cost

This education does typically cost less in tuition than a full medical doctor education; however, tuition for such positions as Nurse Practitioner can run into the tens of thousands.

In order to bring that cost down and meet the rampant growth in the industry, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (through their Health Resources and Services Administration division) has begun to offer a number of federal grants to meet the needs of prospective students. You may qualify for one of these grants through a number of different programs:

Federal Grants for Nurses

If you’re a financially disadvantaged student with income lower than what’s specified in the grant application, you may qualify for a certain amount of money toward nursing school. Most nursing specialties are covered under this grant, including those specialties dealing with social work. This grant is applied to directly through the nursing school’s financial aid office itself, so make sure that you have records of your previous year’s income before applying. This isn’t a guaranteed award, of course; the award is disbursed among those who qualify. You may receive less than expected if a large number of students qualify for the grant.

HRSA Scholarships

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) gives out 200 scholarships per year to qualifying nursing students throughout the United States. These scholarships typically pay the student’s tuition, fees, and books, along with a $1,000 per month stipend for living expenses.

These are extremely competitive scholarships, so a high GPA in an accredited nursing institution is a must. Full-time students are more likely to receive this scholarship than part-time students. This scholarship doesn’t come for free, however. Those accepting the funding are typically required to complete two years of work as a registered nurse.

Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program

There is a loan repayment program available through the U.S. Government as well, which many already-qualified nurses do take advantage of. The program works by requiring that each participating nurse work in a high-need location for a specified number of years (usually two or three years depending on the repayment amount), and requires a certain degree of financial disadvantage to qualify. Good credit is a must.

Qualifying nurses working in high-need areas for two years have 60% of their student loan paid by the federal government, whereas those working for three or more years in such facilities can qualify to have 85% of their loans paid for.

Indian Reservation Loan Repayment Program

If you choose to work in an Indian reservation, you may also qualify for U.S. Government loan repayment. These programs are limited to those who decide to work in high-need reservations, and require a certain amount of service before the government will disburse funds for repayment.

Should you find that you don’t qualify for these federally sponsored grants and programs, you may find that you qualify for a state-sponsored program. These state grants are a bit more difficult to qualify for, and typically do pay out slightly less than their federal counterparts. However, every dollar helps when financing an education.

State Programs for Nursing School

Many states have begun including grants to qualified nursing students in their budgets, largely to prop up admission rates in under-served cities. To date, 38 states have passed legislation to grow their budgets for this purpose. For example, California has a number of different programs, including one for under-served areas that disburses up to $1.1 million to qualified nursing students. To qualify, a strong GPA is a necessity.

Private Nursing Grants

Finally, nursing school students who are looking to get into a certain specialty can go outside the realm of federal and state grants, into private grants funded by professional organizations. Just about any type of specialty is represented by an organization that will often fund the education of qualified nursing students who demonstrate a specific need.

For example, a nursing student interested in the anesthesiology specialty may find that the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) will fund his or her education in exchange for becoming a Nurse Anesthetist in a high-need area. Critical Care nurses may find it easier to receive a grant for their tuition and related expenses than other specialties, particularly if they are willing to work in under-served urban environments. Contact the professional organization representing your desired specialty for more information.

For Further Information

While there are a number of other federal, state, and private grants for nursing students, the above grants and repayment programs are the most well-known and popular. However, this article is not meant to be comprehensive; it is meant to be a brief overview of a number of various grants that are available to applicants, students, and practicing professionals alike.

Contact your nursing school’s financial aid office for more information on the options available to you. They will have a much more comprehensive list of grants than what has been discussed here, and will have specific information on how and when to apply. Additionally, your school’s financial aid office will be able to give you information on the qualification requirements of each program type.

Best of luck in your nursing endeavors.

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