Healthcare is a rapidly growing part of the United States economy; as a result, the current demand for nurses is strong and expected to grow. This translates into a wealth of professional opportunities for those who want to work in nursing. Though there might be employers begging for nurses, getting a degree to become a nurse requires some thought and planning, especially when it comes to paying for school. That’s where scholarships come in – they are awards that do not have to be paid back and can cover a big chunk of college expenses. This guide looks at the potential scholarships available to future and current nursing students.
Quick Sort: Scholarships for Nursing Students
Use the tool below to get started in your search of nursing school scholarships. While we’ve gathered an extensive number of scholarships here, this still represents only a small number of nursing scholarship opportunities available to students who qualify.
General scholarships are popular because they often have more open eligibility requirements. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easier to get, only that more students may be eligible to obtain an award.
AfterCollege-AACN Scholarship Fund
Sponsor: AfterCollege and the AACN
Amount: $2,500 each calendar quarter
Deadline: The end of March, June, September and December
Available to those who commit to three years in the Air Force and intend to enroll in an allied health, dental, nursing or medical program.
Many graduate students often have additional financial obligations (such as supporting a family) that can make paying for school more difficult. Scholarships and other forms of financial aid that don’t have to be paid back are especially nice at this level.
Sponsor: American Association of Nurse Practitioners
Master’s level nursing students with an interest in oncology nursing can apply for this one-time scholarship.
As is the case with many other professions, certain groups of individuals aren’t fully represented in the nursing field. To help remedy this issue, many organizations provide financial aid opportunities to students who are of minority status.
Lasting three to five years, this fellowship is open to those belonging to an ethnic or racial minority group who are also nurses committed to studying minority substance abuse and mental health issues.
Udall Undergraduate Scholarship
Sponsor: Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation
Approximately 50 students who choose a career of significant impact on Native Americans, such as healthcare, can receive this scholarship.
The more experience a nurse has, the greater the opportunity for advancement. But getting a promotion or more challenging work often requires additional schooling. The following scholarships help pay for this training.
Anita Dorr Graduate Scholarship
Sponsor: Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Foundation
This scholarship was created to encourage minority nursing students to go into pediatric care at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center after graduation.
State or School Specific
A student’s residency or institution of choice can make a big difference in the cost of attendance. Many states and schools have special financial aid opportunities for their students or residents, a few of which are listed below.
Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited RN program and also be residents of relevant counties in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas or Nebraska.
Advice From Financial Aid Director Sherrod Wilkerson
Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
Wilkerson has worked in student aid for over ten years. He is passionate about helping individuals understand the student aid process. He’s been recognized as an Emerging Leader by the Eastern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Sherrod earned a graduate degree in Higher Education from Vanderbilt and is currently the Director of Student Financial Services at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
How would you advise a student just starting to consider financing their nursing school education?
The very first thing I would suggest is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). If they are applying for our school, we also ask them to complete the student aid application. If they are not certain where they want to go to school, we would encourage them to contact the schools, go to their websites and find out what additional forms they need to complete to be eligible for financial aid. For example, some schools require students to fill out a separate application for school scholarships, whereas here at Johns Hopkins, the admissions application is also their scholarship application.
Beyond scholarships, are there other funding options for nursing school?
There are a lot of workforce development programs out there for nurses. One of the bigger ones is the Health Resources and Services Administration. They have a lot of repayment and scholarship programs and we always encourage our students to apply for those. We’ve been pretty fortunate over the past few years in having students receive those awards. On top of that, nearly every state has their own workforce development program for nurses.
How do your students handle student loans?
Any student here that applies for student aid is offered a loan as part of the self-help component. However, the amount they’re offered can vary. I would say about 60% to 70% of our students use federal student loans.
Can nursing students participate in work-study programs, and if so, how do they work?
They are available to our students as with any similar institution. We will post jobs. The student then goes to an interview and then through the hiring process. Once they’ve been hired, students will work up to twenty hours per week maximum. They will receive payment in the form of a check to use for the personal or travel expenses, or any other expenses during course of the year. It is possible to have those funds directly apply to tuition, but we encourage our students to take those payments directly.
What is the biggest mistake you see students make going through the nursing school funding process?
Starting the research process late or forgetting the research process altogether. Finding the best funding opportunities is a matter of research, research, research. A lot of times individuals may not know the best options for them because they don’t do enough research. I’ll give you an example. A student can go to a school in their state and receive a quality education and pay as an in-state resident. However, if the student qualifies for a larger scholarship at an out-of-state school, the total education cost could be cheaper. But someone wouldn’t know that unless they research the options that are out there.
Financial Aid & Nursing School
As mentioned above, scholarships and grants offer great opportunities to help pay for nursing school, but they are far from a student’s only options. The most common source of financial aid for college students in any course of study, in fact, is student loans. There are a number of loan sources available for nursing students. The place to begin, as mentioned earlier, is with the Federal Student Aid program and the FAFSA®. FAFSA® is the application students fill out to determine eligibility for all federal student loans as well as by most private lenders. Federal Student Aid sponsors several loan plans to college students regardless of area of study. They include the Federal Perkins Loan, Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Direct LOAN Plus. Details for each can be found here. Another federal loan source for nursing students is the HRSA. The HRSA’s Nursing Student Loans program provides long-term low-interest loans to full-time and half-time students pursuing a course of study leading to a diploma, associate, baccalaureate or graduate degree. To be eligible for a HRSA loan, a student must demonstrate financial need and provide financial information about his or her parents. Private students loans are another option, but are less preferable when compared to federal loans due to less attractive interest rates and terms.
Any potential nursing student wants to know how much this endeavor is going to cost. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Many variables affect the cost of attendance; let’s look at some of the biggest factors that affect the cost of getting a nursing degree.
Attending a school as an in-state resident can save tens of thousands of dollars. According to The College Board, the average in-state tuition rate at a four-year institution with in-state residency status is about $9,400 per year. However, as an out-of-state student, that same school would cost almost $24,000 per year.
Type of school
Private schools generally cost more than public ones. Depending on the student’s desires and professional needs, this extra cost might be money well spent, as it can lead to more effective learning and better opportunities to network.
Type of degree
The longer a program takes, the more it costs to get that degree. So it’s no surprise than an associate degree (which typically takes two years) will usually cost far less than a doctoral degree (which typically takes five or more years) or a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Cost of living is an often overlooked aspect of calculating school cos. It’s an important factor, especially if attending a traditional school and living off-campus. For example, it’ll take a lot more money to pay for housing in a place like San Francisco or New York City than it will in a small college town in the southern part of the country.
Students’ academic and professional background
If an incoming student can bypass certain classes due to earlier coursework or years of experience in a certain field, they can shave a semester or more off their degree program. For instance, at the University of Kansas, an incoming student who is already a registered nurse may be able to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing online in as little as one calendar year.
Type of program
One way to save money on schooling is to enroll in an online program. The ability to avoid moving costs as well as the opportunity for asynchronous learning can make an online degree significantly more affordable than a traditional college or university education.
Nursing Loan Repayment & Forgiveness for Graduates
If you consider scholarships and grants as free money, you’ll understand why using them to pay for your education is always preferable to student loans. Loans leave a student with a debt load that could take some students years, even decades, to pay off, which could result in long delays to achieving life goals like buying a home or starting a family. Fortunately, there are a few options available to nursing school graduates to help pay off their student loans more easily or have those loans partially or completely forgiven. Because of the substantial need for qualified nurses throughout the nation, nursing school graduates are very likely eligible for loan repayment or forgiveness programs regardless of where they live. Here is a brief look at the leading loan repayment and forgiveness programs for nursing students:
Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation for Nurses
Nursing students with Federal Perkins Loan debt are able to have 100% of their loan balance forgiven over a five-year period. To qualify, a debtor must be employed full-time as a nurse, defined by the program as a licensed practical nurse, a registered nurse, or other individual who is licensed by the appropriate state agency to provide nursing services. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. To apply for cancellation, students should contact their loan servicer.
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
Sponsored by the HRSA, the NURSE Corp Loan Repayment Program will pay 60% of a debtor’s unpaid nursing student loans in two years in return for two years of service at a program-defined “critical-shortage facility.” Participants may also receive an additional payment of 25% of their original loan balance for an optional third year of service. Nurse faculty participants are required to work at an accredited public or private non-profit school of nursing. Application for this program is made directly to the HRSA. More information can be found here.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) forgives the remaining balance on a student’s Direct Loan after he or she has made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualifying employers include government organizations at any level, tax-exempt not-for-profit organizations and other not-for-profits that provide certain types of qualifying services. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
State-Sponsored Loan Repayment and Forgiveness Programs
Loan repayment and forgiveness programs can additionally be found on the state level. Plan eligibility and application procedures vary from state to state and program to program. Check with a state’s nursing board for more information. A good source to start research for state programs is provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Nursing Graduate School & Aid
Graduate nursing students face a different set of financing challenges compared to their undergraduate counterparts, but are also eligible for financial programs designated specifically for them. The search begins much the same way as with undergraduates. Graduate students should first seek help from their school’s financial aid department where they can explore the federal grant and loan programs discussed above. Financial aid departments can also fill students in on these additional potential financing sources:
While the terms internship and fellowship are often used interchangeably, fellowships are typically found more on the graduate level and involve graduate research or other work by the student. Graduate fellowships often involve specialized educational programs, additional classroom time, and hands-on training. Fellowships are offered by governmental agencies, non-profit organizations and private hospitals and clinics. Financial compensation is normally made in the form of regular salaries or monthly or yearly stipends.
Internships and Residencies
The terms “internship” and “residency” are often both used in the titles of their extended orientation programs for nursing graduates and graduate students. These programs are typically paid positions that allow the graduate to help finance his or her education while learning a specialized area of nursing practice. Lengths of internships and residencies can run from a few weeks to a year or longer.
Advice from Student Services Expert Patrick Tufford
University of Washington School of Nursing
Patrick Tufford is the assistant director of academic services at the University of Washington’s School of Nursing. His work connects him with a wide range of students, from those in high school students learning about nursing to Ph.D. students conducting original research. Tufford enjoys working with first-generation students navigating higher education for the first time.
When a student first comes to you about funding nursing school, what do you tell them?
I start by talking to the student about the financial aid process at the federal level. The very basic first step is to file your FAFSA®, which qualifies you for federal funding as well as funding at the university level. We have some funding awards in the form of scholarships, grants and work-study student, things like that, depending on your unmet need number. The need number, which comes from the FAFSA® process, is the amount of need that the student is not expected to fund out of his or her own personal resources. Based on that need, we’ll award scholarships, grants, and we have a very tiny amount of loan money as well.
There are also lots of scholarships that are not administered through us and that we may or may not know about. But we do maintain a financial aid blog where if we do know about a program out there that would be relevant to our students we’ll post it to the blog.
What types of in-house sources of funding should nursing students look for?
We encourage students, particularly grad students to look into research assistant and teaching assistant jobs because in addition to the stipend they get just for working, under certain conditions they can get a tuition waiver as well.
We all know that debt from loans has become a significant problem for many students. How do nursing students handle the problem?
Nursing has some benefits when it comes to debt. Most of our students work as nurses in some capacity or another, or have in the recent past. And depending on where they’re working, they may qualify for tuition waivers. For example, we have a medical center system here that is affiliated with the university. The people who work there are state employees and can qualify for some forms of tuition waivers. There are also loan repayment programs. If you want to become nursing faculty, for example, there’s a faculty loan repayment program where under certain conditions they will repay a large percentage of a student’s loans. Likewise, if you are working in some rural or other populations, there are some loan repayment programs for that. In those programs, you usually have to commit to two years, but you get a large percentage of your loan repaid. So, if you are looking to get your loan paid off quickly, that can be a good way to do it.
Do you have any particular advice for students just starting to consider how to pay for their nursing school education?
I’ve made the rounds with many of the other administrators here who handle financial assistance and I think universally their advice has to do with taking on too much debt. That’s the biggest pitfall for students. You know, you get into school and to get some aid in the form of scholarships, or not, and you take out loans for the rest of the costs. And by the time you finish school, you could be $60,000 in debt. So, making sure you aren’t taking on too much debt, especially in the form of unsubsidized loans. That’s our biggest worry for students and we make sure that we advise them frequently to take advantage of counseling from our financial aid office.
National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA): The NSNA is a professional organization that provides mentoring opportunities for nursing students and promotes continuing advancements of standards and ethics in nursing education.
Oncology Nursing Foundation: Aims to help those dealing with cancer by supporting oncology nursing, including helping future oncology nursing students pay for school.
Sigma: A professional organization that represents the interests of nurses from all over the world.
More Guides for Nursing Students
In additional to scholarships, there are other forms of financial aid out there. There’s also the significant question of choosing the right nursing program. To learn more about these and similar topics, take a look at these pages.
Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.
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