Nursing School Scholarships and Financial Aid

Ann Feeney, CAE
Updated October 2, 2023
Edited by
Don’t let money get between you and your dream nursing school. Learn about nursing school scholarships to help you reach your goals.
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Nursing school can be expensive, but fortunately, there are scholarships to help you afford it. This guide outlines various nursing school scholarships. Learn about other financial aid opportunities that can help offset nursing school costs.

While the information is accurate at the time of writing, check the sponsor’s website for updated information and additional requirements.

General Nursing Scholarships

These nursing school scholarships apply to many types of learners and have fairly broad guidelines for who is eligible to receive them. Many students or aspiring students are likely to be eligible for one or more of these nursing financial aid opportunities.

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Graduate Nursing Scholarships

These nursing school scholarships provide support primarily for graduate studies, for master’s or doctoral programs, or both.

Nursing Student Scholarships Based on Racial or Ethnic Identity

As 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 with various racial or ethnic identities.

Nursing Specialty Scholarships

Many organizations offer nursing financial aid for nurses who plan to practice in a particular field of nursing. These kinds of nursing school scholarships are often in honor of a practitioner or leader who made a significant contribution to the field or to a professional association.

State or School Specific Nursing Scholarships

Many states and schools have special financial aid opportunities for students or residents, some of which are listed below.

Financial Aid & Nursing School

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 is student loans. There are a number of loan sources available for nursing students.

Begin by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Students fill out the FAFSA® to determine their eligibility for federal student loans, including the Federal Perkins Loan, Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Direct LOAN Plus.

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 an HRSA loan, a student must demonstrate financial need and provide financial information about his or her parents.

Private student loans are another option, but they are less preferable when compared to federal loans due to less attractive interest rates and terms.

Advice From Financial Aid Director Sherrod Wilkerson

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.

question-mark-circleHow 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 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.

question-mark-circleBeyond 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.

question-mark-circleHow 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.

question-mark-circleCan 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 personal or travel expenses, or any other expenses during the 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.

question-mark-circleWhat 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.

Advice from Student Services Expert Patrick Tufford

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.

question-mark-circleWhen 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 students, 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.

question-mark-circleWhat 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.

question-mark-circleWe 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 a nursing faculty member, 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.

question-mark-circleDo 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 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, make 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.

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