Nurses in class listening to doctor

You’ve decided nursing is your ideal career path, and you’re ready to jump in. The first step to working in this rewarding field is going to nursing school. Nursing school offers the education and training you need to be a nurse. The total cost of nursing school depends on your chosen school, the degree you’re pursuing, and whether you have credits.

Regardless of where you’re at in your nursing journey, it’s normal to worry about paying for education. Thankfully, there are a lot of available resources that make going to nursing school affordable.

In this guide, we’ll review the different options you have for paying for education and help you reach your career goals.

Various ways to pay for Nursing School

Nursing is an in-demand career that’s both lucrative and rewarding. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, RN jobs are expected to increase by 9% by 2030, and LPN jobs are also expected to grow by approximately 9%. 

If you’ve always wanted to become a nurse, there’s never been a better time than now. Getting the right education is the first step toward becoming a nurse.

Tuition costs can vary dramatically depending on where you go and your program. For example, community colleges usually cost less than private institutions. The total price is also generally less for undergraduate, accelerated, or shorter degree programs.

On average, the cost for an undergraduate degree for in-state students is approximately $21,000, whereas tuition at a 4-year private institution may cost upwards of $45,000. 

Remember that associated costs are usually more for graduate degree programs like a master’s or doctorate. Sometimes, a doctorate could be over $100,000 at a private institution. Nursing school tuition will also vary depending on your enrollment status.

Nursing Scholarships

There are a variety of different scholarships available for nursing students. Most scholarships are open to all potential candidates, while others are for students from specific backgrounds, financial situations, and cultural identities.

Nursing scholarships can reduce the total cost of attending nursing school. Some scholarships cover the entire cost of attendance; others only offer partial coverage. Funds are also awarded based on merit and accomplishments. The exact amount depends on your situation and organization.

For example, an outside organization may only award your $1,000, whereas a school-based scholarship program may award you thousands that can only be used to cover the cost of tuition.

Since many scholarships are based on eligibility, you’ll need to search for ones you believe you qualify for. In addition to available nursing scholarships, you can also look for local scholarships at the school you want to attend.

It’s important to know that while you can apply for most scholarships at any time in school, they usually can’t be used initially. However, this depends again on the school you attend, so it’s best to do your research before applying.

Financial Aid For Nursing School

There are various financial aid options for nursing students from all walks of life and all education levels. Whether you have already earned a degree in another field or are a high school graduate, it’s essential to research and find the type of financial aid that will work best for you. In addition to scholarships, you may be eligible for grants or loans from the federal government or private lenders.

Reimbursement for Nursing School Tuition

Reimbursement for nursing school is another way to pay for your education. It works like this: Instead of completing your program and finding a position, you may qualify because you already work in healthcare. For example, you may work as a CNA or in another supportive role under the direct supervision of doctors and nurses.

Your employer offers reimbursement for their tuition with the understanding that the additional education will benefit you and the healthcare facility. If you work in the healthcare industry, tuition reimbursement could be a viable option to cover the cost of nursing school.

Part-time study during full-time work (Longer route)

If you plan on going to nursing school while working full-time, it’ll most likely take longer to complete your studies than someone who is attending school on a full-time basis. However, you may be eligible for certain loans, grants, and scholarships if you meet the part-time attendance requirements.

Nursing School during Military Service

You can also pay for nursing school by enlisting in the military. You can usually earn a full nursing degree or your APRN by serving your country.

While having your education funded is appealing, you must consider whether enlisting in the military is right for you. Tuition programs offered through all military branches require a service commitment of a few months to several years.

So, before you decide to enlist, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your educational and career goals?

  • Are you willing to make a time commitment?

  • Are you comfortable with the possibility of deployment?

These questions are just a few that you need to consider before signing up. While joining the military works well for many, it’s not always the right decision for everyone, and that’s okay.

Nursing Apprenticeship Schemes

Nurse apprenticeships can also help you pay for your education. Under a nursing apprenticeship, you can complete your RN program while working in a medical or healthcare facility. 

After the appropriate training, a nurse apprentice can perform specific activities for patients, making it an excellent way to get hands-on training.

To start a nursing apprenticeship, you need to work towards your ADN or BSN. If you are in school earning your bachelor’s, you may need to be a junior before entering the apprenticeship.

The program requirements and prerequisites will depend on the state you live in. However, if your state participates in nurse apprenticeships, you can apply to ones locally.

Federal Student Loans

In addition to scholarships or grants, you can also apply for federal student loans. The government backs these types of loans. However, they accrue interest, and you’ll be responsible for repaying them after completing your program. 

The interest rate will depend on whether the loans are subsidized or unsubsidized. Most students are generally eligible for direct unsubsidized loans, whereas direct subsidized loans are offered to undergraduates in financial need.

It’s also important to note that direct subsidized loans have an aggregate limit of $23,000, and graduate students aren’t eligible. However, the good thing about these types of loans is that the interest doesn’t start accruing until you’re out of school.

Direct unsubsidized loans have a limit of $57,000 for undergraduates and $138,500 for graduate students. If you reach the limit, you may want to consider applying for a PLUS loan.

PLUS loans are unsubsidized. They also have the highest interest rates of all federal-backed loans. However, these loans offer high borrowing limits, so while you can borrow the entire cost of your school’s attendance, it'll deduct any previous aid you received before.

Subsidized Federal Student Loans

Subsidized loans come from the Department of Ed. They’re specifically tailored for students who are in financial need. As with unsubsidized loans, you won’t have to make payments until you’re out of school. As mentioned above, the interest is paid by the government until graduation.

Unsubsidized Federal Student Loans

The government also backs unsubsidized loans, and there are no income requirements. However, with an unsubsidized loan, you are responsible for the interest on your loan while in school. 

Here’s a brief synopsis of direct unsubsidized loans:

  • The interest rate is fixed, and it is currently 4.99% for undergrads and 6.54% for graduates.

  • Loan amounts go up to $138,500.

  • Repayment terms range between 10 and 25 years.

  • The grace period for these types of loans issix months after you graduate.

  • Eligibility is based on the school and program. Your credit score isn’t required to be approved.

Federal Perkins Loans

Perkin loans are also federally backed loans usually awarded to low-income students. However, the Department of Education doesn’t award these loans. Instead, they’re awarded through your school.

To be eligible for a Perkins Loan, you must meet the income requirements, and your school also needs to have the funds available. If you feel you meet the criteria for a Perkins Loan, it’s always best to fill out your FAFSA as early as possible.

Student Loans to cover living expenses

All federal loans are paid to your school. If there are any residual funds left over, these are then sent to your bank account. The same holds for private loans. Private loans can cover tuition and the cost of living while in school. Since personal loans sometimes have higher interest rates, it's important only to borrow what you'll need. You can then use scholarships and grants to cover the rest.

Frequently asked questions about paying for Nursing School

Can I pay for nursing school with financial aid?

Yes. You can use financial aid to pay for nursing school if you meet the requirements. To apply for financial assistance, you first need to complete your FAFSA. Next, you’ll include the school or schools you want to attend, your personal information, and income information. Once complete, you’ll be notified if you qualify and how much you may be awarded.

Can I go to nursing school for free?

Yes and no. While most students don’t go to nursing school completely free, some are awarded full scholarships and grants that cover the entire cost of attendance. So even if you can’t attend for free, plenty of scholarships and grants can help you pay for nursing school.

Should I take out loans to pay for nursing school?

Deciding to take out loans is entirely up to you. While some students use federal loans, others may opt for private lending. In either case, the decision to use loans to pay for your education is not one to enter into lightly. Always weigh the pros and cons of taking out a loan, your ability to pay it back, and whether you have other financial resources you can use first.

Are there different types of nursing grants?

Yes. Both FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity and Pell are grants you can apply for. Similar to other types of financial aid, you must complete a FAFSA to be considered. Undergraduates who haven’t earned a BA are eligible for FSEOG. While Pell grants do not require repayment, other types of grants do. For example, some might require repayment if you withdraw or are dropped from a course or the program early.

Will I be eligible for loan forgiveness?

RNs who work at least 32 hours a week at a qualified healthcare facility for at least two years are eligible for a 60% reduction of their student loans. In addition, you may be eligible to have an additional 25% of your loans paid by the Nurses Corp Program. Applications for loan forgiveness are only accepted once a year, so make sure you research the requirements and deadlines beforehand.