Nursing school isn't as costly as medical school, but that doesn't mean it's particularly cheap. Most nursing students need to take out some form of financial aid to help them cover the costs of attending nursing school. Luckily, there are many college scholarships, grants, and loans available for nursing students. Need-based students have more financial aid options than students with an existing income, but all students can qualify for aid. The first step is to figure out the type of aid for which you should be applying.
Start With the FAFSA
All nursing school students should start their financial aid process by filling out the FAFSA. This is required to determine your aid eligibility. Once you have filled it out and submitted this form, you'll receive information back about the federal grants and loans that you are eligible to receive. Grants are a form of financial aid that you do not have to repay, so if you're eligible for any grants, consider applying these before going after loans.
The federal government isn't the only source of grants--nursing schools and professional organizations may give them out as well. The financial aid office at your nursing school should be able to help you find grants to which you are eligible. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing also maintains a list of financial aid resources.
Look Into Scholarships
Nursing school students shouldn't rely on grants alone to pay for their educations. Often, these are need based and come with strict eligibility criteria. You should also look into nursing scholarships. Although some scholarships are need based, many of them are based on your academic standing and your work experience.
Scholarships are available from nursing schools, nursing associations, community groups, and other sources. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Oncology Nursing Society are two examples of organizations that offer nursing scholarships. Like grants, scholarships do not have to be repaid after you graduate.
Work-Study and Loans
Students who find they are unable to cover the total cost of nursing school with grants and scholarships may need to get financial aid in the form of loans and work study programs. Your FAFSA is the first step in figuring out what your options are for these types of aid. Work-study programs generally provide you with an on-campus job that helps you generate an income while you are in school. This is typically a need-based option available as part of your FAFSA application.
Loans provide you with money that need to be paid back at a later date, often with interest. There are federal loans as well as private loans. Federal loans generally offer the best interest rates, but eligibility for federal loans may be stricter than private loans. Most student loans allow you to postpone repayments until after you graduate, but interest may accumulate while you are in school, depending on your loan.
While grants and scholarships are the best ways to fund your education, many students end up taking out loans to cover some or all of their nursing school costs.
Nursing Loan Forgiveness Programs
Nursing students who do use loans to pay for school should know that there are nursing school loan forgiveness programs available. For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services offers a loan repayment program that repays up to 60 percent of student loans for nurses who agree to work for two years at certain non-profit facilities.
Various other loan forgiveness program exist at the state and federal levels--explore options that may be compatible with your career goals, and you can gain experience while reducing you debt.