How to go to nursing school (without going broke!)
Attending nursing school on a budget can be done if you are willing to put in the work of finding all the means available to you for financial assistance. This post will highlight some common ways students pay for nursing school, as well as some creative lesser-known options available for financing.
The first step to figuring out financing is to be informed and know exactly what you will be paying for your program of nursing study. Costs can vary widely and I caution you to do some additional research when you are considering attending a program whose costs are much higher than the norm. What is the norm you say? According to costhelper.com, the average cost for an LPN program ranges from $5-40k, for an ASN program $6-100k and for BSN $40-200k. Personally, I find the top ranges for the RN programs absolutely ridiculous. I understand a private college can cost more but there is no reason to spend in the six figures for your nursing school education. It is known that there are some private, for-profit colleges that prey on people who are frustrated by the current set-up at community colleges (of hundreds of students applying for only a few available positions) but in my opinion that is no excuse for charging an arm and a leg for nursing school. So if you are considering paying in the top range of costs for your nursing program, I implore you to do a LOT of research before committing to doing so. How are the schools' NCLEX pass rates? Is the school accredited by the NLNAC or the CCNE? (Don't take their word for it, look it up yourself!) You can even do a search of the particular school on your states' nursing board website and review any issues or accreditations the school may have on file as well as the reported NCLEX pass rates for previous years. You can look at nursing-related message boards, such as allnurses.com, and see what others have shared about your particular school. Did they enjoy the program and feel like they learned a lot? Were they able to secure a job quickly after graduation? Did they feel like the program prepared them well for boards and working as a new nurse? These are all important questions to ask.
So once you have decided on a program, look at every possible avenue for nursing school funding and reimbursement. The most important first step is to fill out the FAFSA (Free application for federal student aid). This not only tells you what loans and grants you are eligible to receive, but qualifies you for any work-study opportunities you may be eligible for (read on for more about that!). Thankfully, the FAFSA is fairly easy to fill out online, just go here to get started. Even if you don't believe you would be eligible for any kind of assistance, it doesn't hurt to fill it out and just because you do does not obligate you to accept any of the financial aid or loans offered to you. Filling out the FAFSA just gives you a solid idea of what is available to you and it is free.
The next question to consider is if you are able to devote any time outside of schoolwork to working. I do advise that you don't plan on working full-time throughout nursing school. There may be points in time (especially towards the beginning) where you can manage it but there is almost no way it will be possible towards the end of your program, as there are so many hours required of you to study, be in class, attend clinicals, and do coursework. If you don't absolutely have to work during school I would definitely recommend not, although many of us don't have that luxury. If you are planning on working part-time hours while you're in school, think about making those hours count. Getting a part-time job at a local hospital or healthcare facility might make you eligible for a tuition reimbursement benefit. This varies among employers, but some pay up to 100% of your tuition!
Another option to consider is a work-study program. Some colleges, especially state-run or larger universities, offer a percentage off of your tuition in exchange for part-time work. In order to find out if you're eligible for these opportunities, you must fill out the FAFSA and submit it.
One financing option that is definitely worth your time is scholarships and grants. When I went through my ASN program I was able to get a large scholarship through my employer and was awarded a smaller scholarship through an essay contest. There are many different scholarships for nursing school available! First off, if you are already employed in the healthcare field make sure to check with your employer to see if there are any scholarships or grants available through them. Often you will have much less
competition to be awarded these versus scholarships available to the public. For scholarships open to the public, there is typically quite a bit of work involved to receive them. Most scholarships require you to write an essay about why you want to go to nursing school and/or become a nurse. My best advice is to write one or two general essays and keep them saved, so that you can reuse the same one for most applications and just edit or reword it a bit to fit their specific requirements. Some great websites to visit to find available scholarships include: Discover Nursing andSchool Soup.
One opportunity for financing your nursing education is through the United States Government/Military. If you are a United States citizen and willing to go this route, this is definitely worth considering. There are several different programs available for school financing, but the two I am going to focus on are specifically for prospective nursing students. The first is The United States Army ROTC program. This program is only for prospective nursing students and can pay for all or part of your nursing education. To find out more information on this option, visit: ROTC nursing program. The second program to consider is ran by the United States Department of Labor. JobCorps offers youth ages 16-24 a program that provides housing, living expenses, and job-specific training in various specialties. There are locations across the country, and most of them offer CNA training and several also offer LPN and RN training. The best part of this program is that everything is completely free for the student! To find out more information on this option, see my post How to go to nursing school for FREE. Finally after all other possible avenues of financing have been explored you can also consider student loans. Your first step to find out what kind of loans you may be eligible for is to fill out the FAFSA, which can be done by visiting Fafsa.gov. Filling out the FAFSA does not obligate you to take out a loan, it simply lets you know which loans you can get while going through school. Again I caution you to do your research here and make sure the program you'll be attending is accredited, has a high NCLEX pass rate and that graduates aren't having issues getting jobs after graduation before you take out a large loan to attend a nursing school. Nursing is always a dependable career choice, however you need to realize you are getting the same degree whether you're spending twenty thousand at a community college or eighty thousand at a private school. Only you can make the decision of how much is appropriate to spend on your nursing program.
I hope this post has given you some out-of-the-box ideas on how to finance your nursing school education.
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