Financial Aid for Nursing School: Guide to Student Funding

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Before enrolling in nursing school, you’ll want to explore options for funding your education. Filling out the FAFSA is the first step in obtaining financial aid for nursing school, such as federal grants and student loans for nursing students. Next, you’ll want to apply for nursing school scholarships.

nursing students looking at computer

Nursing is popular among individuals interested in switching to a new field. A nursing career is one you can feel proud of, and it offers opportunities for career advancement and workplace versatility. Returning to school to earn a new degree is a significant decision, however, due in no small part to the financial resources required.

On average, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) could cost between $60,000 and $80,000, depending on your chosen school. The cost might seem intimidating, but there are plenty of options for funding your education. Below, explore some common forms of financial aid for nursing school.

Financial Aid for Nursing Students

The first thing to know about funding your nursing school education is that you likely won’t receive just one form of financial aid. Few students receive full-ride scholarships, for example. Instead, you’ll likely pull together funding in various forms and from multiple sources.

Federal financial aid for nursing students is one of the first sources to consider, and it can take the form of grants or different types of loans. Many of these forms of funding are based on financial need.

Next, you’ll want to consider scholarships and private student loans. The factors affecting your scholarship eligibility include financial need, academic merit, minority status and personal achievements, depending on the scholarship. Regarding private student loans, your credit history and score are the top factors determining your eligibility.

closeup of person's hands with books and a laptop

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Filling Out the FAFSA for Federal Grants

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines all types of federal financial aid for nursing students. Every prospective nursing student should fill out the FAFSA, regardless of whether you think you might qualify or not. The FAFSA must be filled out each year that you’re a student. It typically becomes available annually in the fall or winter, and you should fill it out as soon as possible. (Note that different states and schools have different deadlines for FAFSA submission.)

Although you’ll want to get your FAFSA submitted quickly, ensuring its accuracy is also imperative. Double-check all the information you provide, including your name and contact information, to prevent typos. Additionally, follow these tips:

  • Register for a FAFSA ID as soon as possible. It may take up to three days to receive it.
  • Consider using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). If eligible, this tool can allow you to automatically transfer your tax info to the form, saving considerable time and reducing the potential for errors.
  • Read each question and any associated definitions carefully before answering. Be sure to read the definition regarding how family size is determined for FAFSA purposes.

Lastly, don’t forget to add your digital signature to the form, or your FAFSA won’t be submitted.

UST nursing students studying at table

After submitting your FAFSA, you’ll receive your financial aid package, which details the types and amounts of federal financial aid you can receive. Your financial aid package may include federal grants.

Federal grants aren’t the same as loans. Like scholarships, they do not need to be repaid (unless you leave school before completion). There are a few different types of federal grants, including:

  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

Federal Student Loans for Nursing Students

Your financial aid package will also indicate your eligibility for federal student loans. Unlike grants, loans do need to be repaid. Loans issued by the federal government offer better interest rates and more favorable terms than private student loans. You can also receive an income-determined, flexible payment plan. There are a few different types of federal student loans for nursing students.

Direct Subsidized Federal Loans

These loans are issued based on financial need. The government will pay the interest on the loan for you while you’re in school and for six months following graduation.

Direct Unsubsidized Federal Loans

These loans aren’t based on financial need, so you might qualify for them even if you don’t qualify for subsidized loans. You can expect to pay the same interest rate; however, you’ll be responsible for the interest accrued during school and following graduation.

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nurse smiling at patient

Direct PLUS Loans

If you are no longer a dependent, you can only qualify for Direct PLUS loans if you decide to further your nursing education by pursuing a graduate degree. If you are still a dependent, your parents might qualify for Parent PLUS Loans to help fund your BSN.

Direct Consolidated Loans

After you graduate, you might qualify for a federal direct consolidated loan if you took out more than one federal student loan. This maneuver combines all your federal student loans into one, so you’ll have just one monthly payment with a fixed interest rate.

UST nursing student standing outside

Private Student Loans

If federal financial aid for nursing school isn’t sufficient to pay for the entirety of your education, another source of funding to consider is private student loans. Financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, issue these. Unlike federal loans, these typically have higher interest rates and less favorable terms. However, they can help bridge the gap when necessary.

Make sure to shop around before choosing a lender. Generally, you find better terms and rates at a credit union than at a bank. The downside is that you’ll need to qualify for membership in that credit union (e.g., live in a specific geographical area).

Smiling Nurse

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Nursing School Scholarships

Scholarships are another way to pay for nursing school, particularly if you land more than one. Some scholarships are explicitly intended for future nurses. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has compiled this list of scholarships for nursing students.

Other scholarships are more general. They may be awarded based on financial need, academic merit or personal attributes. Take some time to search through scholarship databases and apply for as many scholarships as you’re eligible for.

Additional Resources on Financial Aid for Nursing School

In addition to the above financial aid resources, other options are available to you. Consider the following:

  • Tuition reimbursement: If you already have a healthcare job, your employer might offer tuition reimbursement programs for nursing school.
  • Loan forgiveness programs: There are various student loan forgiveness programs, some of which may require you to work in an underserved community or for a nonprofit or government agency.
  • Military education benefits: If you served in the U.S. military, you may qualify for tuition assistance. You might even be able to receive military funding for your nursing school education if your spouse served or if you’re a dependent of a military veteran.

Invest in Your Future with an ABSN From St. Thomas

UST nursing students sitting outside studying

The University of St. Thomas welcomes nursing school applicants ready to invest in their future. With our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, you can leverage your non-nursing college education to graduate with a BSN in as few as 12 months (four semesters) and be ready to enter the nursing workforce sooner.

The friendly experts at our Financial Aid Office are eager to help you identify ways to fund your education. Contact an admissions counselor to learn more about UST’s ABSN program and take the next step toward a rewarding career as an RN!