Paying for Nursing School

From start to finish, a BSN student will easily spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars earning their degree and nursing credentials. Even those who begin their BSN programs as fully licensed RNs or college graduates from other fields can expect to commit a major portion of their salaries and time until graduation. Most financial aid is dependent on merit, financial need, and other qualifiers. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available, and very few students shoulder these financial burdens alone. With a little research and planning, you won’t have to, either.

I. Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are offered at a fixed interest rate, generally making them a better option for students than variable-interest loans from banks, credit bureaus, and other private organizations.

The first and most important step to obtaining a low cost federal loan is to file your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You can learn more about FAFSA deadlines and the application process through the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website or their FAFSA youtube channel.

If you are already enrolled or accepted at an accredited nursing program in the U.S., you will most likely qualify for at least one of the federal loans below. Check the links below for more information about terms and eligibility. (To find and compare accredited RNtoBSN programs, see our program directory.)

Federal loan recipients who go into nursing may also qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. After ten years, the PSLF program will forgive outstanding student loan debts if a borrower:

  1. Spent those ten years employed in the public service or public health sector full-time (min. 30 hours a week)
  2. Has made 120 qualifying payments toward their loan (usually ten years of payments)

II. Nursing Grants

Grants operate like scholarships in that they are awarded according to financial need or academic performance and are often designated to students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields. While the cash value of a grant does not have to be repaid, grants do require more from students than most scholarships do.

Nursing grants in particular often work as an exchange — students receive full or partial tuition coverage during their BSN program and in turn commit to working for a sponsor-approved employer for a length of time after graduation.

BSN students interested in this kind of commitment may qualify for the U.S. Department Health and Human Services’ NURSE Corps program. NC program participants receive full tuition and fee coverage during school as well as a monthly stipend for the duration of their program. Upon graduation, NC scholars fulfill a service obligation working two years at a health care facility located in one of the Health Professional Shortage Areas ( HPSAs) designated by the HHS.

Many nursing grants are also sponsored at the state level. Unlike federal aid, which is administered directly through the Department of Education, state grants are distributed by your school. Once you’ve filed your FAFSA, you will automatically be considered for all government-sponsored aid programs, including state sponsored grants.

For a list of educational grants available in your state, contact your local board of higher education. Remember some grants will only be available at certain schools. Confirm with your financial aid office that your program participates in the state programs you qualify for.

III. Nursing Scholarships

There are plenty of nursing scholarships out there, but the hard part is finding the awards that best meet your circumstances and needs. Unlike many general undergraduate scholarships, the eligibility terms and restrictions of nursing scholarships are strict and vary widely by sponsor.

Of course, both undergraduate and graduate level nursing students can take advantage of general education scholarships as well. Our searchable scholarship directory features nearly 200 active scholarships specifically designated for U.S. nursing students, and more than 10,000 national ones available to all eligible students. Get started by choosing one or more of the following filters to narrow your search results:

  • Area of Study (nursing specific and general scholarships)
  • Renewable
  • Minimum GPA
  • Enrollment levels
  • Sponsored by school
  • Race
  • State

Keep in mind that many of the best scholarships are limited to certain schools, states, or even counties. Other awards are reserved for students from certain backgrounds or who are pursuing highly specialized certifications in areas like anesthesia or critical care. Read the terms of each award carefully before submitting an application.

IV. Scholarship Database

Scholarship information licensed from Wintergreen Orchard House.