The 411 on Nursing School Debt Forgiveness Programs
By Moira K. McGhee, Contributor
When your career goal is to become a nurse, your first step is nursing school where you’ll complete an accredited registered nurse program. Many students lack the funds to pay for their higher education and count on financial assistance to help cover the cost. Nursing school is an investment in your future, so it’s important to evaluate the many types of financial aid for nurses to find what works for you and your unique situation. Get the 411 on the abundant resources available that make paying your way through nursing school more affordable.
Create a Nursing School Estimate
Estimating how much money you need to cover your nursing school expenses gives you a better idea of how much in loans you may need. School expenses go way beyond tuition, but this is your biggest expense. To understand the full cost of your nursing education, research the cost of books and other course materials, mandatory school fees, living expenses and uniforms during clinical assignments. Calculating your expenses helps you create a budget and determine how much financial aid to pursue.
Once you’ve earned your nursing degree, find travel nursing jobs that put your nursing education to work.
Fill out the FAFSA
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a vital first step to paying for nursing school, especially if you’re trying to get federal assistance. The federal government uses the information in your FAFSA to calculate your financial need and matches you with loans, grants, scholarships and work-study. Many university and private scholarships also use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify or don’t want loans, fill out the application anyway. You don’t have to accept all the aid you’re offered, and it ensures you have a full idea of all of your options.
Traditional financial aid
Student loans are traditionally the most common option used to pay for higher education, and nursing school is no exception. Because loans are such a popular choice, unpaid student loans have reached a total of $1.5 trillion dollars in the United States, making them the second largest debt segment following mortgages. While you might not want to take on debt to complete nursing school, it may become necessary once you’ve exhausted all other avenues of financial aid for nurses. When applying for loans, you’re often offered generous loan amounts, but accept only what you need to keep your debt load as limited as possible.
Explore loan forgiveness beforehand
If you’ve determined you’re going to need loans to pay for nursing school, explore loan forgiveness programs first. Loan forgiveness programs have specific rules on which types and the total amount of student loans you can wipe out. Knowing these parameters helps you decide which loans are more likely to qualify for forgiveness. However, funding is usually limited, so take out loans responsibly and without the assumption that you won’t have to repay them. Some programs also require a commitment, such as working in areas with a severe shortage of nurses for a set period of time, so decide whether you’re willing to undertake this obligation.
Free financial aid for nurses
Student loans are often unavoidable and require you to pay back the loan plus interest, so you end up paying back more than you borrowed. Before taking on debt, fully investigate financial assistance you don’t have to pay back. Grants are typically awarded based on financial need and are one of your best funding options because they don’t have to be repaid. Many professional nursing organizations, schools and businesses also offer scholarships to aspiring nurses. Nursing school scholarships are usually highly competitive and merit-based with sponsors awarding scholarships based on academic achievement, community service and commitment to work in specific fields or locations.
Seek hospitals that finance higher education
One of the first places to look for financial aid is hospitals that pay for nursing school. Reach out to hospital recruiters to explore educational assistance programs, such as tuition reimbursement and work-study programs. You usually have to be employed by the hospital to qualify for tuition reimbursement with a work commitment attached to the deal. Work-study also requires you to work at a hospital while attending school, but there may not be a work commitment following graduation. Each hospital’s program is different, so read the fine print.
Financial aid for nurses supports the next generation of healthcare professionals, which are sorely needed around the country. While you should pursue generic funding, don’t overlook programs tailored especially for aspiring nurses to ensure you’re not missing any financial assistance opportunities.