No matter what nursing track you’re interested in, every nurse’s career begins with a college education. Paying for that education can be difficult, but there are countless nursing student loans and scholarship programs to help you finance your degree.
Here are a few options for nursing students, whether you’re pursuing an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s, or doctorate.
Nursing Student Loans
Student loans are a great way to cover common educational costs, including tuition and housing. You have a few different options for borrowing money for your nursing education.
1. Federal Student Loans
The federal government is the typical go-to for student loan funding. To apply for federal financial aid, you’ll have to fill out the FAFSA form. Your financial need and level of education directly impact your eligibility. However, there are various types of federal students loans for nurses, including:
- Federal Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are available for undergraduates with financial need. The U.S. government pays any interest accrued while you’re enrolled in school or for a six-month grace period after you graduate.
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available for undergraduate and graduate students. You can apply with or without financial need. However, you’re responsible for paying interest accrued during your time in school.
- Direct PLUS Loans: These loans are available for graduate or professional degree students. Financial need is not required, but a credit check is. If you qualify, you can borrow the entire amount needed for attendance. However, the interest rate may be higher than for undergraduate loans.
- Direct Parent PLUS Loans: These loans are for parents of undergraduate students. The same rules apply as direct PLUS loans.
2. HRSA loans
HRSA loans are offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through participating schools. If your chosen university or college participates, you will apply directly through the school. There are two low-cost options to consider:
- Nursing student loans (NSLs): These loans are designed for disadvantaged nursing students with financial need. To qualify, you’ll have to be attending a participating school. You won’t be required to pay interest while in school and will receive a nine-month grace period post-graduation.
- Nurse faculty loan program (NFLP): With the goal of encouraging higher education for nursing students, NFLP offers loans to graduate students at participating schools. Additionally, the program allows for up to 85% of loan forgiveness if graduates find full-time employment as a teacher/instructor at a nursing school or health facility.
3. Private Loans
If you don’t qualify for federal financial aid, you can apply for a private student loan. These typically come with higher interest rates and application and processing fees. Additionally, many have financial penalties for early repayment.
Here are a few well-known options for nursing students seeking a private lender:
Keep in mind that criteria and applications vary by lender, but most are primarily looking for a good credit score.
Nursing Scholarship Programs
Scholarship programs can offer additional financial assistance that you won’t have to repay. There are many individual scholarships for nurses, but finding the one you are eligible for and that suits your individual needs can be a challenge.
Here are some resources to help you begin your research:
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)
- Johnson & Johnson
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
- All Nursing Schools
Who Qualifies for Nursing School Financial Aid?
You might be wondering if all nursing students are eligible for financial aid. The short answer is yes, but the aid you qualify for depends on your situation.
For instance, certain Federal and HRSA loans are typically awarded based on financial need and may be reserved for economically disadvantaged nursing students. Private lenders, on the other hand, are more concerned about your credit score than financial need, so if you don’t qualify for federal/HRSA loans based on your income, this is your best bet.
Scholarship programs are usually open to anyone who meets the scholarship’s criteria (e.g., may be for students of color, military service, women only, etc.), regardless of financial need. When deciding which financial aid option(s) to pursue, you’ll want to consider your education level, financial need, and credit history.
Repaying Your Nursing Student Loans
Obtaining a student loan is often easier than repaying one. If you find yourself struggling to keep up with your payments after graduation, here are a few loan forgiveness programs for nurses to consider:
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment (via HRSA): If you’re a nurse practitioner or midwife, you can receive up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance for both federal and private student loans. To qualify, you must work as a full-time employee for two years at a National Health Services-approved site.
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment (via HRSA): Through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program, you can shed up to 85% of your federal private student loans. To apply, you must be a registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse or nurse faculty, and commit to working for at least two years in a critical shortage facility.
- Income-driven repayment forgiveness (via Federal Student Aid): If you’re employed but can’t afford your federal loan repayments, you can have your payment term extended to 20 to 25 years. After that time has passed, your remaining balance will be forgiven. Additionally, your required repayment amount will be capped at a percentage of your discretionary income.
If you don’t qualify for any of the above loan forgiveness programs, you have the option to refinance your private student loans through programs such as SoFi, Earnest, and LendKey. This is a good option if you have multiple lenders with high-interest rates, as you can consolidate your loans into one monthly payment, often with a lower interest rate. However, keep in mind that there may be credit score requirements and fees to complete the refinancing process.
Earning your nursing degree is no easy feat. The last thing you want to worry about is putting yourself through school with little to no financial help. With nursing student loans and scholarship opportunities, you’ll have one less thing to stress about as you take the first steps in your career.
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