The cost of nursing school can be daunting, but there is financial assistance available in the form of traditional scholarships, loan scholarships, and loan repayment. What you compete for will depend on your current educational level and the degree of commitment you want to make.
At the high school level, you can compete for scholarships through the Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA).
Some Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) offer scholarships to help rural or disadvantaged students complete their nursing education. AHEC can also be a general scholarship resource -- you may want to look up your local AHEC to see if they have links to outside scholarship or financial aid programs on their website. Take a look at the National AHEC website to find local AHECs around the country.
By becoming active in a professional organization like the American Nurses Association (ANA), you can increase your chances of earning a scholarship. If you have a nursing license and are considering pursuing a higher degree, you may want to look into specialty nursing organizations as well.
If you are a member of a minority or underrepresented group, you’ll find additional resources. You can start your search on the site of the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations (NCEMNA); you’ll find links to five different minority nursing organizations.
Another good source of traditional scholarships is the school itself. If you visit the website of the school of nursing, you may find quite a list – endowments and memorial scholarships reflect generosity on the part of alumni and families of alumni. Each scholarship may have unique criteria; the donor may specify anything from “Mexican –American” to “interested in oncology”.
Healthcare organizations are another potential resource. Some offer scholarships to employees (for example, nursing assistants or paramedics) who are pursuing additional education. Some offer scholarships to other promising students in exchange for a future work commitment.
If you are employed in long-term care and would like to continue in this practice area at a higher level, you may want to visit the site of your state health care association. There are often scholarship moneys available.
New graduates who are working in areas where there are high needs or critical shortages can apply for loan repayment; nursing students who are ready to make a commitment after graduation can apply for loan scholarships. These programs are more readily available to nurses studying at higher levels. You will be eligible for some while studying to become an RN. Others are open to you only if you’re a future nurse educator or advanced practice nurse.
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and the Nurse Corps Scholarship are national programs, both administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration (www.hrsa.gov). Some states have their own loan scholarship or repayment programs. You may want to check the site of your state nursing workforce or ANA affiliate to see if there is information posted.
A loan scholarship can be generous, paying not only tuition but other education-related expenses. The only catch is that you have to be sure of success and ready to make a commitment. If you don’t meet your obligation, the money becomes a loan and must be repaid with interest.
Although most scholarships won’t pay all your expenses, you can pull together a financial aid package from multiple sources. There is a good chance you’ll be eligible for tax credits – up to $2,500. If you’re an undergraduate, you may be eligible for a small credit even if your income falls below the tax liability level.
And if you’ve already completed a degree? Nursing is somewhat unique in that there is greater need – and more financial incentives – available to grad students.
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