Tuition reimbursement is a coveted job perk for nurses

Nearly 80% of millennial nurses and 57% of Gen Xers plan to pursue higher education to boost their salaries.

These findings were reported in a 2017 audience survey reflecting responses from more than 4,500 U.S. nurses about their workplace expectations.

Many of those nurses might be paying out-of-pocket for their educations, according to the survey, which shows only 49% of nurses surveyed have the option of receiving tuition reimbursement benefits from their employers.

tuition reimbursement

Research indicates tuition reimbursement can pay big benefits for the employers that offer the perk, including attracting and retaining top talent — even improving the bottom line, according to a study conducted last year by Cigna Corporation and the Lumina Foundation.

The study, which analyzed the health insurer’s education reimbursement program, suggests Cigna’s tuition reimbursement benefit offers the corporation a 129% return on investment. About 60% of employers offer tuition assistance programs, according to the Lumina Foundation.

Nursing pushes for higher education

In nursing, the push for higher education has been in the spotlight for years. The Institute of Medicine recommended in 2010 that, by the year 2020, 80% of the RN workforce should be BSN-prepared.

In December 2017, New York State was the first U.S. state to pass the BSN in 10 law, which requires all nurses to obtain a BSN within a decade of receiving their RN license unless they are covered by the grandfather clause.

Many other states are considering similar legislation and New Jersey has legislation pending.

Thomas Young, BSN, RN, CNOR, orthopedic surgery coordinator and OR scheduler at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, knew when he had an associate’s degree in nursing having a BSN would open more doors in his nursing career.

The University of Maryland’s tuition assistance program made going from an RN to a BSN a reality for Young, who said he would not have pursued the higher degree without the financial assistance.

tuition reimbursement
Thomas Young, RN

“I was a little older,” he said. “I have a family — children and a wife at home. And I don’t think I would have invested that money back into my education.”

Young, who started at University of Maryland as a dishwasher while in high school, has not stopped at the BSN. He’s working toward his MSN, with a focus on leadership and administration.

Tuition reimbursement is essential for nurses who want to achieve higher levels of education — whether now or in the future, according to Young.

Tuition reimbursement attracts job candidates

“It’s one of the things that I would definitely look for if I were looking for a new job,” Young said. “In fact, it’s one of the reasons I have not looked for a new job.”

Cassie O’Malley, MS, RN, OCN, a nurse manager in outpatient oncology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, has tapped the tuition reimbursement benefit twice — once to earn her master’s degree and in her present pursuit of a DNP.

O’Malley said she graduated with her master’s not owing any money and can comfortably cover the little she might owe after her doctorate.

Tuition reimbursement was a big draw for O’Malley, who started at the University of Maryland with her BSN.

tuition reimbursement
Cassie O’Malley, RN

“I came out of undergraduate education with some student loans,” she said. “When I was looking at an organization to start my career with, I knew that I’d want to go back to school at some point, and I really couldn’t see myself affording to be able to add to the student loans that I already accumulated.”

O’Malley also sees the value of the benefit from the perspective of a hiring manager.

“When I look at hiring new nurses now, I think that’s one of my biggest selling points,” she said.

Jennifer Valentine, recruitment supervisor at Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, Delaware, agrees tuition reimbursement is a big deal for nurses looking for work.

“For all associates at Nemours, we offer up to $5,250 annually towards tuition reimbursement,” Valentine said. “I think the organization is very supportive of growing our associates. One of the ways in which we can support them is through tuition reimbursement.”

Nemours is a Magnet hospital while Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fla., is working toward Magnet designation, according to Valentine. Both hospitals are focused on achieving high BSN ratios in nursing and should be well-positioned should BSN in 10 become law in those states, she said.

tuition reimbursement
Jennifer Valentine

“The [nurse] managers are constantly talking with the nurses to make sure that they realize that they’ve got the support needed to be able to go on and get their BSN,” Valentine said. “Nemours Health System also is very supportive of nurses going on to advanced degrees.”

The CNE and director of nursing excellence for Nemours in Children’s Health System are both using tuition reimbursement dollars to earn their DNP degrees, according to Valentine.

At 33, Sean Elwell, MSN, RN, NE-BC, TCRN, EMT, director of trauma and critical care transport at Nemours has an advanced degree and more — thanks, in part, to tuition reimbursement.

tuition reimbursement
Sean Elwell, RN

“I’ve had the opportunity to utilize it from a personal standpoint, but I’ve also encouraged it among my team,” said Elwell, who started with Nemours as an emergency medical technician working in the emergency department.

“I love the tuition reimbursement program and what it offers for individuals,” he said. “It’s an organizational commitment to nurses — a commitment to them continuing to grow personally and professionally. I really encourage my team members to take advantage of the opportunities that are there and utilize that to further their education and really make their dreams come true.”

Looking to get a college degree? Check out our Schools Directory to find programs near you.

Editor’s note: The full 2017 earnings survey will be released this spring! Check back for blogs on different aspects of the survey monthly throughout 2018.

Freelance writer Lisette Hilton contributed to the research and writing of this article.

Courses related to ‘college degree’

CE758: Passion Meets Preparation: Delineating Terminal Degrees for a Fruitful Pursuit
(1.2 contact hrs)

A key element of the Future of Nursing (FON) report focuses on the need to double the number of doctorate-prepared nurses by 2020. The recommendation stems from the need to increase the number of nurses eligible to fulfill roles as faculty and researchers. Attaining this single recommendation is projected to create downstream effects on other key recommendations of the report such as increased nurse commitment to lifelong learning, empowering nurses to spearhead changes across the profession, and enabling nurses to collect and analyze data pertinent to heath care. In theory, this is a win-win situation, but in reality, the doctorates earned need to align with the professional goals and passions of the nurse to meet the needs of the nursing profession outlined in the FON report. This educational activity will provide information on three terminal degrees relevant to nursing practice, PhD, DNP, and EdD, in terms of typical scope, purpose, and career progression.

CE171-60: Earning Degrees By Distance Education
(1 contact hr)

Advancing in the nursing profession, and in some cases even maintaining a current position, may require a return to academic education. Returning to school can be daunting for adult learners. Balancing work, family, and traditional classes feels like an impossible burden. These factors make distance education a viable, a desirable, and often the only alternative. This module will provide nurses with information about obtaining academic credentials through distance education.

WEB309: RN to BSN: Aligning Your Personality Characteristics with Your Career Goals
(1 contact hr)

With the recommendation that 80% of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020, many RN’s may be considering advancing their education. Have you considered what areas within nursing you might like to explore? Might certain personality characteristics help you enjoy some nursing specialties more than others? Is your dream to work in management, administration, education or research? Is your desire to avoid specific job duties such as management? Try to align your strengths and personality characteristics with a nursing role you might enjoy! Perhaps there is an area of nursing you haven’t considered as a possibility for you. As you decide to further your education, an analysis of research and individual personality characteristics may help you align your goals within nursing areas you might enjoy the most.

About the author
Heather Cygan

Heather Cygan 

Heather Cygan is senior director of content and creative strategy for the advertising solutions division of She has been developing healthcare content for more than 10 years and has a bachelors of arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Connect with and follow her on LinkedIn.

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