Nursing education costs increase year after year, and aspiring nurses and those seeking advanced degrees must find ways to finance their schooling. Through scholarships, nursing students can reduce out-of-pocket expenses for their education. But where can you find them? Nurses know all too well that attending nursing school can be pricey. The cost of tuition and other expenses continue to increase and are affected by factors like physical location, type of school, and type of degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of tuition in 2020-2021 for undergraduate students ranged from $14,900 to $26,000 per academic year at four-year public universities. The cost of public two-year colleges was slightly lower, ranging from $9,700 to $19,600. With high tuition rates like these, nursing students often turn to federal student loans to bankroll their education. In the U.S., the average student loan debt for nurses ranges from $19,928 to $47,321, depending on the program. While student loans pay for your education up front, they often come with their own consequences. One study showed that some healthcare professionals with educational debt felt negative effects from student loan debt personally, professionally, or psychologically. Nursing scholarships can alleviate the burden of this debt for students.
[caption id="attachment_107106" align="alignright" width="230"] Jaclyn Reyes, RN[/caption] Scholarships provide supplemental financial assistance to cover the costs of tuition, books, and other academic expenses. Qualifications for this type of assistance can include high academic performance. However, these programs aren't always based primarily on grade-point averages. Eligibility can also be based on essays, volunteer work, or membership in certain professional associations. And some schools or organizations put more focus on an applicant's circumstances, future career goals in nursing, or how the monetary investment could change an applicant's life. For example, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) offers various options for students following a career path into nurse faculty, such as the NurseThink -- AACN Scholarship. This scholarship provides $5,000 to graduate-level nursing students who aspire to have nurse faculty careers. Jaclyn Reyes, MSN, RN, CNE, CMSRN, shared the impact of receiving the 2022 NurseThink -- AACN Scholarship. "It was really a blessing in that, financially, it was a big help," she said, adding that the financial support removed some of her worries and even allowed her to save more money toward her education. In addition, she said, receiving this aid gave her some validation for the work she is doing in nursing. As part of her application, Reyes was required to write an essay, and she decided to write about the future of nurse educators.
"We all have that imposter syndrome where we think we're not good enough or we think we don't have enough credentials or knowledge," she said. "But the reality is that when you think about whatever it is they're asking and really put your thoughts down, it can be enough."
Reyes, who is a nurse instructor in the El Paso, Texas, area, also said she remained open-minded about the outcome after applying. "I wasn't expecting it at all," she said. "I just applied and thought, 'I'll just try and see what happens.' And it was a really great surprise."
When considering scholarships, it can feel overwhelming to figure out where and how to find options. While a quick online search will bring up numerous results, weeding through to find the most suitable ones can be the bigger challenge. Fortunately, websites are available to ease the burden of searching for scholarships online. Sites like Fastweb.com allow students to peruse and filter different choices based on elements such as location or major. In addition, the AACN offers a comprehensive list of scholarships and other financial aid resources specific to nursing students, even narrowing them down by degree. However, these aren't the only channels you can use. Reyes, who has over 20 years of nursing experience and 10 years as a nursing instructor, said she found her scholarship through email correspondence from her memberships in nursing associations. "I know we get so busy that we don't pay attention to a lot of those emails," she said. "But sometimes, you need to pause and just look at it and try." Another component to consider are the requirements. Whether you're required to write an essay or be a member of a certain organization, it's important to not let qualifications deter you from applying.
If you meet the requirements, applying for scholarships is always a good experience, according to Reyes. "You don't have anything to lose. You have everything to gain," she said. "If you don't put yourself out there, then nobody knows how great you are. So just go for it."
Types of scholarships for nursing students
You can find scholarships through various schools, organizations, and professional associations. But with different types of organizations or schools come different requirements. Qualifications can include demographic information, like race and ethnicity, nursing specialty, college level, or region. So try to focus on programs whose prerequisites align with your own attributes and goals. Examples of associations with scholarship programs include:
- National Black Nurses Association (NBNA): This association offers multiple options for nursing students who are members of the NBNA. Ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $15,000, students can apply to receive aid if they're a NBNA member, are currently enrolled in a nursing program, and have at least one full year of school remaining.
- American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN): The AAMN provides two $1,000 scholarships to AAMN members who are pursuing a nurse faculty career path or are in school to become either a licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) or registered nurse (RN).
- Oncology Nursing Foundation: This foundation caters to nurses interested in or who are pursing oncology nursing. Different scholarships are available for nurses earning a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree with amounts ranging from $3,000 to $7,500.
- American Red Cross: Nursing students who volunteer or are employed by the American Red Cross and participate in their organizational events and opportunities are eligible for various scholarship options.
- Duke University: Duke University has several merit scholarships available for first-year students, including nursing students. These programs have different sets of qualifications, such as high academic performance or being a resident of a certain state.
Nursing scholarships are also not limited to undergraduates. Some organizations such as the Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation cater to nurses seeking advanced degrees. This can be especially helpful, as the cost of graduate-level degrees continue to be higher than undergraduate programs. Whether you're an undergraduate or graduate nursing student, finding scholarships that match your own achievements and characteristics can be beneficial to you.
Other financial resources
Like scholarships, other resources such as grants or loan repayment programs are available to nursing students. These options, in conjunction with scholarship funding, can reduce the out-of-pocket costs you may face. The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: For qualifying RNs, APRNs, and nurse faculty, this program, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, pays up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt. In exchange for the debt reduction, nurses must work a minimum of two to three years in approved underserved sites across the country. Military scholarships or assistance programs: Certain military branches offer different types of financial aid for student nurses.
- The U.S. Army has programs that pay for advanced nursing degrees, provide monthly support for those actively enrolled in nursing programs, and offer student loan repayment.
- The U.S Navy offers various general financial aid programs and one program specifically for nursing students. The Nurse Candidate Program (NCP) offers qualified applicants an initial grant of $10,000, then a monthly stipend of $1,000 for up to 24 months.
- The U.S. Air Force offers two- and three-year scholarships for students in nurse corps specialties. This aid covers tuition, fees, books, and supplies. Recipients also get a monthly allowance for living expenses.
Federal or state grants: Grants are a common type of financial aid available through both state and federal governments. For federal grants, students can search for, review, and apply to various grants through Grants.gov. While there are various nursing grants available, eligibility will vary for each one. In addition, most states offer grants to eligible students. For example, the state of Maryland offers numerous grant resources, such as a part-time grant that gives assistance to undergraduates and students who attend both a Maryland high school and a higher-education institute.
Finding and applying for nursing scholarships can be intimidating. You're responsible for matching your background to eligibility criteria, meeting the deadlines, and compiling important documentation for multiple programs. But your hard work can pay off. Reyes said applying to scholarships can definitely feel overwhelming. But once you push through those feelings, it's not that difficult. "It's daunting to think, 'Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to put myself out there?'" she said. "Once you decide that you're going to do it, then you just follow all the steps to get it accomplished." Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in 2017 and has been updated with new content. If you're seeking career insight, educational support, or mentorship, download and explore the Nurse.com app.