Deciding to pursue a bachelor's degree through an online RN to BSN program is a big decision and entails major commitments. A student must dedicate time, energy and money to achieve his/her goals and earn that degree. It is the student's responsibility to provide the necessary time and energy, but many need assistance when it comes to financial resources. Fortunately, there are many options for financial aid for nurses.
Types of financial help
There are several types of financial aid for nurses pursuing an online RN to BSN program. These can be divided into the following categories: loans, scholarships, grants and loan-forgiveness programs.
Sources of financial aid for nurses can include both public and private organizations, and some types of financial aid must be repaid while others do not. The amounts of financial aid awarded can vary greatly, from a few hundred dollars to many thousands, and eligibility can depend on income levels, ethnicity and other factors.
There are many types of loans, but the two main types are categorized according to whether the funding sources are public or private. Most financial advisers will recommend that you seek loans from public institutions such as federal and state governments. The interest rates and repayment terms are generally more favorable than loans from private institutions.
One excellent federal resource is the Health Services and Resource Administration (http://www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/students.html), which offers many options for financial aid for nurses. Your background, financial need and your career path determines what type of assistance for which you are eligible.
Before you can receive a low-cost federal loan, you must file a form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is the first step in applying for part of the more than $150 billion in financial aid available from various sources. Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.
A scholarship is money given for education that does not have to be repaid. Eligibility for scholarships can depend on financial need, ethnicity, specialty and career plans are after graduation. Many organizations offer nurses scholarships that are in line with the organization's interests and goals. For instance, some groups award large amounts of financial aid to minority nursing students, while others provide scholarships based on essays. There are scholarships specifically for nurses who are enrolled in online RN to BSN programs. Be sure to read the stipulations of the scholarship carefully before you apply to assure that you meet the criteria.
A list of some scholarships for nurses can be found at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's website at http://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/financial-aid.
Grants can come from the federal government, state government or the school. (Unlike federal aid, which is administered directly through the Department of Education, state grants are distributed through schools.)
Grants are similar to scholarships; they are awarded based on financial need and/or academic performance. However, they also can be based on whether the student is earning a degree in a high-demand field or plans to work in a medically underserved area.
Some grants also may include monthly stipends to cover living expenses.
The conditions of a grant may be structured as an exchange. A student receives money to cover tuition or other expenses, and in exchange, promises to work for a certain employer and/or for a specified amount of time after graduation.
For a list of educational grants available in your state, see the U.S. Department of Education's list of state education offices at http://www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state//articles/rn-bsn-financial-aid.html?src=contact-us. Be sure to check with your schools' financial aid office to ensure that your online RN to BSN program participates in the state programs for which you qualify.
One form of financial aid for nurses comes from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which is intended to encourage nurses to enter and continue to work in full-time public service jobs. You are eligible for this program as long as you have not defaulted on your student loan. You must pay off a certain percentage of your original loan, but once this is done, and you have been employed in a public health service job, the remainder of your loan can be forgiven. This is an excellent deal for nurses who are already employed in the public sector. If you are not, you might consider employment in the public sector after graduation.
There are many jobs that qualify as public service, but students should check the rules and regulations of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for the details. Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.
Earning a bachelor's degree is an important career goal. One way to accomplish this goal is through an online RN to BSN program, which requires a commitment of time, energy and resources. Fortunately, there are many avenues of financial aid for nurses that will help them achieve their educational and career goals. It is worth the time it takes to investigate these various options.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Am I eligible? Health professions students," http://www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/students.html
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. "Financial Aid," http://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/financial-aid#aacn
RN to BSN website. "Paying for nursing school," http://www.rntobsn.org/financial-assistance/
Federal Student Aid: Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/public-service-loan-forgiveness.pdf
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