Nursing Financial Aid

There is a variety of nursing financial aid programs available that will help you to pay for your education and start on the path to a career that is highly rewarding and in great demand.

Types of Nursing Financial Aid

Most nursing students turn to financial aid to help meet the costs of obtaining a nursing education and becoming a registered nurse (RN). These costs include not only tuition but also the costs of textbooks, uniforms, course fees, as well as commuting and dining expenses. Needs-based students have a greater number of nursing financial aid options, but even those students that are working can qualify for certain types of aid.

Nursing financial aid comes in many forms such as scholarships, grants, as well as work-study and loan programs. We explore each of these options in detail below. However, the first step is to determine the types of aid for which you qualify.

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Nursing students should begin the financial aid process by completing a FAFASA that will determine your eligibility for various programs. Once you have submitted this form you will receive a FAFSA report that will outline the federal grants and loans that you are eligible to receive.

Grants for Nursing Students:

Grants do not need to be repaid so if are deemed eligible for these programs consider applying for these types of aid before pursuing any loans.

Types of grants

Federal Pell Grant: The Federal Pell Grant is based on need as determined by the FAFSA. Nursing students may receive up to $3,330 each academic year. The Pell Grant will be disbursed through your school’s financial aid office if you qualify. To be eligible for consideration you must file the FAFSA between January and July of the school year you plan to start. For example, if you plan to start in September of 2011, your FAFSA should be filed between January 1 and July 30, 2011. However, your school’s deadline for submitting the FAFSA may be different from the government deadline so best to check with you school’s financial aid office to learn their filing dates.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant: This grant is available to those undergraduate nursing students who evidence substantial financial needs as determined by the FAFSA. Students may receive up to $3,000 each academic year.

State grants: Your state of residence or the state where you are attending school will likely offer some type of nursing financial aid. Contact your State Board of Education or your school’s financial aid office to obtain additional information on these programs. You can also visit the Education Resource Organizations Directory (EROD) Web site (www. to obtain information on state-based nursing financial aid options.

Nursing Scholarships

While some nursing scholarships are based on need, many are based on academic achievement and work experience. There are thousands of nursing scholarships ranging from those offered by nursing schools, professional nursing associations, community-based agencies, as well as state and federally funded programs. As with grants, scholarships do not need to be repaid once you graduate.

Types of nursing scholarships

Health-based Scholarships Provided to Disadvantaged Students: These scholarships are available to full time nursing and allied health students from disadvantaged backgrounds who demonstrate substantial financial need as determined by the FAFSA. You can inquire about these scholarships through your school’s financial aid office.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarships: These scholarships are for nursing students pursing a master’s degree programs in nurse midwifery or family nurse practitioner. NHSC scholarships are awarded to nursing students who successfully complete the master’s degree and work in federally recognized underserved areas. One year of such work experience is required for every year of nursing financial aid received with a minimum two year commitment.

National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)  Scholarship: These scholarships are available to qualified nursing students. To be eligible to apply for a NSNA scholarship you must be a U.S. citizen or in possession of an Alien registration number and be currently enrolled in a state a-approved school that offers a diploma, associate, bachelor’s, generalist master’s and doctorate degrees. Scholarships are not provided for graduate study unless it will be the student’s first nursing degree. Licensed Practice/Licensed Vocational Nurses are also eligible to apply.

The scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, financial need, participation in nursing organizations, and community activities related to the nursing or health care field (e.g. prior volunteer experience as a patient advocate, “companion”, or “candy-striper” etc.) Additional requirements may be required by some scholarship sponsors. Visit the Web site of the NSNA Web site for further information.

Private sources: Check with your family’s employer or local businesses, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities to find out whether they may offer scholarships for nursing students. Another option is to search the FastWeb site which offers help researching scholarships. Simply select the “Start Search” icon, type in the requested information and the site will provide a list of scholarships for which you may qualify. ‘

School and community-based scholarships: You should also research scholarship opportunities available through your school or community. Community-based scholarships may be provided by religious or charitable organizations, such as the Kiwanis Club or Lions Club. Many of these scholarships are based on a combination of academic achievement and need.

Work-Study Options and Loan Programs

Nursing students who’s FAFSA indicates that they are ineligible for grants and who don’t qualify for any scholarships may need to turn to such nursing financial aid programs as work-study and loans to pay for their nursing education. Work-study programs provide you with on-campus employment so that you may earn an income while you are enrolled in school. Work-study is typically a needs-based program that is provided as part of your FAFSA application.

Loans provide you with money needed to pay for school but must be paid over a period of years following graduation, usually with interest having accumulated (although at a relatively low rate). Federally-based loans typically offer the most competitive rates, but eligibility criteria may be more stringent than with private loans.

Types of nursing student loans

Stafford Loans: Stafford loans are distributed through a Direct Loan program administered by the federal government or the Federal Family Education Loan, distributed through a variety of private lenders. Both options offer subsidized loans based on financial need as determined by the FAFSA with interest deferred while you are enrolled in school. Each program also offers unsubsidized loans which are not based on financial need but with interest will accruing while you are in school.

Perkins Loan: The Perkins Loan is a low interest loan targeted toward students with substantial financial need. The funds for these loans are provided to your school from the federal government.  The loan is to be paid back after graduation and interest does not accrue while you are in school. Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out when the application is due.

Nursing Student Loans: This is a low interest student loan available for nursing students enrolled in LPN/LVN or RN programs. These loans are administered through your school’s financial aid office

State loans: the state where you legally reside or in which your school is located may also have loans available to nursing students. Check with your State’s Department of Education which can be accessed by visiting

Private lender (Signature) loans: Signature loans are provided by private lenders rather than the federal government and usually carry a higher interest rate. These loans are often used as supplemental nursing financial aid to cover expenses not met by either federal grants or loans.  Students may obtain signature loans from banks, credit unions, and other financial sources.   Banks that offer signature loans include Citibank, Bank of of America, and Wells Fargo.

Nursing Loan Forgiveness Programs: Students who do use loans to pay for all or part of their education may have a portion of their repayment waived in exchange for participating in certain work experiences.As one example, the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offers to pay up to 60% of the loan obligation to those nurses who agree to work at certain nonprofit agencies upon graduation for a period of at least two years. Participants will also receive the salary and benefits as agreed to with the employing agency. Other loan forgiveness programs are available for Stafford and Perkins Loans students in exchange for working in underserved rural and/or disadvantaged urban areas.

Tuition reimbursement: Working students may be eligible to have their employer pay all or a good part of their education.  In most cases, students will need to maintain a minimum GPA (usually 3.0) and agree to work for the facility for a certain number of years after graduation (usually one year for each year of financial assistance received).