You have finally decided to follow your dreams of becoming a nurse. Now all you need to do is choose a school and get a degree. Sounds easy, right? If only it was so simple. The truth is nursing education is not cheap. Nursing schools can cost you a fortune depending on the levels of nursing degrees, specialties, and titles. Sure, you can find a well-paid position later, which will make all costs worthwhile. However, if you need external funding for your education, such as student loans, it is better to know your expected costs. This guide gives you answers on “how much is nursing school?” and helps you decide whether it is suitable for your budget.
Levels of Nursing and Education Qualifications
Before we check how much nursing school is, let’s first understand different levels of nursing. Each level has its educational requirements. Therefore, nursing education costs can differ significantly based on your dreamed level.
1. Nursing Assistant
This level is also called Certified Nursing Assistant, which is the lowest level of the nursing hierarchy. Such assistants are usually considered not nurses but intermediaries between health professionals and the patients. Besides, it can serve as a beginning point for a nursing career.
If you want to become a Nursing Assistant, you need to pass a training program. This program usually lasts three to eight weeks. Once you complete the training, you have to pass an exam and get your Certified Nursing Assistant license.
2. Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed Practical Nurses also serve patients and perform tasks like starting IV drips. You need to complete a Practical Nursing Diploma program to become one of them. Such programs usually exist in community colleges and can take as little as a year. Again, once you complete the program, you will need to pass the license exam. Licensed Practical Nurses can also get additional certifications (in specific areas like childbirth) to improve their qualifications.
3. Registered Nurses
Registered Nurses have a broader scope than serving patients directly. They can also work outside of this area in tasks like running health screenings. You will need an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or get a bachelor’s degree in Science of Nursing. These educational qualifications take more time than those required for Licensed Practical Nurse and Nursing Assistant. Hence, if you wonder how much nursing school is for this level, it is definitely more than what is required for others.
4. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
As the name suggests, this level of nursing is at the top of the hierarchy. Such nurses have great flexibility when it comes to choosing a career path or job responsibilities. You can become a nursing educator, midwife, clinical nurse, etc. however, first, you have to become a Registered Nurse. Besides, a Master of Science in Nursing can be mandatory.
How Much is Nursing School?
Now that you know different levels of nursing, you can clarify how much nursing school is for your desired education level.
First, let’s discuss the costs for Licensed Practical Nurses. The diploma program they need costs from $5,000 to $25,000 if they decide to study in public school. Sure, if you want to get an education in a private establishment, this cost range jumps to $20,000-$40,000. However, keep in mind that you can earn on average around $50,000 yearly for this nursing level.
Associate Degree in Nursing
next, an Associate’s Degree in Nursing requires $30,000-$100,000 for studying in private schools. this rate is $6,000-$40,000 for public schools. However, keep in mind that this degree costs much because it takes around two years to complete. If you have this nursing education, your annual salary can increase to approximately $70,000 per year.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
If you want to get a bachelor’s degree, be aware that your costs will be at least $40,000 or up to around $100,000 for a four-year degree program. The costs vary highly depending on which nursing school you want to go to.
Master of Nursing Practice
For nurses who get a Master of Science Degree in Nursing, the job opportunities are more. Hence, the average salary also increases to around $115,000. In return, you should consider spending approximately between $84,000 (at Columbia University) and $11,000 (at the University of Carolina).
Doctor of Nursing Practice
For getting a Doctor of Nursing Practice, your costs will depend on whether you get this degree after master’s or bachelor’s completion. Master students need fewer credits for a Doctoral degree. Therefore, they pay less. Education for such students costs around $20,000 yearly in public schools and $40,000 in private institutions. Meanwhile, post-bachelor students should pay around $40,000 or $75,000 in public or private schools, respectively.
How Much is Nursing School Debt?
As we already answered your question of “How much is nursing school?”, you already know that it requires a lot of money. Besides, we only mentioned tuition fees. You will need to afford other expenses like accommodation or transportation spending and payments for books, supplies, or equipment.
Not every student has enough money to cover these educational costs. Therefore, you might need an external funding source, such as student loans to pay for the school. That strategy is what exactly 70% of graduates utilize – accumulating student debt to afford a degree.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, among 70% of students who took loans, 76% belong to undergraduates. Most of the borrowers owe between $40,000-$55,000 student debt for nursing education.
Source: AACN – The Number Behind the Nursing Degree
Nursing Education Loan Forgiveness Programs
You need to ask which programs exist to forgive student debt besides the “How much is nursing school?” question. In this way, you can get student loans to finance nursing education and then get rid of these loans through forgiveness programs. Luckily, nurses have several options to eliminate their debt.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you want to get rid of the full debt amount, Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a great opportunity. This program works as follows; you repay the debt 120 times, which takes at least 120 months. Once you reach the required qualified payment number, the remaining debt is eliminated. However, you should be working for a public organization (tribal, local, state, or federal) or non-profit organization. Only Direct loans qualify for this program.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness can eliminate huge debt balances. However, the downside is that it requires at least ten years. If you want a quick solution, Nurse Corps Loan Repayment is just for you. This program erases 60% of student debt in return for two-year service. If you agree to extend your contract for one more year, you can get an additional 25% reduction in the outstanding balance.
Yet, keep in mind that you will probably work in rural areas where there is a shortage of healthcare professionals. Besides, you can apply if you are a Faculty, Registered, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
NHSC Loan Repayment
If you are a Nurse Practitioner or Certified Nurse-Midwife, you can also apply for National Health Service Corps loan repayment. This program can erase $50,000 nursing student debt if you agree to serve as a full-time nurse for two years. Again, you will be required to work in an approved facility where a shortage of nurses exists. Besides, you can work part-time and receive $25,000 forgiveness.
During application, you might be required to provide loan information, payment history, certifications, and licenses.
Perkins Loan Cancellation
If you have Perkins loans, you can apply for this program. Perkins loan cancellation is available to borrowers before 2017. The program grants 100% forgiveness for the original balance in 5 years, in different installments each year. You have to check this program with your school or loan servicer to ensure your qualifications.
In addition to these federal programs, there exist state-level forgiveness and repayment options. For example, Alaska’s SHARP program can help nurses to get $27,000 forgiveness. Moreover, Pennsylvania state grants $60,000 to full-time nurses serving in designated areas. Therefore, get familiar with your state’s programs. They might help you finance your education or assist you in getting rid of student debt.
What about Private Loans?
If you need student loans to afford a nursing degree, we would advise you to check your federal loan options, such as Direct Subsidized loans for undergraduate students. If you do not qualify for any federal loan, you can check private student loan companies.
However, be aware that these lenders do not provide forgiveness programs in most cases. As a result, you will be required to pay the full loan balance, including interest rate, after graduation or during your studies. In the best case, you can refinance your private loans to enjoy lower interest rates.
How much is nursing school? The answer depends on which education level and nursing qualification you are looking for. However, in all cases, nursing schools are not cheap. Therefore, you might need a student loan to afford your education. Yet, you can make it more suitable for your budget by applying for forgiveness programs. Besides, you can talk to a student loan expert to know your options before accumulating huge debt for nursing education.