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Nursing School Tuition and Funding

There are several different nursing school paths that can be taken to become a registered nurse (RN). In the past, most nursing programs were diploma programs, run independently by hospitals, without the involvement of a college or university. At the other end of the spectrum is nursing education at the university level, where a bachelor's degree is awarded at completion. No matter what program is chosen, each will prepare the student to work an entry-level job as an RN. Nursing school can be costly, so planning for tuition and fees is important. Nursing school tuition varies based on several factors including type of nursing program, whether the school is public or private and whether the student is in-state or out-of-state.

Diploma programs were once the primary route to starting a nursing career, but their numbers are now dwindling to less than 100 programs. In the past, diploma programs were hospital-based and taught by physicians. Now, most diploma programs have some kind of affiliation with a college or university so that credits may be awarded for coursework. While credits may be awarded, graduates will be earning a diploma, not a degree. These credits could be applied toward future education. Most diploma programs are located in the east and midwest and are two to three years in length. Tuition varies by school, but may range from $20,000 to $25,000 for the entire program.

Students wishing to become RNs can also choose to earn an associate's degree. Associate degree programs are two years in length and can be found at community colleges across the country. Tuition can vary based on where the student resides, because prices are usually much higher for out-of-state students. Tuition for an associate degree nursing program varies, but according to The College Board, the average yearly tuition for a public two-year college is $2,690. The total tuition cost for the two years is $5,380.

Earning a bachelor's degree can be a perfect choice for someone who is interested in pursuing leadership positions as an RN or plans on earning a graduate degree at a later time. Bachelor degree programs are four years in length; include two years of general study and prerequisite courses followed by two years of nursing study. Tuition for a bachelor's degree varies depending on whether the student is in-state or out-of-state and whether the school is public or private. According to The College Board, the average yearly tuition for an in-state student at a public university is $8,240 versus tuition for an out-of-state student which is $20,770. Yearly average tuition for a private university is $28,500. The total for a four year degree is $32,960, $83,080 and $114,000 respectively.

Tuition costs can be a significant expense. Depending on the school chosen, a student may spend over $100,000 to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. Financial aid can be an important tool in helping students earn a nursing degree or diploma. Financial aid can come from both private and public sources. Federal financial aid is available to students after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA identifies students who are eligible for grants, loans and work-study programs.

There are also online databases that students can search for free to find privately offered nursing scholarships such as www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com. The majority of scholarships are for students who are in a program that awards an associate's or bachelor's degree. It may be more difficult for a student in a diploma nursing program to get a scholarship as no degree is awarded at completion of the program. Scholarships may be based on financial hardship, academic performance or other demographics. Private universities can often give students substantial scholarships due to alumni support and private funding. For students who are already working, some employers offer tuition assistance which may cover some or all of their tuition costs.

For those interested in military service, the Armed Forces provides several avenues to help pay for school. They offer tuition assistance of up to $5400 per year to members of the military. Those who have served at least 90 active duty days since September 11, 2001 can take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill which covers 40% to 100% of tuition fees at an in-state college or university. While it may not help with upfront costs, graduates of a nursing program who are recruited into the military may be offered loan forgiveness.

There are several different avenues a student can choose to become an RN. The most cost-effective route may be attending a local community college and completing an associate's degree. On the other hand, some students may feel it is important to attend a private university, though tuition will be much higher. Regardless of the route, all graduates of a nursing program sit for the same national exam, the NCLEX-RN. Passing this exam allows the student to apply for licensure as an RN. RNs are paid wages according to their licensure, so the route taken to earn the licensure will have little impact on salary earned. With a national nursing shortage and many paths to choose from to become an RN, there is no better time than now to get started!

Why I Want To Be A Nurse
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