How to Pay for Nursing School: A Comprehensive Guide to Funding

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Addressing the issue of how to pay for nursing school should start with filling out the FAFSA form to determine if you’re eligible for federal student aid, including grants and loans. Then, consider private student loans for nursing students, along with scholarships, tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs.

nurse sitting and typing on computer

Switching careers is more common than you might think. It’s possible to switch to another field entirely, even a highly technical one like nursing. At Xavier University, we welcome future nurses with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to apply to our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Our program allows you to use your past education toward a nursing degree and graduate in as few as 16 months.

Whether you’re eligible for an ABSN program or considering enrolling in a four-year BSN program, paying for nursing school can seem overwhelming. However, once you begin exploring your options, you’ll find it more doable than you imagined. Here’s a look at how to pay for nursing school using various funding sources.

Understanding the Cost of Nursing School

You might want to dive into how to get nursing school paid for right away, but first, it’s worth looking at how much money you can expect to need.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition rates vary from one nursing school to the next. A BSN might cost between $70,000 and $80,000 in tuition and fees at some schools. At Xavier, we’ve kept our tuition and fees as low as possible. The total tuition for the 63 required credits is $56,700, plus additional fees for items such as:

  • Textbooks
  • Student activity fee
  • ATI access fee
  • Supplies and professional fees

Another expense to consider is the cost per credit hour of prerequisites. ABSN programs require prerequisite courses to ensure students are ready to tackle the rigorous nursing curriculum. Xavier has considerably fewer prerequisite requirements than other ABSN nursing programs; you’ll need to take up to four prerequisites. Depending on your prior non-nursing college education, you may need fewer or none at all.

What are the prerequisites for nursing school? Here’s what you need to know.

Additional Expenses

Of course, tuition and fees aren’t the only expenses for nursing students. You’ll need to purchase supplies, such as a stethoscope. You should also consider the cost of housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and other living expenses while in school. All these expenses might seem intimidating, but with some pre-planning, paying for nursing school is within reach.

How to Pay for Nursing School with Federal Financial Aid

Before considering any other sources of funding for school, like nursing school scholarships, you’ll first want to see if you’re eligible for federal student aid.

FAFSA Overview

To determine if you’re eligible for federal student aid for nursing school, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After applying, you’ll learn if you’re eligible for federal grants for nursing students and federal loans. Getting the response from your FAFSA form can make tackling how to get nursing school paid for much more manageable.

Remember that you’ll need to submit a new FAFSA each year that you’re a student to continue qualifying for aid. You can complete it online at in the fall or winter of each year. Be prepared to provide your financial information.

Becoming a nurse can be straightforward. Learn how to make a career change to nursing in 5 steps.

nurses standing around an IV

Federal Grants for Nursing Students

One type of federal student aid you may be eligible to receive is grants, including Federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). Unlike loans, grants don’t need to be repaid. Your eligibility for a federal student grant is generally based on financial need.

Federal Student Loans

Although grants can help you finance your education, they’ll unlikely pay for all of it. The next option is student loans for nursing students. The federal government offers multiple types of student loans, subsidized and unsubsidized.

Federal Subsidized Student Loans

You may qualify for subsidized student loans if you demonstrate financial need. These are the more desirable types, as they offer better terms. For example, you won’t need to pay the interest accrued in nursing school or for the first six months following graduation. The government will also pay the interest accrued during any loan deferment periods.

Federal Unsubsidized Student Loans

Although federal unsubsidized loans aren’t as ideal as subsidized loans, they still offer better rates and terms than private loans. They aren’t based on financial need, which means you may qualify for them even if you don’t qualify for subsidized loans due to your financial situation. Unlike subsidized loans, you’ll need to pay the interest that accrues on unsubsidized loans during nursing school.

nursing student standing in hallway

Private Student Loans for Nursing Students

Even if you do qualify for both government grants and loans, these sources of funding may not entirely cover the total cost of your tuition and other expenses. You can apply for private student loans from financial institutions such as banks and credit unions.

Remember that private loans typically offer higher interest rates and, sometimes, less favorable terms than federal loans. Because of this, it’s imperative to shop around. Don’t simply apply for a loan from a bank just because you’re already a customer at that institution. Do your due diligence and research different interest rates and terms to find the best possible deal.

Obtaining private student loans is typically dependent on having a good credit score. Consider obtaining copies of your credit report from all three credit bureaus and improving your credit score before applying for loans.

Nursing School Scholarships

A vast range of scholarships is available to students, including private scholarships, scholarships specific to nursing students, and general scholarships based on other criteria, including:

  • Financial need
  • Academic merit
  • Sports achievement
  • Community service
  • Special talent
  • Military service (If you or a parent served, you may qualify to apply for a scholarship.)
  • Minority background

Plan to research different opportunities and apply to as many as possible. In addition, don’t just apply to the scholarships with greater monetary awards, as these tend to have more competition. Smaller scholarship awards often have less competition and can be easier to obtain.

Work-Study Programs

Working during nursing school — especially during an accelerated program — is usually not advisable. It’s best to treat nursing school like a full-time job. However, a work-study program might be a good option if you absolutely must work.

xavier absn student reading textbook

Nursing Apprenticeships

The issue of how to pay for nursing school might be addressed in part by a nursing apprenticeship. Apprenticeship programs are an emerging trend in the U.S. and aren’t available in all areas. However, if you can find one, you may be able to work within a local healthcare facility while attending nursing school. You’ll gain some practical experience and have opportunities to practice your clinical skills under supervision while earning a paycheck.

Employer Sponsorships and Tuition Reimbursement

Employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement might be an option for some nursing students. If, for example, you’re already a certified nursing assistant (CNA) interested in transitioning to becoming a registered nurse (RN), your healthcare employer might sponsor your education. With tuition reimbursement, you’ll pay the cost of your tuition and then be reimbursed for some or all of it by your employer.

Tuition reimbursement generally comes with certain conditions. For instance, it’s common to work for the employer for a set time after graduation, and you might also be required to maintain a certain GPA.

nurses with durags and masks looking at clipboard

What can you do with a BSN after graduation? Explore some exciting options for your career.

Loan Forgiveness Programs for Nurses

Even if you qualify for grants and land a few scholarships, you’ll likely graduate with student loan debt. There are a few loan forgiveness programs available for nurses that can eliminate some of your student debt. These include:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program: If you go on to work for a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency after earning your nursing degree, you might qualify for this program. First, you’ll need to make 120 payments on your student loans. Then, if eligible, the program can eliminate the remainder.
  • Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program: This program incentivizes nurses to work in underserved communities. If you work for at least two years in a critical shortage facility (CSF) after graduation, this loan forgiveness program may eliminate up to 85% of your student loan debt.
nurse fixing bed sheets

Ready to Invest in a Meaningful Future?

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you could leverage your prior education to earn a nursing degree in as few as 16 months at Xavier. Our ABSN program blends online coursework with onsite nursing skills, simulation labs, and clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities. Xavier’s ABSN program is the only one in Ohio that offers three enrollment locations and three start dates each year.

Contact us today to speak with a friendly admission counselor. We also recommend contacting our Office of Student Financial Assistance for personalized guidance on funding your nursing degree.