As a financial counselor, the # 1 question I hear from potential (and current) nursing students is:
Where can I get more money for my nursing education?
and, more specifically:
How can I get money from the United States Government to help with nursing school?
These are great questions. I mean, the U.S. Government really SHOULD be subsidizing people's educations, since they're presumably going to bear the burden of there being a shortage of one million nurses in the next twenty years, right? It stands to reason that if there aren't enough nurses to care for sick people, then these sick people will become a burden on their families (reducing the number of taxable hours worked), stay longer at county hospitals (taxing Medicare and Medicaid resources), and negatively affect the number of hospitals that can stay open (impacting the economy in general. All bad news, so you'd think the government would wise up and throw some money at nursing schools and students, right?
Believe me, quite a few people are lobbying Congress at this very moment, trying to get more funds allocated for this very purpose. In the meantime, though, here are some places where the government actually DOES provide funding- programs you might not know about!
1. The Indian Health Service. Because of the shortage of good health care on Indian Reservations, the U.S. Government now offers a program where ANYONE (no, you don't have to be Native American) can get their student loans paid off (up to $20,000/ year) if they agree to work on a reservation.
2. The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) has a scholarship program for nursing students.
3. The Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program. Yes, it really does exist, and yes-- they really are giving away money (up to $17 million per year).
4. Perkins Loan Cancellation. This is one that you'll need to ask your specific loan provider about, but in many cases, nurses (and sometimes teachers) can get their Perkins Loans canceled if they're working in a healthcare job. Caution: do NOT just stop paying your Perkins Loan and assume it will be canceled for you-- this could result in a negative mark on your credit! Do the paperwork! To get information on this, you need to call the Federal Student Aid Commission (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID, and ask them for "Perkins Loan Cancellation for Nurses." You can also go into the financial aid office at your school and ask them to add you to the cumulative number of students working as a full-time nurse. They should know what you're talking about. If your counselor doesn't, keep asking until you find the person in the office who works on healthcare financial aid!!!
5. National Health Service Corps Scholarships. For students enrolled in primary care nursing practitioner or certified nurse midwife programs. This is a competitive scholarship program, and recipients serve where they are most needed upon completion of their training.
6. State Nursing Programs. This one really falls under "state government programs," but is worth mentioning here, as many states will cancel your student loans if you're willing to work in an underserved area. To find these programs, you'll need to Google your specific state's "Commission on Higher Education," or "State Nursing Programs + Your State." For instance, the state of Arizona offers scholarships and loan cancellation through its Commission on Postsecondary Education, which you can find at: http://www.azhighered.org. If you lived in Arizona, you could also find more information about nursing careers at the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association's Campaign for Caring website, at: http://www.azcaringcareers.com. Start looking!
7. Join the Military. Alot of students don't want to hear this, but joining the military is one of the best ways to get a comprehensive nursing education, job training, and job opportunities when you graduate. You're going to be putting in the time anyway, so why not let them subsidize you? The Army is just one of the branches of the military offering this program. I would suggest investigating them all, and seeing what they can do for you.
8. Americorps. Yep, they will pay your loans back if you're a nurse or a teacher.
9. The Peace Corps is also in need of healthcare workers, and (this goes without saying)-- being in the Peace Corps is not only good for helping you get your loans paid off. It's also great experience, looks great on your resume, and will probably change your life (and might get you dates).