Nursing school costs can get prohibitive as they rise through time. Financial sufficiency is expedient at the onset of one’s education; one can focus on completing the study program. It is difficult to struggle with work responsibilities while going to classes, and this is true for all occupations.
The circumstances of a nurse’s duty –long shifts, few hours of sleep, physical challenge of having to stand during most tasks, and having to appear pleasant – necessitate some form of financial relief.
OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID
Nursing schools vary in tuition fees and related costs. One fair estimate is $40,000 per semester or $80,000 annually, which is not financially workable for most families. However, a student has access to several types of financial aid for nursing school. Here are some strategies that can help you navigate through the financial maze of nursing school costs.
FEDERAL STUDENT AID PROGRAMS
The U.S. Department of Education grants a total of $150 billion in grants, work-study, and federal loans for students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools –the largest source of aid for students in the United States. Students will often be automatically considered when they complete a FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) application and apply to a school. Click on their website at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ and get on with your free application so that you will be in line for financial relief.
The following are eligible for federal student aid: U.S. citizen; U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain’s Island); or a U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Permanent Resident Card). If you’re not in one of these categories, you must be an eligible noncitizen, and you must have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing one of the following designations: “Refugee”; “Asylum Granted”; “Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending”; “Conditional Entrant” (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980); Victims of human trafficking, T-visa (T-2, T-3, or T-4, etc.) holder; or “Parolee”.
Other than the previously mentioned qualifications, a student may not avail of the FAFSA. There are also additional requirements implemented for the school year 2012-2013. If you are enrolling in higher education for the first time on or after July 1, 2012, in order to be eligible for federal student aid, you must have either a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent (such as a General Educational Development certificate (GED) or have been home schooled). You can no longer avail of the grant by passing an approved test or completing at least six credit hours or 225 clock hours of postsecondary education.
GRANTS FOR NURSES
There are over a thousand federal grant programs in the U.S. worth more than $400 billion. The payoff is indeed well worth the effort and time of application because a student does not have to pay back a single cent of a grant. A student is qualified for a grant according to Expected Family Contribution (EFC): the lower a student’s EFC, the higher the student’s federal student aid eligibility. For the 2012-13 school year, the automatic qualification for an EFC of zero is a family income that does not exceed $23,000, a reduction from the previous maximum income of $32,000.
There is also a modification for the Federal Pell Grant Program. If you have received a Pell Grant for 12 semesters, or the equivalent, you will no longer be eligible for additional Pell Grants beginning in 2012-13 school year. Equivalency is calculated by adding together the percentage of your Pell eligibility that you received each year to determine whether the total amount exceeds 600%. Using only a portion of your Pell Grant Award still qualifies for the use of the balance of the Award, up to 600% lifetime limit. You may apply for the grants using the FAFSA website.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR NURSING PROGRAMS
Professional associations of a particular nursing specialty may give scholarships to qualified individuals. The Oncology Nursing Society offers scholarships to students pursuing a master’s, doctorate or post-master’s certificate. Other scholarship resources include the following: religious organizations; private and public schools; small businesses; large corporations; community groups; generous individuals and philanthropic foundations. You may visit the following nursing scholarship resources for more information: American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) financial aid resources and other scholarship searching resources of nursing schools and nursing associations.
There are different loans available for students but they should exercise caution in applying for one. They should be particular about interests and payment terms. College loans have lower interest because the federal government regulates the maximum interest that lenders can charge on federally guaranteed student loans. This helps make the loans easier to pay-back, which encourages more people to attend school. In addition, loan repayment begins either six months after graduation or when enrolment in school is less than half time.
Assistance is also offered for borrowers who have difficulty repaying their education loans, including deferment and forbearance. These options allow borrowers more interest-free time on their loans. There are different types of loans, including a Stafford Loan, the most common federal student loan available. The Stafford Loan includes the following loan programs: Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Both programs are dispersed directly to students, and can be subsidized or unsubsidized, depending on the student’s financial situation. Loan amounts are also need-based, and will be distributed accordingly.
Another type of student loan is a private loan. These loans offer higher limits and no payments until graduation, but interest starts to accrue immediately after the loan is distributed. Private student loans can be made out to either students or parents. Applicants are not required to complete federal form to get private loans. Eligibility often depends on you or your parents’ credit score. Interest rates and fees are based on your credit score as well; better apply with a co-signer to achieve a lower rate. You have better chances of being approved if your credit score is above 650.
PLUS LOAN AND GRADUATE PLUS LOAN
PLUS loans are made available through FFEL and Direct Loan programs, but they are geared toward parents—they are the ones who apply for the loan. A student must be economically dependent and enrolled at least half time in undergraduate education to qualify for this type of loan. This loan also requires a good credit score. This yearly limit for this loan is equal to the student’s school costs minus other financial assistance received.
The first payment for the PLUS loans is due 60 days. A small fee is also charged against the account, which is usually less than four percent of the loan. Graduate and professional degree students may borrow under the PLUS Loan program, with the same terms and conditions, which is termed as the Graduate PLUS Loan program.
LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAMS
Government agencies fund the loan forgiveness program to help areas in the country that has urgent need for nurses. The program pays back or forgives student loan debt in exchange for nursing services. Usually at least one year of student loans is forgiven in exchange for an equivalent time of service in the area of need. This is a great way to pay back a loan while gaining nursing experience. Visit these loan forgiveness resources for more information: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) loan repayment program; financial aid student guide to loan forgiveness; and Federal student loan forgiveness
Subsidized loans are offered to students to help with their schooling. The borrower is not held responsible for the interest while the student is enrolled in college on at least a half-time basis, when the loan is in the six-month grace period, or after the student is no longer enrolled at least half time, or if the loan is in a deferment status. However, the new provision eliminates the interest subsidy provided during the six-month grace period for subsidized loans for which the first disbursement is made on or after July 1, 2012, and before July 1, 2014. If you receive a subsidized loan during this timeframe, you will be responsible for the interest that accrues while your loan is in the grace period. Subsidized loans for which the first disbursement is on or after July 1, 2012, will have a 6.8% fixed interest rate.
DIRECT LOAN PROGRAMS
Citizens and eligible noncitizens may receive loans from the Direct Loan Program at participating foreign schools. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are eligible only for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, or Federal Work-Study. These applicants should check with their schools’ financial aid offices for more information.
STUDENT LOAN CONSOLIDATION
Student loan consolidation is a repayment tool that combines all loans of a student into one new loan. The monthly payments and interest rates are reduced with this new loan. Thus, with a federal student loan consolidation, all of your student loans will be combined into one package with a fixed rate for the life of the loan. In a month, instead of paying several different creditors, one pays a single lender. Federal student loan consolidation is backed by the federal government but offered through private lenders. There is no need for credit check or disqualification due to credit history, as compared to private student loan consolidation. There is also no application and/or origination fee.
WORK STUDY PROGRAMS
Work-study programs may be used by nursing students finance their education. They can by apply for on-campus jobs, community-related jobs or teacher assistant positions. Financial need and school funding availability are the basis for work-study awards. Students typically choose work study programs that are related to their field of study. Thus, aside from financing their education, these programs give them resume experience. The remuneration for work-study jobs is equivalent at least to federal minimum wage. Some may pay more, depending on the skills and level of experience needed. You may indicate whether your interest for work-study assistance when completing your FAFSA forms. For more information, visit this work-study resource: Federal work-study information.