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Graduate Student Options

College is expensive, no matter what you study, but some careers draw higher levels of financial assistance during school.  Teaching and nursing are two vocations that are experiencing shortages across the country.  As a result, financial aid for nursing students and teachers is at an all time high.  Federal and state-government sponsored programs address the need for qualified nurses by underwriting education for future professionals.  In addition to straight grants and scholarships, committed nursing students also qualify for tuition arrangements that trade financial assistance for future service.

Professional associations and nursing foundations are excellent resources for students who need additional aid beyond government programs.  State-specific funding provides supplemental financing, and can be found through local chapters of nursing organizations.  Minority advocacy groups are active in educational philanthropy; especially in high-need fields like nursing. Would-be nurses should consider any personal attributes that might open financial aid doors.  Race, heritage, geographic region, and a host of other factors each influence access to financial assistance.

Nurses who already work in the field benefit from programs that help them earn additional certifications and continuing education credits.  Graduate student grants and scholarships target advanced learning in specialties like Gerontology, Anesthesia, Critical Care and Trauma Nursing.  Administrative positions often require graduate level degrees, so scholarships for graduate students help nurses further their careers.

Graduate Nursing scholarships

Federal Scholarships for Nursing School Students

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services takes an active role in underwriting education for nurses studying at all levels.  The HHS awards scholarships to individuals, but also originates hundreds of grants to colleges and universities with prominent nursing programs. Federal programs are upping the ante to head off the critical shortage of qualified nurses currently practicing in the United States.  Several programs focus on under-served facilities and regions; offering generous funding and loan forgiveness for participating nursing students.  These programs provide educational funding options for students entering health-related careers:

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students are funded by the Health Resources and Service Administration, which makes grants to individual colleges and universities.  Nursing programs at participating schools distribute scholarships to needy candidates who are emerging from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue health-related credentials at the post-secondary level.  Students who have traditionally beeen denied access to education and skills are eligible to compete for funding that applies to nursing school tuition and expenses.  In addition to LPN and RN licensing, the program supports education that leads to degrees in Optometry, Dentistry, Pharmacy, public health and Pediatric Medicine; among others.

The Nursing Scholarship Program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services awards scholarships to undergraduate and graduate nursing students who are willing to commit to work in medically under-served regions upon graduation. In exchange for their service, the HHS pays the cost of tuition, fees, books, clinical supplies and other approved expenses. Participants are also eligible to receive monthly stipends exceeding $1200 each.  Qualified applicants are U.S. citizens and enrolled at least half time in accredited nursing programs.

NSP is a need-based financial aid resource, so students demonstrating the greatest difficulty paying for college are considered first for the scholarships.  Upon graduation from approved programs, participating nursing degree candidates are required to provide nursing care for at least two years at designated critical shortage facilities across the U.S.  Nearly 200 Nursing Scholarships are awarded annually.  To address the need for highly trained administrators and nurse practitioners within demanding specialty disciplines, a portion of NSP awards are reserved specifically for graduate level nursing studies.

Nursing Education Loan Repayment benefits practicing nurses who retain outstanding student debt from their nurse training programs.  The initiative addresses critical shortages at U.S. facilities by offering repayment in exchange for service.  RNs and Advance Practice RNs are invited to trade nursing service at designated high-need hospitals and clinics in exchange for loan forgiveness.  Qualified applicants have already completed nurse training and earned diplomas, associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and graduate credentials.

Licensed, full-time staffers in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) earn repayment assistance for student loans.  Approved facilities include these health care providers:

  • Hospice
  • Public Hospital
  • Rural Health Clinic
  • Critical Access Hospital
  • Indian Health Service Health Center
  • Skilled Nursing Facility
  • Federally Qualified Health Center

Application materials include a contract that binds each participant to provide two-years worth of professional service in exchange for loan forgiveness.

Faculty Loan Repayment recognizes the need for qualified educators within medical fields like nursing.  Health care professionals who commit to teach at accredited colleges and universities earn loan forgiveness on outstanding college debt.  Awards are subject to available funding, but can be worth up to $40,000 for qualified participants.  Students from disadvantaged backgrounds trade two-year teaching stints for federally-backed loan forgiveness.  Part-time students qualify on a pro-rated basis, and the program encompasses additional health care specialties beyond nursing.

Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program is similar to the federal program for the general population, but specifically targets Native American candidates. The IHS stands committed to providing quality health care for Native Americans and Native Alaskans, so educating health providers for tribal facilities is paramount to the organization’s mission.  Health professionals with outstanding debt are invited to apply for as much as $20,000 per year to help repay nursing school loans.  In exchange, participants are expected to provide health services at Indian Health Program sites.  The initial commitment for participation is two-years long, with additional repayment opportunities available for students who continue to work at Indian Health facilities.

The Army Nurse Corp Association awards educational funding to nursing school students in the U.S.  Scholarships help former Army staffers who are enrolled in Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in Nursing and Nursing Anesthesia. Awards are valued at $3000 each and are offered to soldiers and their spouses and parents.

National Health Service Corps was founded in 1972 to provide a needed link between well-trained health professionals and disadvantaged communities that require their services. The Corps’ Scholars program is a loan repayment program designed to cover costs associated with graduate and undergraduate nursing student loans.  In exchange, participants serve the NHSC by working in disadvantaged regions.

Nursing Organizations and Associations

Professional organizations support the interests of nurses and nursing students through education and professional programs that bolster the occupation.  Student memberships in professional associations provide networking opportunities and exposure to professionals working in the field.  Nursing organizations offer members-only scholarships and other educational benefits.  National and local chapters each work to support nursing education with competitive scholarships.

American Association of Critical Care Nurses provides Educational Advancement Scholarships. The awards are administered primarily for graduate level studies, and one-fourth of them are reserved exclusively for minority applicants.

Nurses Educational Funds sponsors a host of scholarships, grants, and internships reserved solely for nurses who already possess bachelor’s degrees, but need funding to complete graduate studies.  The non-profit organization has been issuing scholarships for over 100 years, and stands as the largest financial resource for advanced nursing studies.  Over a dozen scholarships and endowments are available annually in many different graduate disciplines.

Oncology Nursing Society provides scholarships for professional nurses moving into advanced oncology nursing studies.  The foundation partners with private sector donors to underwrite educational expenses for qualified specialists. The organization supports Masters and Ph.D. programs, including cancer research.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing maintains a comprehensive list of nursing scholarships for undergraduates and nurses entering advanced training programs.  Public and private initiatives, including scholarships from Johnson & Johnson and other health-related companies provide valuable campus-specific aid that is tracked by AACN.

College and Universities Provide Assistance for Nursing Students

Campus-specific assistance is an important part of any student’s financial aid package, so look to your school’s financial aid office for the most current information about nursing school scholarship programs.  If your college or university has a reputable nursing program, school-specific resources are available to bridge the affordability gap left when other forms of aid are exhausted.  Internships and work-study programs provide supplemental income and valuable experience working in your field.  Recent HHS expenditures target infrastructure improvements and capital purchases at nursing schools, so grants trickle down to students who train on state of the art equipment.  These examples demonstrate the types of campus-specific aid that is available for nursing studies:

University of Wisconsin School of Nursing maintains a large stable of financial aid resources for nursing students.  Each award is subject to unique eligibility requirements, but evaluations are generally based on factors like:

  • Financial Need
  • Academic Performance
  • Leadership Qualities
  • Community Activities
  • Personal Characteristics

The University of California at San Francisco’s School of Nursing sponsors the Betty Irene Moore Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. This fund is open to nursing candidates who are residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and are pursuing careers in education. In return for complete tuition forgiveness, qualified applicants agree to teach for at least 3 years, at an accredited nursing school in the San Francisco Bay area.

Financial aid administrators at Western Carolina University work with outside agencies to establish comprehensive assistance for nursing students.  On-campus funding is in-place for undergraduates and graduate students studying nursing. The Sharon Jaques Nursing Scholarship, for example provides four modest cash awards annually to graduate nursing students.


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