What Kinds of Financial Aid are Available to Nurse Practitioner Students?

If you are considering going back to school to advance your nursing education, the decision will be costly. While a graduate degree will allow to you become a nurse practitioner substantially increasing your earning potential, nurse practitioner programs can be expensive. Financial aid should be an important consideration in your decision-making process. 

As you begin the NP program application process, concurrently look into your financial aid options. The sooner you start looking at ways to fund your education, the better. What options are available to prospective NP students looking for assistance financing their education?

1. Scholarships

Scholarships are essentially "free money" awarded by a company, organization, or even schools themselves. Scholarships are based on various criteria that reflect the values and purposes of the awarding party and do not need to be repaid. Often, but not always, scholarships are merit-based. Look at application criteria closely to make sure you are a qualified candidate meeting all criteria before applying. 

2. Subsidized Loans

Subsidized federal loans are the most desirable form of federal aid because the government covers the cost of interest throughout the duration of your education and for a short period, usually six to nine months, after graduation. The most popular subsidized federal loans are the Stafford Loan and the Perkins Loan. With the Stafford Loan, graduate students may borrow up to $20,500 per year. Students may borrow up to a total of $60,000 with the Perkins Loan. 

3. Unsubsidized Loans

Unsubsidized loans are among the least desirable forms of financial aid. Unsubsidized loans are federal loans that begin to accrue interest while the student is in school. While the interest is not required to be paid during schooling, upon graduation when the loan payments begin, the principal amount will already be greater than what was initially borrowed. There is no requirement to demonstrate financial need to qualify for an unsubsidized federal loan.

4. Private Loans

Much like you would take out a loan to buy a home or pay for a car, graduate students may take out loans from private institutions to help cover any gaps in their financial aid package. The interest rate for private loans varies depending on the current economy. Some schools have relationships with private lenders that may offer discounted interest rates for students. Check with your school to see if the financial aid office can give you a referral to an institution that offers discounted loan rates to students. 

5. Grants

Grants are the most desirable type of funding when it comes to paying for your education. Like scholarships, grants are essentially "free money" that does not need to be repaid. Unlike scholarships, grants are typically offered based on need rather than merit. Grants may be awarded by federal or state governments, or by schools themselves. Schools use these awards strategically to entice highly qualified students to their programs. The most popular federal grant is the Pell Grant. Most Pell Grant money goes toward undergraduates, but some Pell funding helps pay for professional degrees. 

6. Fellowships

Fellowships are often just another name for scholarships, but are often restricted to students of a certain demographic or career path. Some fellowships are tied to an obligation to service, research, a partial repayment, or other stipulations. Fellowships essentially pay students to attend graduate school freeing them of the financial concerns associated with furthering their education. 

7. Employer Assistance

An often overlooked source of financial aid, some employers offer nurses assistance paying for graduate school. This setup confers tax benefits for employers and students alike. Federal tax code now allows employers to pay as much as $5,250 a year in tuition for work-related courses. Ask your employer if they offer educational benefits for employees. 

How will you finance your nurse practitioner education? 

 

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