How to Pay for Nursing School

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
Young student at nursing school

You know you want to go to nursing school, there’s just one question plaguing your mind: how to pay for nursing school? That’s a reasonable and popular question. Before you commit to the hard, dedicated years of studying for your nursing degree and sacrificing your social life, you’ll want to know what financial situation you are getting yourself into.

There are plenty of ways to pay for nursing school, but don’t worry — we will break it down for you.

How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

Just like any other degree, there is a great deal of variability in the cost of nursing school. The cost will depend on the route you go, the degree you pursue, if you attend part-time or full-time, and other expenses accrued along the way.

School Type

When thinking about the route to take, consider:

  • Community college
  • Private university
  • Public university

As you may imagine, attending a community college will be a great deal cheaper. The average cost of attending community college is $3,400 per year.

If you choose to attend a university, total tuition for four years at a public university will cost you around $21,000 compared to around $46,000 at a private university. University tuition also varies depending on whether you attend an in-state or out-of-state school, with in-state schools being less expensive.

Online vs. In Person

Regardless of the school type you choose, you can also attend classes online or in person. Generally, online classes will cost less. You may have to attend in-person classes for labs and clinical rotations, depending on your degree.

Degree Type

Your degree choice will also affect your nursing school cost. Advanced degrees cost more, as they require more time. A master’s-level degree (MSN) will take an average of six years to complete, whereas a bachelor’s degree (BSN) may be completed in four years and an associate degree in nursing (ADN) may be completed in two years.

From least to most expensive, your options are:

Keep in mind that the cost of a MSN degree may be on top of the cost of a BSN or ADN, depending on the program you select.

Accelerated Programs

You also have the option of attending accelerated programs, such as RN-BSN. RN-BSNs can be earned in as little as one year. This is a great option if you started your nursing education with an ADN, or if you have a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing.

Note that RN-BSN programs can cost $18,000 – $40,000 for the entire program, depending on whether they are offered online, in-state or out-of-state, and if you attend part-time or full-time.

Part Time vs. Full Time

When thinking about how to pay for nursing school, consider if you will attend on a part-time or full-time basis. Many schools charge tuition based on the credit hour. Depending on whether you attend part time or full time, your credit hour cost may be different.

Do keep in mind that many scholarships or grants, as well as some nursing programs, require a full-time commitment.

Other Expenses

Along with tuition, you may also need to pay for:

  • Room and board: Housing and a meal plan are typical costs for students who plan on living on campus.
  • Books: Textbooks for nursing classes can be pricey and run into the hundreds of dollars each semester.
  • Equipment: You’ll need to factor in the cost of items such as a stethoscope, scrubs, and other supplies.
  • Transportation: Don’t forget the cost of traveling to and from your school. This includes everything from driving 10 minutes to a local coffee shop during a break to flying home for the summer if you attend school far from where you live.
  • Loss of income from job: It would be difficult to work full time during any of these programs, though you do have options to earn money (see the last section of this article).

What Options Do I Have to Pay for Nursing School?

College is expensive and the idea of paying tuition can be headache-inducing. Believe it or not, you have many different options, including ones from the federal government. And no, they aren’t just different kinds of loans. For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) offers loans and scholarships to cover your school costs or to repay your nursing student debt. Read on to learn about the options available to you.


If you’re not sure how to pay for nursing school, a scholarship is a great starting point. A scholarship is financial support that is awarded based on merit or need. Once this money is awarded, you are not obligated to pay it back.

Many nursing school applications allow you to apply for a scholarship, all in the same application. Others have a separate application process for this. You can also find scholarships online, through private and nonprofit organizations, or locally.

Check out our extensive list of nursing scholarships here.


Grants are similar to scholarships in that it’s money freely given, without the need to be repaid. However, grants are a need-based type of financial assistance — they are awarded based on your income level and financial need. Grants for nursing school can be used to pay for tuition, books, transportation, equipment and uniforms, and child care.

Grant types include:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  • Private or nonprofit organization grants
  • Other types through school

Financial Aid for Nursing School

You can apply for federal student aid to help cover the cost of tuition, housing, supplies, and transportation by completing a FAFSA application. This is completely free money awarded to you based on need.

Tuition Reimbursement

If you are considering a RN-BSN or RN-MSN program and wondering how to pay for nursing school, this could be a great option for you. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement as a benefit of the job. Basically, you work for them and they agree to pay a portion of your tuition.

Be sure to consider:

  • You may have to work for a certain number of years when receiving this benefit.
  • You may have to agree to continue working for them for a set amount of time after your final semester.
  • If you leave the job in a certain timeframe, you may have to repay them for the money they contributed to your degree.

Student Loans

A loan is different from a grant in that it must be repaid. There are subsidized loans (based on financial need) and unsubsidized loans (not based on financial need). Depending on the loan type, the timing of this repayment may vary. All loans will have an interest rate, meaning that you will end up paying back more than the amount of money you borrowed.

Private Loans

You can apply for a private loan through a bank, credit union, or even some schools. These have variable interest rates and may not have as many options for repayment like federal loans.

Federal Loans

A major advantage of federal loans is that you don’t have to pay them back while you’re in school. They have lower interest rates compared to private loans. No credit history is needed to obtain a federal student loan. This could be a great option for you if your credit score is preventing you from starting or continuing your nursing education.

Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

If you’re trying to avoid debt at all costs, and you’re still wondering how to pay for nursing school, a nursing loan forgiveness program might be for you. These programs can often be found in a range of urban or rural areas.

As the title implies, these are programs that will “forgive,” or pay, a portion of your student loan. For example, if you work for the government or military, 501(c)(3) non-profit, or other qualifying non-profit, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

You may also be able to apply for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, which can cover up to 85% of your education debt. To qualify, you must:

  • Be a licensed RN, APRN, or nurse faculty member
  • Have attended an accredited nursing school in a U.S. state or territory
  • Be employed full time in a critical shortage facility (CSF) in a high-need location

Military Service

This may be one of the most underrated ways to pay for nursing school. You can enroll in the military, and in return for your service, you can get your nursing education fully paid for.

If this option appeals to you, consider joining the Army or National Guard. You will be eligible for the Army Health Care Enlisted Commissioning Program (AECP) that could pay for your entire BSN.

You can also work as a VA nurse, which can qualify you for certain scholarships, loan forgiveness programs, and other tuition assistance.

Should I Start With My ADN?

Knowing how to get nursing school paid for is one thing. Knowing where to begin is another. You don’t have to jump straight into a BSN program. In fact, starting with an associate degree may save you thousands of dollars.

Even though employers typically want a nurse with a BSN background, you can begin your nursing career with an ADN and work towards your BSN.

There are a number of student nurse jobs that can help put money in your pocket while you’re attending nursing school. The benefit here is that you’re gaining real-world experience interacting with and caring for patients, not to mention you’d be working under LPNs and RNs who can help train you on the floor and also answer questions you might have about your classes. Some options to check out include:

Want an Added Bonus?

Now that you’ve learned how to pay for nursing school, would you like to know how IntelyCare can help you create a flexible work schedule that allows you to make room for your classes? Learn about your options and apply today.