mini logo

Why is Nursing School So Expensive?

September 15, 2020 | Staff Writers

mini logo

Make no mistake: nursing school comes at an expense. College students often graduate with exorbitant debts, especially nursing students, who incur more fees.

The average nursing student with an associate degree owes $19,930, compared to bachelor’s degree graduates who have an average debt of $23,711, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

As Sarah Gallagher Dvorak, director of admissions at Saint Mary’s College, explains further in this guide, the high-paying salaries that await nursing graduates usually justifies the expense of college. Once on the job market, registered nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree earn a median annual salary of $73,300.

Keep reading to learn more about nursing salaries by degree and how students can offset costs.

How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

No one-size-fits all answer can tell students how much nursing school costs. Nursing school tuition depends on the college and the degree.

Public colleges often cost less than private institutions. An associate in nursing degree at a public college runs $6,000-$20,000. Compare that to private schools, where nursing graduates often owe about $40,000.

Nursing students can expect to spend more for advanced degrees, especially when they attend school longer. Tuition for a bachelor’s in nursing degreeaverages about $40,000. Yet a two-year master’s in nursing degreecan cost $35,000-$75,000. The highest degree, a doctor of nursing practice, costs an average of $40,000-$70,000.

Nursing students incur more costs, often paying out of pocket for uniforms and stethoscopes required for clinical rotations. They also pay for lab fees and the NCLEX-RN exam, explains Karen Wos, Baltimore City Community College’s project director of the associate-to-bachelor’s degree program. “In addition to the typical tuition and fees per credit charged by a university or college, nursing students may find there are additional costs for earning their degrees,” she says.

Learn more on this page about how much nursing school costs.

How to Pick the Right Nursing Program

As healthcare professionals face increasing demands, nurses frequently need a higher degree to secure entry-level positions. As a result, earning a bachelor’s degree nursing has become the norm for fledgling nurses.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, about 56% of registered nurses now hold a bachelor of science in nursing degree — a 7% increase from 2010. The average bachelor’s in nursing degree takes four years to complete. Tuition for a bachelor’s degree hinges on many variables, such as how long it takes for a student to graduate, their residency status, and the school. The total cost of college runs about $40,000-$100,000.

In some circumstances, an associate in nursing degree suffices to land jobs with fewer responsibilities and lower pay. Nurses can also advance in their careers and secure higher salaries by enrolling in associate degree-to-master’s programs.

Gallagher Dvorak explains that students should choose a program that trains them for their chosen career path. “It’s smart for students to choose a program that best prepares them for life as a nurse in the real world,” she says.

Wons adds that students should solicit advice from seasoned RNs and advisors.

Financial Aid Options for Nursing Students

There are many resources to help nursing students manage college expenses, learn to budget, and find financial aid opportunities. Candidates should begin exploring their options by meeting with an advisor at their college.

Financial aid advisors specialize in helping students budget for school and learning to find scholarships, or “free money” that they do not need to repay. To access federal and state financial aid, students first complete a FAFSA, which determines what they qualify to receive.

Many hospitals offer nursing aides or other entry-level healthcare professionals the financial support to continue their education. Wons explains how working students can benefit from employer reimbursement programs. “Students can attend a community college to earn an associate degree in nursing, become employed as an RN at a hospital that offers tuition reimbursement for continuing their education to achieve the BSN degree required by many employers,” she says.

Lastly, the budgeting apps and techniques in our guide can help students track their spending.

Financial Aid Resources for Nursing Students


Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

mini icon

Popular Resources

Resources and articles written by professionals and other Nurses like you.


Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) vs. Registered Nurses (RN)

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) vs. Registered Nurses (RN)

September 23, 2020   |   Staff Writers

In this guide, learn more about which occupation would serve you best and how nurses can take advantage of online bachelor's in nursing programs to advance in their career.

What is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary?

What is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary?

September 23, 2020   |   Staff Writers

Nurse practitioners (NPs) rank among the highest paid nurses, alongside nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives.