Guide to Financial Aid and Scholarships for Nurses

Rebecca Munday
Updated July 28, 2023
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Learn about the different financial aid options for nursing students and find out which ones are right for you.
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You decided to get your nursing degree and got accepted into a nursing program. Now all you have to do is figure out how to pay the $6,000 – $70,000 tuition depending on your degree and where you attend school.

Fortunately, you have many options to pay for nursing school. From scholarships and grants to student loans, discover what financial aid you may qualify for and which options are right for you.

FAFSA for Nursing Students

All nursing students and future nursing students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year they are in nursing school. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal, state, and private financial aid by assessing your financial need.

Fill out the FAFSA even if you already know how you’ll pay for nursing school; you may qualify for financial aid that you didn’t know about. The sooner you fill it out, the sooner you can access organizations with limited funds to give.

The FAFSA can help you qualify for financial aid such as loans, scholarships, grants, and even work-study, specific to nursing students. Check your state’s FAFSA deadline, so you can receive any state aid you qualify for.

Find out more about how and when to fill out your FAFSA with our comprehensive guide to the FAFSA for nursing students.

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Nursing Scholarships and Grants

Nursing students can apply for scholarships and grants based on their achievements or financial need. You often do not need to repay them, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. If you do not complete the program or your service agreement, you may have to repay your grant.


Nursing students can earn scholarships based on achievement. You can find scholarships for all college students or all nursing students, as well as scholarships specific to specialty, membership, or degree level.


Organizations award grants based on financial need. Your eligibility for grants varies based on factors such as membership in certain organizations, demographic information, and degree-level you’re earning.

Student Loans for Nursing Students

Unlike scholarships and grants, you must repay student loans after you complete your degree, often with a certain amount of interest. Some student loans may even require you to make payments during your schooling.

Types of Student Loans

Nursing students can apply for three main types of loans to pay for nursing school. Each type of loan has pros and cons that make them right for different situations.

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    Federal Subsidized Loans

    Undergraduate nursing students can apply for federal subsidized loans based on financial need to help pay for nursing school. For these loans, the government pays your interest payments while you’re in school.
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    Federal Unsubsidized Loans

    Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students can apply for federal unsubsidized loans to help cover nursing school. Students need not prove financial need for loan eligibility.
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    Private Loans

    Nursing students can apply for private loans with banks or credit unions if they have an eligible credit score. Private loans can cover living expenses while in college as well as tuition and school supplies.

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Nurses can apply for many types of student loan consolidation, deferral, and forgiveness programs. Consolidation loans combine all your eligible federal student loans, resulting in one loan servicer and interest rate.

Deferral programs allow you to postpone your payments. Be careful about these programs, because you may still collect interest on the loan during the deferment period.

Some student loan forgiveness programs are specifically meant for nurses. Others, like Biden’s Student Debt Forgiveness Plan, are for everyone with student loans. Nurses can apply for student loan forgiveness and deferral programs only for their federal student loans.

Student loan forgiveness programs for nurses come from a variety of organizations. Nurses can also apply for student loan forgiveness through their state.

These programs often pay a portion of your student loan if you agree to work for a certain time period, often 2-3 years, in a specific location or specialty. For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration forgives up to 85% of your loan, plus interest, if you agree to work in a Critical Shortage Facility (CSF) for up to three years.

Tuition Reimbursement Programs for Nurses

Some employers may offer nurses tuition reimbursement or assistance if the nurse agrees to work for that employer for a minimum time period, commonly at least two years.

ADN-prepared nurses may find employers eager to help pay for them to earn their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) because of the advantages of employing BSN-prepared nurses for hospitals, patients, and nurses.

Some hospitals may partner with universities to offer free or discounted continuing education for nurses.

Frequently Asked Questions about Financial Aid and Scholarships for Nurses

What is the federal nursing student loan?

The federal nursing student loan (NSL) program is a loan that Health and Human Services awards to participating schools offering qualifying degrees to full- and part-time nursing students. You may qualify for the NSL based on your financial need shown on your FAFSA application.

Do hospitals pay off nursing student loans?

Some hospitals and healthcare settings offer nurses tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance, but nurses must work for the healthcare setting for a certain amount of time to qualify for these programs.

How much debt are nurses in after school?

The amount of debt you’ll have after nursing school depends on what degree you earn. ADN-prepared nurses graduate school with about $19,900 in debt while BSN-holders graduate with $23,700 in debt. An advanced degree in nursing may leave you with more than twice the debt of an undergraduate degree.

Can you use FAFSA for nursing school?

Yes, you can use FAFSA funds to pay for nursing school. You should fill out the FAFSA every year you plan to attend nursing school, just to see what new financial aid you may be eligible for.

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Page last reviewed February 1, 2023