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How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

Daniel Bal, MS.Ed
Updated December 23, 2022
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How much does nursing school cost? Nursing school tuition depends on many factors, such as degree level and location. You can learn more about nursing school costs here.
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The question “how much does nursing school cost?” doesn’t necessarily come with a straightforward answer. With nursing degree costs, tuition rates vary greatly.

For many aspiring nursing professionals, the high earning potential of the career outweighs the high costs of nursing school.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $77,600 in 2021. Advanced practice nurses reported even higher salaries, bringing in median earnings of $123,780.

Nurses also work in an in-demand industry: the BLS projects that employment within healthcare occupations may increase by 13% from 2021-31.

Nevertheless, degree costs can still seem intimidating. In fact, total tuition costs can range from $6,000 for an associate degree to over $100,000 for an advanced degree.

With such a vast range, exactly how much does nursing school cost, truly? This guide considers the many factors that contribute to the wide variation in nursing degree costs.

ADN Program Cost

Because it takes only around two years to complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program, those programs are often the most affordable. Tuition can vary greatly depending on whether the institution is private or public and if the student will also need to pay for room and board.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition for all two-year programs for the 2020-21 school year was approximately $3,780. Including room and board, the total cost among all institutions averaged around $11,890.

Public institutions had an average cost of $3,500, whereas tuition, room, and board averaged $11,560. The cost of tuition at private institutions averaged $15,470, with room and board adding around an additional $10,000 for the year, leading to an approximate total of $25,670.

Tuition for some of the top public schools with ADN programs ranges from $110-210 per credit hour, while credits at private schools can cost upwards of $400 each.

Students can expect to pay from $8,000-$22,000 for a two-year program at a public school or $30,000-$50,000 at a private one. These numbers could more than double for out-of-state students.

BSN Program Cost

Four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs are common, meaning more program options for students. On average, the NCES reported that 2020-21 tuition, room, and board for four-year programs cost students $29,030. Without room and board, students paid around $16,620 for the year.

According to the NCES, public school tuition averages $9,380 for tuition only, while room and board raised the cost to $21,340.

BSN programs at private schools cost more than double their public counterparts. For the 2020-21 school year, students in private schools paid an average of $32,830 in tuition only, with room and board increasing the total cost to $43,310.

A four-year BSN program at a public school can range from $40,000 – $80,000, while attending a private school could cost anywhere between $60,000 to $120,000. Overall costs can substantially increase for out-of-state students.

MSN Program Cost

Even though earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree can take 12 – 24 months, the tuition is often more than the cost of a BSN.

Most MSN programs base their tuition on the cost of each credit. Degrees often require students to complete between 40 and 50 credit hours. Some of these credit hours can cost $500, while more prestigious institutions charge upwards of $2,000.

Some of the top public MSN programs, such as the University of West Florida, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Ohio State University, cost $22,500 total, $34,540 /year, and $19,360 /year, respectively, for in-state students.

The tuition at private schools such as Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt University, and Georgetown University, is significantly higher, with costs amounting to $72,017, $94,230, and $75,320 /year, respectively, for programs requiring the least amount of credits.

Some private institutions, including Georgetown University, have MSN programs whose cost exceeds $100,000.

DNP Program Cost

Nurses can earn their doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) either after their MSN or in place of it entirely. Those who enter a BSN-to-DNP program should anticipate spending more time and money earning their doctorate than those who already have an MSN.

Nurses with an MSN can expect to spend $20,000-$40,000 earning their DNP, while those with a BSN can spend $40,000-$75,000.

Unlike other degree programs, public schools and private schools have similar costs if the student enrolling already has their MSN.

DNP programs at public institutions like the University of Cincinnati, Seton Hall University, and the University of Arizona charge tuition of $29,800, $47,220, and $62,370, respectively, for post-MSN students.

Private schools, such as the University of Tampa, Baylor University, and Drexel University, cost $33,900, $41,800, and $48,740, respectively.

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How Tuition Cost Can Vary

Nursing school tuition figures depend on factors like format, location, and institution type. Costs can vary for programs offered on-campus and online, a student’s status as in-state or out-of-state impacts tuition, and private nursing schools often charge more than public institutions.

Online vs. On-Campus Program Cost

In online nursing programs, students complete their coursework using virtual tools. They watch lectures online, turn in assignments through course management systems, and participate in class discussions through virtual chat boards and webcam meetings.

Still, distance learners must attend their supervised clinical experiences and sometimes their laboratory requirements on location.

For colleges and universities, the operating expenses for online programs do not often cost as much as on-campus programs. Therefore, students can expect to pay less in tuition fees for distance learning degrees than traditional, on-campus degrees.

Online students can also save on other indirect costs, such as transportation and childcare. However, some online programs charge an additional distance learning fee.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Program Costs

Public schools tend to charge two different tuition rates: one rate for students who live in that state, and another for students coming from another state. The cost for nonresidents is frequently higher — sometimes twice as much.

For example, Missouri State University estimates that in-state students pay about $36,400 in total tuition costs, while out-of-state students may pay over $71,000. Several community colleges offer an even lower tuition rate for learners who live within the county.

Keep this difference in cost in mind when researching public schools outside of your state. Check whether the college or university offers any special scholarships or financial aid opportunities for non-residents to receive in-state tuition. Some schools may participate in tuition reciprocity agreements with neighboring states.

Public vs. Private Nursing School Programs

Although not a hard and fast rule, private colleges cost more than public colleges. Public higher education institutions receive taxpayer funds from the state government, which means that students do not need to pay as much in tuition.

Depending on the type of program, degree-seekers can expect to pay around $500 or less per credit at public universities; graduate students might pay more. Private universities might charge nursing students up to $1500 or even $2000 per credit.

Higher cost does not necessarily correlate to a higher-quality education. Many public school programs offer top-ranked nursing programs.

Although private universities tend to demand higher costs, students might choose these programs if they get scholarships, or if they determine that the education and networking opportunities will be worth it in the long run.

Additional Costs of Nursing School

On top of nursing school tuition costs, students should factor in other related expenses, including books, supplies, and transportation.

Another factor in how much nursing school costs is books. Textbooks can ultimately cost thousands over the course of 2-4 years.

Students also need to invest in their nursing outfits and supplies. Clothing can cost around $200, and lab supplies and stethoscopes might cost $300-$500.

Degree-seekers should also consider the cost of the $200 NCLEX exam and background checks needed for their licensure application.

Learners may find themselves facing additional everyday costs, like transportation to class, which could include the price of gas, road tolls, or public transit. Even students pursuing an online degree may need to sort out transportation to their clinical sites.

Students who live on campus must pay for room and board and meal plans. Students with families might need to consider childcare, such as babysitting or daycare for their children, while they attend class. These daily costs may vary greatly by location.

Paying for Nursing School

Although nursing jobs often come with higher-than-average salaries, many aspiring nursing professionals hesitate to start their degree because of nursing school costs.

Nearly 70% of degree-seekers take out loans at the graduate level, according to a 2017 survey from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). In addition, survey respondents estimated they took on $40,000-$55,000 of student loan debt.

Students can find several opportunities to help with paying for nursing school. Colleges and universities often offer institution-specific scholarships. Students can also access scholarships through professional associations, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations. Explore this list of nursing scholarships and grants.

Several ADN and BSN programs, including some graduate programs, offer discounted tuition rates for active or former military service members.

In addition, students can apply for government aid. The federal, and some state governments, offer student loan forgiveness programs for graduates who pledge to work in areas experiencing high need for healthcare professionals.

Page last reviewed December 19, 2022


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