If you are reading this then you are probably curious how I paid for nursing school and came out with no school loans. Please understand that this is very circumstantial and will be different for everyone. We all come from different backgrounds and financial situations. I am going to share my story and then share a few tips I found helpful. So whether your goal is to have no student loans or keep them to a minimum I think you will find these tips helpful to incorporate into your life. Lets be realistic because you may not be able to have zero student loans but you can try to keep them as minimal as possible.
I was a nontraditional student and by that I mean I was already an older adult and established in a career. I have always known I wanted to be a nurse and when I decided on this back in my early twenties I discovered I was not able to follow my dreams. I was not able to balance my work and finances to afford to go to college. Plus, even back then I knew I did not want any student loans. So I decided if I could not do it without loans then I would put it off. So instead, I went to school to become a certified medical assistant. Even this took me double the amount of time it was suppose to take. This was because I worked full time and paid for classes out of pocket. Once I finished that program I worked as a medical assistant for about seven years and in that time life happened. I got married and my husband started and finished his schooling. We decided that once he was done that I would go back to college. It was actually a decision between having a baby vs nursing school… I chose nursing school.
So how did we pay for college? We saved up money in advance and made a separate account for a college fund. We did not have a lot of time, but in this time we put away as much money as we could. I knew that once I actually got accepted into a nursing program that I would probably quit working. We also made it a point to pay down any debt. This way we had less to worry about once I lost my income. Thankfully, between the money saved and my husband having a good paying job that was possible. While taking my prerequisite classes I was working for a hospital and they offered tuition reimbursement. So that was also something I took advantage of. Who does not like free money? Another way we were able to pay was by me attending community college. Community colleges are less expensive and can help you save money. No, you can not get your bachelors from a community college but you are still a nurse and once you have the income you can always go back for your bachelors. So here I am today working full time as a registered nurse. I will be starting college back in the Fall to obtain my Bachelors degree. My current job will pay a percentage of my tuition and I will pay the rest out of pocket as I go.
Money Saving Tips
1. Prepare in advance
I know how exciting it is to make the decision to attend nursing school. You are determined and want to get going but slow down. If you have not heard this already I guarantee you will at some point from a nursing professor. I heard it a million times…..”you should not work during nursing school”. When I first heard this I thought the person was crazy! How can you not work? Who is going to pay the bills? Most people do not have a choice to work or not and most people will have to work while attending nursing school because that is life. Since you have already or you are thinking about pursing nursing I recommend that you start saving your money. Are you able to pay down debt? Are you able to save a certain amount or percentage of money every month into an account. Can you do this for a few months or a whole year to put yourself in a better position? Make a solid plan before you decide to take on new debt because college is expensive. Nursing school takes up a lot of time. It was a full time job for me so try to go into it well prepared in advance. If you have to work try to obtain a job that is flexible with your schedule. A great option that will give you experience and maybe flexible is working as a certified nursing assistant. You can find plenty of employers that will actually pay to train you and then help pay your tuition to attend nursing school.
2. Attend community college
Make sure your are reviewing all your options when looking at colleges. Many people want that college experience or they want to get it all over with at once. But can you afford this price? When I decided to become a nurse I looked at some 4 year colleges and the amount of money you pay is insane. If you attend a community college that is in your county you will save a ton of money. You can still apply and be eligible for assistance at community college. I had have other nurses comment to me about attending community college. “Oh, well you only attended community college” “I wanted the true college experience” Well guess what? We are both now in the same job positions and making the same money! And not only that these people now how $60,000-$100,000 of loans they have to pay off! On top of that my college was very competitive and well known in my community for their nursing program. So in that regards many employers do not hesitate to hire nurses who went to my college.
3. Find a job that will pay for your schooling
While I was attending school to become a medical assistant and also part of my nursing I worked at a hospital. This hospital and many others will pay a certain percentage of your tuition! Many times you just have to show proof of your enrollment, keep your grades above a “C”, and stay employed for a certain amount of time. This is free money! Most of these employers are placed like hospitals, nursing homes, doctor offices and are medical based facilities.
4. Stop failing classes
This might seem harsh and it is! But lets be realistic here for a moment. I personally told myself when I went back to college that if I failed a class even once that I would re-evaluate this journey and my goals. Seems kinda harsh and it was. But guess what? I never failed a class and I graduated with honors. Now I know this can be very unrealistic and I know plenty of nurses who have failed classes and they are amazing nurses. Plus, depending on the person some people are just not good test takers. While attending college I knew many people who failed the same class multiple times and they kept retaking the class. Please understand I am not saying that if you fail to give up and many people will fail a class. Just think about the money you are spending when you consistently do this. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back, taking a break and re-evaluating.
5. Assistance Programs
I did not qualify for any financial aid to attend school and I never applied for scholarships but this is something you should look into. Never pass down free money especially if you need it. I have included some links to some programs that are available. I recommend you do some homework and research because there is so much information out there. Make sure you also check out your employer because many times they offer scholarships.
FASFA – The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the form that the federal government, states, colleges and other organizations use to award financial aid.
NURSE Corps. – a scholarship program that’s available to U.S. citizens who are willing to work in an eligible critical shortage facility (CSF) after they’ve graduated.
Johnson & Johnson – A great list of nursing scholarships that are available.
All Nursing Schools– 40 nursing scholarships for all kind of students.
6. Live below your means
This is something that everyone should be doing anyway but many people do not and it can be very hard. What this means is that each month you should be spending less than the amount of money you bring in each month. Make a plan to track your spending over the next 30 days and see where you are blowing money at each month. Then you can create a realistic budget and get your finances on track. You may have to temporarily stop buying coffee at your favorite coffee shop, say no to going out with friends and reduce your shopping. This way you can save that money and use it towards your education.
I hope you found this list helpful and motivational to get yourself financially prepared for nursing school because you do not need to go into tremendous debt to reach your goals.