Despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment in nursing programs surged in 2020. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), undergraduate- and graduate-level nursing programs notably increased enrollment:
- Bachelor’s degree programs: 5.6%
- Master’s degree programs: 4.1%
- Doctorate degree programs: 8.9%
These increases were the continuation of a longstanding trend, with the AACN reporting that enrollment at these degree levels has grown each year for more than 15 years.
Interest in the nursing profession is also reflected in figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which projects that employment opportunities for nursing positions will grow over the next several years. For some, like registered nurses, jobs are expected to grow at about the same rate as the average for all occupations. For others, such as nurse practitioners, the BLS projects jobs to grow 52% by 2030, adding nearly 115,000 jobs.
The cost of a nursing education, however, is a hurdle for many. Fortunately, many resources are available to help students pay for their education. Nurse practitioner scholarships, federal grants, and other financial aid can help aspiring nurse practitioners and other students realize their dreams of becoming a nurse. U.S. military veterans pursuing a nursing career can access additional resources, including various scholarships and financial aid from veterans’ organizations.
When looking for financial assistance, nursing students can combine several types of financial resources to help pay for their education.
Scholarships for Nursing Students
Unliked financial aid, a scholarship is a gift in the sense that it doesn’t require repayment. Thousands of scholarships are offered by a range of entities, including schools, businesses, nonprofits, religious groups, and social organizations.
Scholarships are often merit based and awarded because an individual achieved certain standards. In many cases, these standards are academic in nature, or a combination of academic achievement and proficiency in a specific trait or interest, such as sports.
Certain scholarships are reserved for specific groups of people, such as women or minorities. Some are awarded because of where the recipient works or because they come from a particular background. Others are based on financial need.
While some scholarships cover the entire cost of tuition, others may only pay for a portion of educational fees.
Below are different scholarships for nursing students:
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): The AANP has a scholarship program specifically for those pursuing a nurse practitioner career. Applicants must have their registered nurse license, be enrolled in a graduate nursing program, and have completed at least one semester of classes. The scholarship provides between $2,500 and $5,000 in funding.
- Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation (NPHF): The NPHF offers multiple nurse practitioner scholarships in combination with various organizations. The NPHF/Procter & Gamble Endowed Scholarship in Community Service, for example, awards $1,000 to nursing students enrolled in a graduate NP program who have made positive contributions to their communities.
- Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA): The HRSA’s Nurse Corps Scholarship Program helps nursing students pay for their education, covering tuition, fees, and associated educational costs (for example, books and supplies). In exchange, recipients work for a minimum of two years after graduation at a critical shortage facility, which is a facility located in an area with a shortage of primary care providers.
Additional Nursing Scholarship Resources
Those seeking further information about nursing scholarships can use the following resources to search through hundreds of different scholarships:
- Scholarships & Financial Aid, AACN: The AACN provides information on many different nursing scholarships, including those geared specifically toward undergraduate and/or graduate students.
- Scholarship Finder, CareerOneStop: This search tool provided by CareerOneStop, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, allows users to search more than 8,000 scholarships and other forms of financial aid. The site’s “search by keyword” tool makes it easy to find scholarships specifically for nursing students.
- 2021 Nursing Scholarships, Daily Nurse: This search tool from Daily Nurse lists hundreds of nursing scholarships, with award amounts ranging from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000.
How to Apply for Scholarships
Knowing when and how to apply for scholarships is very important for students who want or need financial aid. Eligibility requirements and deadlines vary, so students need to identify the specific parameters of different scholarships.
Some nurse practitioner scholarships have minimal requirements. For many, the only requirement is that students be enrolled in a nursing program. Others set more specific conditions such as requiring students to maintain a certain GPA or pursue a particular field of study. Understanding the prerequisites for a scholarship can help students determine whether or not they should apply.
When Do I Apply?
Each scholarship has its own deadline. Some deadlines are far in advance, sometimes up to a year before the school year starts. Others may allow students to apply a few months before the beginning of the school year. Either way, it’s never too early to start searching and/or applying for them. Students should understand a scholarship’s specific guidelines and build in enough time to gather needed documents—like transcripts and letters of recommendation—to meet submission requirements prior to application deadlines.
Where Do I Find Information About Scholarships?
In addition to online resources, students can find information about nursing scholarships from:
- College financial aid offices
- Federal agencies
- State grant agencies
- Foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
Ideally, students should take advantage of as many of these resources as possible to improve their chances of accessing scholarship money.
Financial Aid for Nursing Students
In addition to scholarships for nurse practitioners, financial aid for nursing students can help pay for educational costs. According to the Education Data Initiative (EDI), the percentage of students receiving financial aid increased nearly 19% over the last 20 years, with 86.4% of first-time, first-year undergraduate students receiving some form of financial aid.
Grants and loans are two of the most common types of financial aid. Many students receive grants and/or loans from the federal government, though they can come from state agencies, nonprofits, or private organizations.
Grants, like scholarships, typically don’t need to be repaid. In certain circumstances, a grant recipient may have to repay a portion or all of received grant funds, such as if they drop out of school.
Eligibility requirements for grants vary, as does the amount of aid a student can receive. Grants are generally awarded to students based on financial need. For federal grants, the average amount awarded to each student on an annual basis is $5,179, according to the EDI.
One of the most common grants is the Federal Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is typically awarded to undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need, which makes it an excellent option for students just beginning their nursing education.
Several factors determine how much a student may receive from a Pell Grant, including:
- The cost of attendance
- The student’s expected family contribution—calculated based on a student’s family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as Social Security), as well as their family size and the number of family members attending college, deducted from the student’s cost of attendance
- Whether they are a full- or part-time student
Nearly 7 million students receive Pell Grants each year, the EDI reports, with amounts ranging between a few hundred dollars up to $6,345 (for the 2021-22 school year).
A loan is borrowed money that is paid back with interest. Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students at both public and private institutions. Federal student loans are the most common type of loan, with approximately 30% of all students using federal loans, according to the EDI.
Loan amounts vary and are based on multiple factors including whether the student is an undergraduate or graduate student. According to the Federal Student Aid Office, undergraduate students can borrow between $5,500 and $12,500 annually in Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized loans, while graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 in Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Eligibility for federal loans is sometimes based on financial need, though not in every case. Direct Unsubsidized and Direct Plus loans are not based on financial need.
How to Avoid Scams
Scammers sometimes try to target students—and their parents—who are in search of financial aid. Individuals looking for nurse practitioner scholarships and aid can avoid scams by following a few helpful tips and guidelines:
- A financial aid search doesn’t have to cost anything: While commercial financial aid services can help students find information or provide assistance in other ways, students can perform these actions for free. Be wary of services that make statements like “Buy now or miss this opportunity,” or that guarantee a student can get financial aid.
- Filling out the FAFSA form is also free: Some websites offer to help students complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form for a fee. But students can get assistance filling out the form from other sources—like the financial aid office at their school or the Federal Student Aid Information Center—free of charge.
- Find out which companies the U.S. Department of Education (ED) works with: The ED works with a number of private organizations, including loan servicers and private collection agencies (PCA). Knowing whether a company works with the ED can help verify its trustworthiness. The department provides lists of the loan servicers and PCAs it works with.
Additional Financial Aid Resources
With the abundance of financial aid options, students may have difficulty sifting through all the available information. The following resources can help students track down additional financial aid information:
- Types of Financial Aid, Federal Student Aid: This site explains the types of financial aid, including grants, loans, and scholarships, with links to more detailed information about each kind of aid.
- How Aid Is Calculated Federal Student Aid: This site answers common questions related to financial aid amounts and how they’re calculated, such as what “cost of attendance” means, and provides additional information about the expected family contribution.
- Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Federal Student Aid: This resource provides an overview of the two most common types of federal loans and explains eligibility and the application process.
Scholarships for Veterans Pursuing a Nursing Education
U.S. military veterans can tap into additional resources to fund their education, including a number of scholarships for veterans. Numerous veterans organizations offer scholarships to active duty service members, veterans, and their families, including:
Eligibility requirements and award amounts vary by scholarship. Some provide a few thousand dollars annually, while others may cover the entire cost of a student’s tuition.
Additionally, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) awards several scholarships geared toward different branches of the military for students beginning college:
- Air Force ROTC: The Air Force ROTC’s Nursing Scholarship Program awards funding to undergraduate sophomores and juniors who are enrolled in a nursing program accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- Army ROTC: Various Army ROTC scholarships are offered at more than 1,000 colleges. The Army ROTC also offers scholarships specifically for nursing majors. Nursing students who are a member of their school’s Army ROTC can apply for two-, three-, or four-year scholarships.
- Navy ROTC: The Navy ROTC offers scholarships for undergraduate nursing students. As with the other ROTC branches, students must participate in ROTC at their school and, upon graduation, act as service members for a certain period of time.
VA ScholarshipsNursing students also can get financial assistance in paying for their education by working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA’s National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI) helps registered nurses who work for the VA pay for a college education, including tuition, registration fees, and books. To be eligible, students must work for the VA for at least one year before applying for a scholarship and agree to work for the VA for one to three years after graduating.
Additionally, the VA’s Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) provides financial assistance to students pursuing a healthcare degree in any of various disciplines, including a scholarship for nurse practitioners. To be eligible, students need to be enrolled in a qualifying degree program and agree to work as a VA employee upon graduation.
The benefits of these programs are twofold: They help students pay for their education, while also allowing the VA to fill its ranks with nurses and other essential healthcare personnel who can provide critical long-term care to veterans.
Additional Scholarship Resources for Veterans
The following resources can provide additional information about scholarships for veterans:
- List of Military Scholarships for Service Members, Spouses and Dependents, U.S. Veterans Magazine: Search through this comprehensive list of scholarships available to service members and their families, including scholarships provided by the American Legion and VFW, as well as many smaller veterans service organizations.
- Spouse Scholarships + Careers, National Military Family Association: The National Military Family Association provides information on numerous scholarships for spouses of service members, answering questions on eligibility and how to apply.
- How to Commission as a Marine Officer, U.S. Marine Corps: This site provides information about several scholarships tied to service in the Marine Corps. Some of the scholarships are offered through the Navy ROTC.
- Scholarships for Military Families, Federal Student Aid: This document provides additional information about scholarships for ROTC members, veterans, and their families, with links to affiliated organizations.
Financial Aid for Veterans
In addition to nurse practitioner scholarships, there are numerous other forms of financial aid for veterans and their families, including low- and no-interest loans, loan deferments, and tuition assistance.
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, members of the military who took out student loans prior to enlisting or serving on active duty only have to pay 6% interest on those loans while on active duty.
Also, service members who received direct student loans on or after October 1, 2008, won’t be charged any interest while on active duty or serving in the National Guard during a qualifying event such as a war or national emergency.
Service members also can defer repayment of their federal student loans while on active duty or performing qualifying National Guard duty. Additionally, members of the National Guard or other military reserves who are called to active duty while enrolled in school may be able to defer loan repayment for up to 13 months following the end of their active duty service, or until they return to school, whichever comes first.
Each branch of the military also offers loan assistance programs to help service members pay for their education. These programs may cover up to 100% of tuition expenses for semester credit hours costing $250 or less. Students can take advantage of these programs to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill® offers numerous benefits to veterans, including financial aid. The benefits of the bill are available to veterans who served after September 10, 2001 for at least 90 days of continuous service, as well as their families.
Depending on the service member’s length of service, the bill may cover the full cost of tuition and fees at a public in-state institution. For those who served at least 36 months—or 30 continuous days prior to discharge for a service-related disability—the bill can cover 100% of tuition and fees, along with a monthly housing stipend and an annual stipend for books and supplies.
Additional GI Bill benefits, such as the Yellow Ribbon Program, can help veterans pay for higher-cost private school or out-of-state tuition.
Veterans can also transfer GI Bill benefits to their dependents.
Additional Financial Aid Resources for Veterans
Prospective students can find further information about financial aid for military veterans at the following links:
- Paying for College, Today’s Military: This site outlines the different forms of financial aid available to service members, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, College Fund Programs, and loan repayment, among others.
- For Service Members—Resources, Military OneSource: This site provides an overview of various programs and services that veterans can take advantage of to fund their education, as well as tools to help them find employment information.
- How to Use the Military Tuition Assistance Program: This article examines the Military Tuition Assistance Program in detail, explaining eligibility requirements and comparing it to other financial aid benefits available to service members.
- Financial Aid for Veterans and Their Dependents, Finaid: This site provides information on various financial aid resources for veterans and their families, with links to the VA and other organizations that provide educational support to veterans.
Help Fund Your Nursing Education
The country is experiencing a shortage of nurses that will likely intensify as the population ages and the need for healthcare services grows. An abundance of financial aid options, including grants, loans, and scholarships for nurse practitioners, can help make nursing education more affordable for many and increase the number of qualified nursing professionals to help address this shortage.
Financial aid incentives offered by Veterans Affairs also can help create a pipeline of nurses to provide much-needed care to U.S. military veterans. Many additional resources are available to military veterans themselves to help them pay for their education and pursue a nursing career.
*GI Bill®️ is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.