Financial Aid for Online FNP/Nurse Practitioner Programs

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Let’s face the facts: The cost of an advanced degree can be a serious obstacle to pursuing the career path of your dreams. But thanks to a variety of funding opportunities available to students interested in online family nurse practitioner/nurse practitioner programs, the path between where you are now and where you see yourself professionally can be a lot less rocky than you think. And in this economy, that’s a path worth pursing, considering the steady increase in healthcare-related job creation over the last 12 months.

So how do you find the financial aid necessary to get your FNP/Nurse Practitioner degree?

Federal Government Assistance

It’s a good idea to start your search for financial aid with the federal government. Fill out the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible to confirm the amount of aid you’re eligible for based on your income level and other factors. This form will be used to determine whether you’re eligible for Stafford Loans or PLUS Loans.

FAFSA’s website offers a tool called FAFSA4caster that can give you a rough estimate of how much financial aid you’re eligible for through the federal government.

Stafford Loans

As part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, Stafford Loans will only be available as unsubsidized loans to graduate and professional students, effective Jan. 1, 2012. This means that you must pay all of the interest that accrues during your time as a student (though the repayment of this interest does not begin until after your enrollment period has ended).

Despite this setback for graduate students, a Stafford Loan can still be a more affordable option than private loans because the interest rate is typically much lower than private loan interest rates. The interest rate for Stafford loans is currently set at 6.8 percent for graduate students.

PLUS loans

Graduate students are eligible for PLUS Loans, which can be deferred until six months after you are no longer enrolled in your FNP/Nurse Practitioner degree program at least half-time. There are limitations on the amount an individual student can borrow in total, so make sure to check the government’s student aid website to determine the limits for someone in your circumstances. The interest rate on these loans is set at 7.9 percent in 2011.

Scholarships and Fellowships

Once you calculate how much you’re eligible to borrow from the federal government, it’s time to figure out how to supplement that amount. Scholarships are widely available funding sources that are based on who you are and what you’re capable of doing. Many schools offering FNP/Nurse Practitioner programs offer scholarship opportunities based on your academic track record, family history, specialization area, and other qualifications. But don’t stop there! Look to nursing foundations and organizations for support, too.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human resources, offers several possible scholarship opportunities on its website. The National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) Foundation awards over $125,000 annually to students pursuing nursing programs ranging from $1,000 to $2,500. NSNA also offers other scholarship information and resources for finding funding sources through its website.

A simple web search may also turn up opportunities to help you pay for your advanced nursing degree while making connections with nursing organizations.

Grants

Like scholarships, grants don’t have to be repaid, making them a great resource for financial support as you pursue your online FNP/Nurse Practitioner degree. Rather than being given based on merit, these funds are distributed based on financial need.

Many grants have a research component to them, meaning that the government or an organization will give you money to write an academic report for them. This will add an additional academic task to your plate, but your resume and knowledge base (not to mention your finances!) will benefit from this extra work.

A great place to start your search for grant opportunities is Grants.gov, a program launched in 2002 that provides access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards. Peruse available opportunities in the health field to find a grant that fits your interest area and qualifications. HRSA also offers grant resources for nurses pursuing advanced degrees. The following chart shows a breakdown of grant funding based on healthcare fields:

Both grants and scholarships are usually available to distance education students, so you don’t have to go to a typical campus college to be eligible, as long as your program is accredited.

Private Loans and Loan Repayment Strategies

It’s likely that even if you apply for every possible scholarship and grant and max out your available loans through the federal government, you’ll need to supplement that funding with private loans. Typically, private loans have higher interest rates than Stafford loans, so it’s important to do your research and compare multiple loan offers before you commit.

The Federal Trade Commission offers a helpful guide about how to guard against predatory lenders.

While in an online FNP/Nurse Practitioner program, you’ll likely qualify for a number of student loan programs, many of which do not ask you to begin making payments until after you graduate.

You might also qualify for loan repayment programs through the federal and state governments, depending on the job you take. These programs might pay for a large percentage of your loans, meaning that your education could be almost free, even if scholarships and grants haven’t completely covered the cost.

Loan Consolidation

If you’re still paying off student loans from your undergraduate degree, consider consolidating those loans to streamline the payment process and – even better! – secure a lower interest rate. Many financial institutions offer consolidation opportunities that can make a big impact on your monthly payment. You could also wait until you complete your FNP/Nurse Practitioner program and bundle those loans with the rest of your student loans.

Through June 30, 2012, the federal government is offering its own debt consolidation program called Special Direct Consolidation Loans. This opportunity for federal loans accomplishes the same thing as private-issued consolidation loans.

Loan Repayment

In October, the U.S. expanded its loan repayment opportunities for nurses. The Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program will offer 1,304 awards totaling $55.3 million to nurses who choose to work at a Critical Shortage Facility or educational institution. Critical Shortage Facilities include the following types of nonprofit workplaces:

  • Hospitals
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers and Look-Alikes, Indian Health Service Health Centers, Native Hawaiian Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics
  • Nursing Homes
  • State or Local Public Health or Human Services Department
  • Hospice Programs
  • Home Health Agencies
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Ambulatory Surgical Centers

Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was created to help workers with high student debt loads and smaller incomes if they choose to work in underserved communities. If you make 120 payments on your Stafford Loan, PLUS Loan, and/or Federal Direct Consolidation Loan, you may qualify to have the remainder of your student loan balance forgiven by the federal government.

Alternative Payment Plans

For many Americans, monthly student loan bills far exceed the amount that can be paid based on the borrower’s income and family situation. Here are a few options you may be eligible for:

  • Extended Repayment – This plan allows you to pay off your student loans over 25 years rather than the standard 10-year period. This means your monthly payment will be lower, but you may pay more interest.
  • Graduated Repayment – If you wish to pay incrementally more for your student loan each year, this plan may be for you. The amount increases over the duration of your loan.
  • Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan – This program helps students whose monthly loan payments exceed a reasonable limit set by the government based on income and family size.
  • Income Contingent Repayment Plan – This strategy bases your monthly repayment amount on your annual income. Under this plan, your monthly loan payment is based on your adjusted gross income, family size, and your total loan amount.

Tuition Reimbursement

If you’re currently employed as a nurse, your employer may offer to pay for some or all of the cost of an online FNP/Nurse Practitioner program. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities want the best employees possible, and many offer tuition reimbursement programs to nurses who want to seek advanced degrees. Opportunities for these programs are found across the U.S., typically in areas where the need for nurses with advanced degrees is greatest.

Meet with your human resources office or supervisor to learn more about your workplace’s program. Each employer has its own tuition reimbursement policy, but here are a few general provisions:

  • Your employer might cover the entire cost of your FNP/Nurse Practitioner program, or it may offer a set amount of money per year.
  • Full-time nurses are typically eligible for more reimbursement money than part-time nurses.
  • You may be required to work for your employer for several years after it reimburses your tuition; leaving before this set period of time may void your tuition reimbursement privileges.
  • You’ll likely have to pay your tuition, lab fees, book fees, and other educational materials up-front; your employer will then reimburse you after you fulfill your end of the tuition reimbursement agreement.

Now that you’ve figured how to pay for school, it’s time to embark on a gradate career in nursing. Our list of accredited schools below will you find the right college or university to meet your unique professional and academic needs. Contact schools of interest to acquire more information about specific requirements and programs.

It was not always possible to earn a family nurse practitioner degree online, but shifts in education have allowed more accredited schools these programs entirely online. While online FNP programs are still relatively new, dozens of master and doctoral nurse programs are available. To see if a school offers the right program for you, use the links below to contact a school to learn more.

Georgetown University
MSN in FNP Specialization
Georgetown University — Georgetown University is one of the few schools offering an online program for student pursuing a career as a family nurse practitioner. Established in 1789, Georgetown is one of America's oldest institutions for higher education and now offers over 100 programs through its eight schools from business to medicine and healthcare.
Kaplan University
MSN to DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner
Kaplan University — In addition to its several online nursing programs, Kaplan University has a MSN to DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner. Originally the American Institute of Commerce founded in 1937, Kaplan is one of the largest online schools with 70 campuses across the country and offers almost 200 online programs at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral levels.
University of Cincinnati
MSN in Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
MSN in Nurse Midwifery
University of Cincinnati — If you want to advance your career in nursing, the University of Cincinnati offers online degrees for nursing professionals including an MSN in Women's Health or Nursing Midwifery. UC was founded in 1819 and while the school now has over 42,000 students, the student to faculty ratio is only 15 to one, so you get the support and attention you need as you pursue your degree.
South University
MSN in Nurse Practitioner
South University — South University has an impressive online division that is convenient for working professionals trying to earn their MSN. A Georgia-based school, South U was founded in 1889 and now offers almost 30 online programs and has schools in eight states.

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Looking for a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

Fill out this short form below, and we'll help match you to an accredited college program that suits your interests, whether online- or campus-based.