Scholarships, grants, private loans, and cash payment programs are available for those who qualify.

Accredited online nursing schools have financial aid available for those requiring student loans. Most schools meet these criteria.

Before taking out student loans or a private loan, it may be wise to think about the pros and cons of accepting student loans to pay for school.

  • Will the degree help you to make more money?
  • Have more job flexibility?
  • Is it a stepping stone to attending a graduate school which will earn more money?

The answer to all these questions in transitioning from an RN to BSN program is "yes!"

Many students find it makes sense to take out student loans to pay for the program if the employer offers a raise, allows the nurse to apply for management positions which are higher-paying, or when the end-goal is to become a Master's degree educated advanced practitioner, which has a higher salary base than bedside nursing with an Associate's degree.

If the end-goal is to attend a Master's program then consider how much of a pay increase this will be and the necessity of having the BSN as a stepping stone. There are some RN to MSN programs available but they are less common than RN to BSN and BSN to MSN programs. Also, the requirements and length of these programs will vary greatly.

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are available for nursing students. A little research into this goes a long way. Many nursing organizations offer help with paying for nursing school in the hopes that more and more students will choose to nursing as a major. This is good for the long-term health of the field because it alleviates the current nursing shortage and helps prevent a worsening nursing shortage in the future.

Some great organizations offering nursing scholarships and/or grants include:

Bear in mind that scholarships and grants may come with stipulations and requirements for keeping the money they provide. This is usually a GPA requirement or requirement for completion of the program. If something happens and the student has to withdraw from school or fails out of school, he or she could be responsible to repay the money. So be sure to read and approve of the stipulations before accepting the money.

For the working RN, many places of employment will provide tuition reimbursement for BSN bridge programs, both online and in-classroom styles. This may cover one class a semester or be 100% repayment. Ask your human resources department about tuition reimbursement.

Private Loans

Private loans may also be available for those who qualify. The student may find that tuition at some nursing schools, especially private schools, may exceed the amount of federal financial aid awarded. The thought of taking out another loan, such as a private loan, may seem intimidating. These are usually at a higher interest rate than federal loans. But, again, consider that an increase in salary will offset the cost of student loans and the long-term earning potential for a Bachelor's educated registered nurse is higher than an Associate's degree educated registered nurse.

If student loans, scholarships, or grants are not possible, or not desirable, most schools offer incremental cash payment programs.

Cash Payment Programs

These programs are offered and managed by the school. The total cost of tuition for a semester is broken up into the number of months a semester is and the student pays for each semester monthly or weekly. For example, if tuition for a semester is $2000 and the semester is 5 weeks long, the weekly payment would be $400. Interest usually does not apply since it is not a loan.

Finding a way to pay for the RN to BSN program may take some time and creativity, but the overall benefit is worthwhile. This is especially true for the less experienced RN who will be in the workforce for a long time.

Because more registered nurses are graduating from schools across the country and helping to decrease the nursing shortage, it is possible that the BSN will be required for all registered nurses to begin or maintain employment in the future. This was done once before with the nursing diploma program.

The diploma program was designed to train nurses in both clinical and textbook knowledge, usually within a hospital setting and by other nurses or physicians. Nurses then graduated with a diploma and were able to start work. When RN programs became more organized diploma educated nurses were "grandfathered" into the workforce without the initial requirement of advancing education by most facilities.

RELATED: What Is the Difference Between an ADN and RN Diploma?

Many of these nurses moved into retirement, but for those that didn't, they were eventually required to obtain an Associate's degree or Bachelor's degree to maintain their RN license.

The future of nursing is to move to this model as more and more Bachelor's degree nurses begin work. Associate's degree educated nurses will likely be required to obtain his or her Bachelor's degree at some point during their career.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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