A career in nursing is rewarding, and some hospitals will help pay for you to obtain your nursing degree. Hospitals might pay nursing school costs upfront or offer a reimbursement after graduation.
If your hospital doesn’t provide financial assistance for school, you have other options to reduce out-of-pocket costs. Here’s a closer look at how to get help paying for nursing school.
In this guide:
- How do hospitals help pay for nursing school?
- Why do some hospitals pay for nursing school?
- How do I know which hospitals help pay for nursing school?
- What happens if I don’t finish nursing school or change my career
- Other programs that help limit the cost of nursing school
How do hospitals help pay for nursing school?
Hospitals have multiple ways to help you pay for nursing school. Options include tuition reimbursement, work-study, nursing scholarships, and grants.
Tuition reimbursement, sometimes referred to as tuition assistance, is an employee benefit to fund undergraduate or graduate education, including nursing school. An estimated 47% of U.S. employers offer some form of tuition assistance, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
In terms of how common tuition reimbursement for nursing is, it’s possible to find hospitals in all 50 states that offer some form of assistance to employees.
Hospitals offer tuition reimbursement programs for current employees who are enrolled or are planning to enroll in nursing school. You may need to be employed by the hospital for at least six months before qualifying for tuition reimbursement.
In exchange for help with nursing school, you may be required to work for the hospital after graduation for a certain number of years or return the money you received.
The amount of tuition reimbursement hospitals provide can vary. Some may offer a set dollar amount to help cover nursing school costs, while others may reimburse you for a percentage of total tuition. For example, the hospital might pay $5,000 or up to 75% of tuition costs, depending on its policy.
Here’s a real-life example of nursing school tuition assistance: Johns Hopkins offers up to $15,000 in tuition reimbursement per fiscal year to nursing students, depending on the program and the number of hours they work per week.
To qualify, employees must attend an accredited nursing school, earn satisfactory grades, and agree to work for Johns Hopkins for a predetermined amount of time after graduating.
Tuition reimbursement pros and cons
Tuition reimbursement can help pay for some of or all nursing school costs
You may qualify automatically, depending on your employer’s policy
You’re typically not obligated to repay tuition assistance if you meet the work requirement
Tuition assistance may not cover all enrollment costs
You may need to enroll in a specific school or nursing program to qualify
Some students may be reluctant to agree to a required work commitment
Work-study programs allow nursing school students to gain hands-on work experience in a healthcare setting while earning money to pay for their education. Students may work in clerical or custodial roles while working toward their nursing certification. How you’re paid, and the type of work you do can depend on the hospital’s policy.
Nursing work-study programs may also be referred to as internships or apprenticeships. For example, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago operates a student nurse internship program for students enrolled in a full-time baccalaureate nursing program who are entering their final year of study.
Student interns in the program train in clinical settings and earn a competitive salary for their time. Students are evaluated upon completing the program. If they qualify, they may be offered a full-time role to continue working at the hospital until they transition to a staff nurse role.
Work-study programs offered by hospitals are less common than tuition reimbursement. You can explore federal work-study programs that allow you to earn money by working on campus part-time. You’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for federal work-study funding.
Work-study pros and cons
Work-study can help you earn money to help pay for nursing school
You can gain valuable work experience in a hospital setting
Work-study programs may not require a work commitment after graduation
Work-study may not cover all enrollment costs
Not all hospitals offer work-study programs for nursing students
Working while attending nursing school can be demanding
Nursing scholarships and grants
Hospitals can offer scholarships and grants to pay for nursing school. Generally, these types of financial assistance need not be repaid. Scholarships for nursing school might require a work commitment after graduation, though grants might not.
Some nursing scholarships are merit-based, meaning your eligibility depends on your grade-point average, academic record, and personal achievements. Grants may be based on your financial need.
For example, Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas, offers scholarships for nursing students who live in the Permian Basin. Scholarships pay tuition, fees, and books. Recipients are required to volunteer at an assigned hospital or community events. There’s no work commitment required after graduation.
In addition to hospital-specific financial aid, numerous other nursing scholarship and grant programs can help you pay for school. You can also explore scholarship and grant opportunities that are not specific to students pursuing a career in the medical field.
Scholarships and grants pros and cons
Scholarships and grants can pay for some or all of your tuition, fees, and other nursing school expenses
Scholarships and grants generally do not need to be repaid
There are many nursing scholarships and grants you can apply for to pay for school
Some hospital nursing scholarships may require a work commitment after graduation
Scholarship and grant funding are sometimes limited and may not pay all your nursing school costs
Competition for certain grants and scholarships can be fierce
Why do some hospitals pay for nursing school?
Hospitals pay for nursing school to attract and retain quality employees. Tuition reimbursement, work-study, scholarships, and grants can be strong incentives for a nursing student to seek a job at that hospital after graduation or stick with the hospital if they’re already employed.
There’s a demonstrated need for qualified nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for nurses will increase by 9% through 2030.
Meanwhile, there’s a nursing shortage in the U.S., which has been linked to various causes. These include an increased demand due to an aging population, an uptick in the number of nurses retiring, and low levels of job satisfaction following the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do I know which hospitals help pay for nursing school?
No single unified database lists which hospitals offer tuition reimbursement, work-study, scholarships, and grants. Search online if you’re interested in finding hospitals that help pay for nursing school nationwide or in your area.
Contact the hospital directly to determine whether that specific hospital offers help with nursing school costs. The human resources department can tell you what financial assistance for nursing students is available.
If you’re still in school, check with your college or university’s financial aid department to see if they’re familiar with any hospital-sponsored assistance.
What happens if I don’t finish nursing school or change my career and I’m enrolled in a hospital financing program?
Hospitals include provisions in their financial aid policies to handle situations when students don’t complete their degrees. The worst-case scenario is that you’d be required to repay any funds the hospital provided to you for school.
That’s a form of risk management for the hospital to ensure their investment in your education isn’t a total loss.
Suppose you think there’s a possibility that you might not complete your nursing degree or that you might pivot into a different career. In that case, it’s important to fully understand the terms before accepting financial assistance from a hospital.
That can help you avoid unintended financial consequences down the line if your plans change.
Other programs that help limit the cost of nursing school
Several government programs can provide loan forgiveness and repayment for students who plan to work in nursing.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal loan forgiveness program for graduates who pursue careers in civil service. The program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after making 120 qualifying payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working for an eligible employer.
Nurses who are interested in loan forgiveness must enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. They must also be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, tribal government, or not-for-profit organization. Federal service includes U.S. military service.
Any Direct Loan qualifies, and there’s no upper limit on how much federal student debt can be forgiven. There are, however, some loans that don’t qualify, including:
- Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)
- Federal Perkins Loans
You could, however, make those loans eligible by consolidating them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education offers a PSLF Help Tool that you can use to determine whether you might qualify for loan forgiveness and generate the form that you’ll need to complete to apply.
US Army Nurse Corp Loan Repayment Program
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program repays up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty. Recipients of loan repayments must agree to a two-year work commitment in a critical field or an eligible nursing school.
Preference is given to nurses who have demonstrated financial need. You’ll need to have attended an accredited nursing school to qualify.
If you’re approved, you’ll receive repayment for 60% of your outstanding, qualifying nursing education loans. This is spread out over two years. After the two-year service contract ends, you may be eligible to receive an additional 25% in loan repayment.
You can submit an application for loan repayment online through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) website. Loan repayment assistance you receive through the program is not exempt from federal income and employment taxes.
National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment Program is open to U.S. citizens with qualified student loan debt for education that leads to a nursing degree. Nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives working in primary medical care or behavioral and mental health care fields can apply.
Eligible nurses must agree to a two-year service commitment at an NHSC-approved site in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Nurses working full-time can receive up to $50,000 for a two-year term. Nurses working half-time can receive up to $25,000 for a two-year term.
Funding can be used to repay undergraduate and graduate federal and private student loans.
Nurses can apply for loan repayment online through the NHSC website. You’ll need to provide detailed information about your loans and supporting documentation to verify your work history and income.
Learn more about how to pay for college.