LPN, LVN to RN Scholarships
Scholarships for nursing education programs are plentiful these days, as the health care industry is growing fast and many nurses are reaching retirement age. As more positions for registered nurses (RNs) open up, the possibility for licensed vocational nurses to get further education and become RNs grows easier and more lucrative. There are lots of education programs to help lower-level nurses upgrade to become RNs or even advanced practice nurses, but the programs aren’t cheap, and they do take time. Scholarships and grants can help cover some of the financial burden of nursing school, and since nurses earn good salaries, taking on student loans isn’t necessarily a bad idea either.
Sources of Money to Pay for LVN to RN Education
There are a few traditional sources of student financial aid that most prospective students explore, as well as myriad options for securing loan repayment after the fact. The most prominent sources of student financial aid are:
- U.S. Government: Billions of dollars of the government budget go towards education every year, and a substantial chunk of that is paid out in the form of Stafford and Perkins loans and Pell grants, which are the main instruments of student financial aid. These loans and grants are all covered by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that all students should fill out before applying for colleges.
- Colleges Themselves: Colleges usually offer merit based scholarships to students who got good grades and showed initiative in high school or in other aspects of their lives. A nurse with some years of work as an LVN under his or her belt could qualify for merit scholarships based on their dedication to health care.
- Private Organizations: A quick Google search can help you find some independent scholarship options, and professional organizations like the American Association of Colleges of Nursing maintain lists of scholarships, grants, and other offerings for nursing students.
Of course, many people pay out of pocket for college as well, and if you have the money, that’s a fine choice. But with all this free money available, ripe for the taking, why not apply for a few scholarships?
Professional Nursing Communities and Organizations
One of the best ways to build up a network of professional contacts who can help you find jobs, scholarships, and other connections in the nursing industry is by joining a membership organization. There are plenty of these organizations for nurses, and they usually have resource-rich websites and even more resources available for members. Some examples are:
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: This organization positions itself as the “national voice for America’s baccalaureate – and higher-degree nursing education.” Their website offers lists of scholarships and up to date news about nursing education, laws that affect the nursing community, and general nursing updates. The AACN is also host to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) which is an accrediting agency approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education to accredit nursing schools.
- American Nursing Association: The American Nursing Association (ANA)provides similar online resources to those of The AACN, with links to policy documents and career building resources.
- Academy of Neonatal Nursing: This is an organization that focuses on a particular niche of nursing. There are such organizations for nearly every nursing specialty, and they offer workshops and events where nurses in the specialty can connect and share professional knowledge or ideas.
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses: This organization focuses on critical care nurses, which tend to have more advanced degrees than RNs or LVNs. This site, with all the others mentioned here, is a good resource for people who are already nurses and are looking to make professional connections and make an upward or lateral career move.
Professional and personal networking are widely acknowledged as the best way to find new jobs and get promotions. By knowing people in your career and letting them know your expertise and interests, you make it more likely that they will think of you when a job opens up.
How Much Student Aid Money Is Available?
Short answer: A LOT.
The government alone gives out billions in loans and grants each year, and many universities have large endowments, usually provided by private donors, that they put towards scholarships and other expenses. Here are some of the numbers you should know when you start looking into financial aid options:
- $5,500/Semester: Maximum of a Pell Grant per issuing cycle. This grant can be renewed every year for students who meet certain qualifications. This grant can also be issued for much less money, depending on the demonstrated financial need of the recipient.
- $31,000: This is the total amount an undergraduate student with “dependent” tax status can borrow in the form of Stafford and Perkins loans over the entire duration of their education. $23,000 of this may be in the form of subsidized loans, meaning that amount will not begin accruing interest until after the student has left school and finished the six month grace period. An independent student (i.e. one whose parents do not claim them as a dependent on tax forms) can borrow $57,500 with the same cap on subsidized loans.
- $138,500: This is the maximum amount a graduate or professional degree student may borrow for the duration of their education in the form of Stafford and Perkins loans. Only $65,500 of this may be in the form of subsidized loans.
- 3.4%: The current interest rate on Federal Direct Loans. This rate is fixed and will continue to apply to loans issued at least through June 20, 2013.
- $2,500: The American Opportunity tax credit allows eligible students to write off their education expenses up to $2,500 to offset the cost of books, educational supplies, and tuition.
While government student aid isn’t exactly a “scholarship” it is certainly a great way for most students to partially finance their educations. However, even low-interest debt can become overwhelming, and there is no way out of student debt. Even filing bankruptcy does not erase student loans, so be cautious about how much you take on.
Statistics About Student Loans in the U.S.
There’s a controversial discussion going on in the media about student loans and the skyrocketing debt that students are taking on to pay for higher education. The issue has become polar, and many are arguing for total loan forgiveness, but the fact is that there are many angles in the student debt debate.
The average amount of student debt per borrower in 2011 was $23,300. Surprisingly, the most popular Ivy League schools such as Princeton and Yale have lower average debt for undergrads than some less prestigious schools, according to a New York Times article from May, 2012. This could be due to the large endowments that characterize colleges with wealthy students and patrons.
College tuition prices have inflated higher and faster than nearly any commodity for the past two decades, and many scholars and pundits are making noises about the unsustainability of the system. The graph below, from the New York Times, based on BLS data, shows the meteoric rise of tuition prices at state colleges:
Minimizing Costs versus Accumulating Debt
Ideally, a nurse with some LVN experience should be able to use work experience and previous education to get some credit-hours knocked off their RN degree, thereby minimizing the costs of returning to school. Paying less overall is a far better option than taking on debt.
Getting scholarships is great as well, but can be time consuming and stressful. Make sure you’ve got the support of family and friends and have a good plan in place when you start looking for financial aid, because the process itself can take an emotional toll. When you’re ready to finally start applying for programs, definitely contact the financial aid office at any schools you consider. Financial aid office representatives can give you paperwork to apply for any scholarships offered by their institution, and may be able to offer advice on other places to seek scholarships, grants, and loans from to finance your educational upgrade.
Online Nursing Bridge Programs
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