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Funding Your CNA Program with Financial Aid

Learn about online schools that offer financial aid and scholarships to CNA students and how to qualify for federal financial assistance.


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Whether you’re fresh out of high school and are just starting to consider a career that involves helping people or are looking to transition to a field that allows you to make a positive impact every day, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program is a practical and affordable option for entering the allied healthcare field.

The question is, how do you pay for it? Even an accelerated professional program at a public college can cost a couple thousand dollars.

Luckily, you have access to a number of financial aid resources. From federal financial aid to private scholarships, you shouldn’t let the sticker price of school prevent you from taking on a vital role in a challenging — and growing — field. Keep reading to explore CNA classes that offer financial aid. Plus, find answers to some of our readers’ most pressing questions and profiles of several standout CNA programs.

CNA Schools with Financial Aid Support

When searching for the right CNA program with financial aid, focus on schools that offer robust options. Whether the program is online, hybrid, or on campus, the best CNA schools supply quality academics at an affordable price.

Additionally, standout CNA schools that offer financial aid also hold both institutional and programmatic accreditation, and their nursing programs are approved by their state’s board of nursing. Accreditation acts as a stamp of approval, ensuring your investment is worth it.

In the following section, we spotlight three schools offering top-notch CNA training programs and financial aid opportunities that expand access to these programs. Continue reading to see which schools stand out.

Florida State College at Jacksonville

Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) is home to a nursing assistant program that students can complete through in-person or hybrid options. With traditional classroom learning and hands-on training, FSCJ students hone their skills to jump start their healthcare careers and pass Florida’s CNA certification exam.

CNA students at FSCJ complete two courses: basic healthcare worker and nursing assistant. In addition to standard coursework, CNA-certificate seekers complete 40 hours of experiential learning at an approved clinical site. FSCJ holds institutional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, as well as programmatic accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Alongside standard financial aid options, FSCJ offers need-based grants for skilled training, scholarships, and financial resources for international and refugee students and students in welfare transition programs. FSCJ also offers tuition installment plans for CNA students.

State Fair Community College

Established in 1966, State Fair Community College (SFCC) is a public institution that serves students in and around Sedalia, Missouri. Among their academic offerings is a nursing assistant program that offers both tiered certificates and associate degree tracks for healthcare-minded students. SFCC offers a 16.5-credit nurse aid skills certificate, a 31.5-credit CNA professional certificate, and an AAS in healthcare with a nurse aid specialization. These programs are available at the school’s main campus and online.

The core nursing classes for each academic pathway include medical terminology, CPR for healthcare providers, and extensive clinical experiences. A healthcare associate degree is a solid option for students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the future, as it knocks out various general education requirements.

SFCC students can access federal financial aid opportunities, and the school spotlights various scholarships and grants. SFCC holds institutional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, and the nursing program is approved by the Missouri Board of Nursing.

Howard Community College

With its home base in Columbia, Maryland, Howard Community College (HCC) offers a certified nursing assistant program that prepares students with the professional skills they need to work collaboratively in various healthcare settings. You can complete this affordable CNA training option in six to eight weeks.

The program blends traditional classroom learning with extensive learning opportunities at various clinical sites. Students complete 100 hours of standard theoretical coursework and 45 hours of hands-on clinical training. Prospective students must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or GED, and provide proof of standard immunizations.

Alongside traditional financial aid options, HCC facilitates scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities, including the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship. HCC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The nursing program is approved by the Maryland Board of Nursing and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Alternative Financing for Your CNA Education

The traditional route for financial aid—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and federal loans—is a great place to start when figuring out how to fund a CNA program. That said, other financial resources are available for students who need them. From state-based grants and aid programs to payment plans and scholarships, with a bit of work, the cost of tuition won’t stifle your ambition for a healthcare career.

The following section highlights various alternative resources to help finance your CNA education. Further on in this guide, we look closely at CNA-specific scholarships and some tips on standing out when submitting your applications. Keep reading to learn how you can cut costs and fund your CNA training program with financial aid.

Employer training programs

Because CNAs are in high demand at long-term-care and nursing home facilities, many of these healthcare groups provide training for new employees ready to jump start their healthcare careers. Access to this type of training varies by location; reach out to local long-term-care facilities and nursing homes to see if they offer free training.

Government-funded aid programs

The federal government typically funds grants, loans, and work-study programs and distributes funding based on financial need. To be eligible for federal funding, students must first submit their FAFSA and include information such as their social security number, federal tax return, and other financial documents. In addition to loans, grants, and work-study funding, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act expanded employment, education, training, and support opportunities so more students could access high-quality jobs.

State financial aid

At the state level, CNA students can tap into funding from government initiatives to expand educational access and assist students with professional training through tax credits, grants, and scholarships. Additionally, some states offer tuition-free training for students who meet need-based requirements. These financial aid opportunities vary dramatically between states; investigate whether your state provides financial aid for CNA students.

Payment plans

To help mitigate the financial burden of CNA tuition rates, most accredited institutions offer tuition payment plans that allow you to pay throughout the academic year. Breaking up tuition costs over several months can minimize the need for loans. This option inevitably saves you money in the long run because you won’t accrue interest like you would with student loans.

Private scholarships

Private scholarships are another popular way to help fund CNA training. Scholarships are highly desirable because they don’t have to be paid back. In the following section, we discuss grants and scholarships for CNA students, provide application tips, and highlight various CNA scholarships and grants you might want to consider.

Grants & Scholarships for CNA Students

While CNA students have access to an array of financial aid resources, grants and scholarships should receive some special attention. Why? For the simple reason that they’re essentially free money. Sure, some scholarships have strings attached, such as agreeing to spend some time working with underserved populations. But for many students, scholarships and grants can play a significant role when deciding whether to enroll in a CNA program.

Just because CNA programs are relatively short—typically only two to four months—doesn’t mean the cost is insignificant. Continue reading as we spotlight eight annual scholarships that expand nursing education access.

ACLS Scholarship for Healthcare Providers

This essay contest scholarship is available to CNA students. Applicants submit a 750- to 1,000-word essay discussing emergency care and how to manage high-stress situations.

Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

Facilitated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, this annual award is earmarked for three students who demonstrate financial need. Applicants must be admitted into a nursing program.

Certified Nursing Assistant Scholarship

The Mercer Foundation for Health offers an annual scholarship for Illinois-based CNA students. Applicants must include two letters of recommendation, complete an interview, and answer an essay question.

FNSNA Scholarship Program

Offered by the Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association, this award is earmarked for students pursuing various nursing degrees or diplomas. Strong applicants typically demonstrate academic achievement and financial need.

Nurse Corps Scholarship Program

This scholarship is offered through the Health Resources and Services Administration. It’s ideal for students with financial need who are ready to work in an underserved area upon completing their nursing program.

Nurses Make a Difference Scholarship

Cascade Healthcare Solutions offers nursing students a $1,000 annual scholarship. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited nursing program with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Interested students apply online and must include a short essay about their career goals.

Nursing Scholarship

The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team offers an annual scholarship for current or future CNA students. Applicants write a short essay outlining their interest in a healthcare career and how a CNA program can help on their journey.

Application Tips for CNA Scholarships

Applying for scholarships is a competitive process. It’s fair to assume a correlation between scholarship amounts and competitiveness: the more significant the award, the more applicants you’ll compete against.

As a result, standout scholarship applications are devoid of simple mistakes. Quality applications provide all requisite information while showcasing a scholarship candidate who will use the funding well. The section below highlights some of the best practices when crafting a scholarship application. Keep reading to review some critical focus areas.

Apply Early

Pay close attention to scholarship deadlines, and be sure to give yourself enough time to craft a thorough application. As many scholarships have similar deadlines, waiting until the last minute may create a situation where you’re juggling multiple applications simultaneously. The best practice is to apply early to ensure you submit the best application possible.

Make Sure You Are Eligible

Most scholarships lay out eligibility requirements, which can vary dramatically between awards. Some standard eligibility requirements include GPA, specific major, gender, race, and financial need. Before you take the time to craft your application, be sure you meet the scholarship’s requirements.

Satisfy All the Requirements

In addition to ensuring that you’re eligible, many scholarships require you to include various documents. While these requirements vary between awards, you can expect to supply academic transcripts and a résumé spotlighting work experience, volunteer work, and any extracurricular activities. Additionally, many scholarships have a minimum GPA that applicants must meet.

Make it Personal

Alongside documents like transcripts and résumés, many scholarships request that you craft a short essay answering specific questions about why you deserve the financial award. This essay is your opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. Be sure your essay is clear and personal and directly answers any questions.

Have a Friend or Family Member Proofread Your Work

The most glaring (and avoidable) mistakes you can make on a scholarship application are omitting requested information and submitting an application with spelling and grammatical errors. Before submitting your application, have someone close to you review your work. Scholarships are competitive, so be sure you include all necessary information and eliminate avoidable mistakes.

Financial Aid & Funding: A Q&A for Students

Whether you’re enrolling in CNA classes that offer financial aid or a four-year bachelor’s program, you’ll have plenty of questions when figuring out how to pay for your upcoming classes. Plus, if you’re new to funding higher education, you’ll inevitably be bombarded with a long list of financial aid-related lingo—FAFSA, scholarships, grants, work-study, payment plans, public and private loans, etc. For the uninitiated, this can feel a bit overwhelming.

In the section below, we’ll try to clarify some of the confusion in hopes of making the process of paying for college less daunting. These are the most popular questions that students ask:

Am I eligible for financial aid?

The first step in determining if you’re eligible for financial aid begins with completing the FAFSA. In addition to determining whether you can secure federal loans, grants, and work-study funding, most accredited institutions use FAFSA information to award in-house scholarships. You must complete the FAFSA each year you’re in school.

Are my CNA classes eligible for financial aid?

The cost of your tuition at accredited CNA programs typically is eligible for financial aid. That said, if you attend a for-profit CNA program, you may not qualify.

How do payment plans work?

Payment plans for your CNA program vary between schools. Schools set tuition payment policies and typically allow students to use tuition installment plans divided into monthly payments. This is a solid option for individuals who can’t pay the semester’s bill all at once but prefer not to take out loans to cover tuition costs.

Additional Financial Aid Resources for CNA Students

For many prospective students, securing financial aid is the difference between enrolling in a CNA program or not. As a result, the more knowledge you have, the better. Continue reading to check out additional resources, tools, and content to help you on your journey toward a CNA career.