Are you considering going back to school to pursue a nursing degree? If so, you’re likely well aware that a wide range of online nursing schools exist to help you do so. But while your academic and professional opportunities in nursing may be limitless, we know that your budget probably isn’t. That’s why we’ve written this guide about how you can get the nursing education you need, without getting buried by debt, at an online nursing school that accepts financial aid.
Many online nursing schools accept the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA), and offer institutional scholarships, grants, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid to help bring down costs. While each program differs in their offerings and options for financial aid, you’re bound to find one that best fits your needs. Kick off your search for a cost-effective nursing program by browsing the schools we’ve featured below for nursing students of all levels.
Online ADN Programs with Financial Aid
One of the quickest ways to start your nursing career is by pursuing an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Several online and hybrid ADN programs exist that accept FAFSA and financial aid. Since ADN programs often cost less, you can expect pay less upfront for your education while still taking advantage of financial aid options.
It’s important to understand that while these programs offer most of their coursework online, part of any nursing program is in-person clinicals. The clinical component will look different at every school—for some programs, you may be able to complete the clinical component in your hometown, while others will require you to travel to designated partnering facilities. Let’s take a look at some of the top AND programs available today, how they’re structured, and what financial aid they can offer you.
Dallas College offers an associate degree program in nursing with the option to take additional perioperative nursing coursework, a feature unique to Dallas College that opens further career opportunities in the surgical setting.
While Dallas College offers several required courses online, it is still considered a hybrid option. The college notes that most prerequisites and supporting courses are available online, however, there are on-campus requirements. For example, the dosage calculations course must be completed in person.
Dallas College offers several financial aid options, including grants, scholarships, work-study, direct loans, and support services to help offset the costs of tuition, materials, and living. The Dallas College Foundation was also established to help support students through financial emergencies and requires only a simple application. The online nursing school also accepts FAFSA and other types of financial aid.
Excelsior University offers two online associate degree programs in nursing: the Associate Degree in Nursing and the Associate Degree in Applied Science in Nursing. Both are appropriate for individuals with healthcare backgrounds, including licensed vocational nurses and paramedics.
While there are several similarities between the two programs, they have slight differences in their general education requirements. A key benefit of both programs is the option to complete the coursework online in eight-week courses.
It is important to note that Excelsior University has healthcare experience requirements for admission to the program. Accepted healthcare licenses/backgrounds include licensed vocational nurse (LVN), paramedics, and those with military experience equivalent in scope to an LVN or paramedic certification.
The program is currently offered in a select number of states so, you’ll want to confirm your state is on the list before applying.
Lastly, a key highlight of the nursing program at Excelsior is its wide array of financial aid options. This online nursing school accepts FAFSA and encourages students to seek additional sources of financial aid through scholarships, partner organizations, military discounts, private grants and loans, and payment plans.
Rasmussen University’s hybrid ADN program is offered primarily online, coupled with in-person simulations and clinical experiences at one of their 17 campuses. Rasmussen University offers several start times at their various campuses, making it easy to start at a time that suits your schedule and existing obligations. Practicing LPNs can take advantage of the LPN to RN bridge program. Students entering the program without any post-secondary education can complete all necessary pre-nursing coursework as part of the program.
Rasmussen University not only accepts FAFSA but offers several options for financial aid and many ways to save. You can pay significantly less for your program if you or your partner are in the military, you work for a partner corporation that offers discounts through Rasmussen University, or if you transfer credits.
Unique to Rasmussen is its Transfer and Other Knowledge Credit Program™ that allows students to pay a small fee to take assessments demonstrating mastery of, and receiving credit for, a corresponding course. Rasmussen University estimates indicate that students who took self-directed assessments save an average of $1,640 in 2020. You can also get credit for professional certifications and military experience relevant to your degree program.
Online BSN Programs with Financial Aid
While you can work as a nurse with an ADN, many employers require or strongly encourage nursing staff to either have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or plan to complete one. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) explains several advantages of furthering your education and receiving a BSN, including sharpening your critical thinking, leadership, and case management skills, and learning to work across a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings. Note that if a BSN is a requirement at your place of work, many employers will cover part or all of the cost. So, while it is wise to be aware of online nursing schools that accept FAFSA and offer strong financial aid programs, also look into tuition reimbursement through your employer.
The diverse programs listed below include options for those pursuing nursing with or without an associate degree or diploma in nursing.
Herzing University offers several online BSN programs. If this you are just entering the nursing world, you can enroll in their BSN program as a student with no nursing background. Or, if you already have your ADN, you can explore their online RN-BSN completion program. Likewise, if you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field under your belt, you have the option to enroll in their direct entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). But your options don’t end there. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree but know you want to pursue a graduate nursing degree, you can also earn dual credits towards an MSN through their BSN program.
So, regardless of your career goals, Herzing has you covered! With a flexible, remote-friendly BSN program, you are only required to be on campus during three intensives at either a Herzing location or a partner site. Clinicals are also in-person at various placement sites.
As an online nursing school that accepts FAFSA and offers financial aid, Herzing has several options to help make nursing school affordable regardless of the degree path you choose. Military and veteran discounts, scholarships, and grants are just some of the many funding opportunities available right at your fingertips.
University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) has an innovative and accelerated online BSN program. While the courses are offered online, clinical placements must be completed at partner institutions throughout Texas. One of the goals of the partner institutions is to train graduates who require less orientation and training time at these specific sites. Like Herzing University, UTA also offers an online RN-BSN program for students who hold an active nursing license and want to obtain their BSN.
This program is a great option if you live in Texas, prefer to enroll in online courses, and want to complete your BSN in an accelerated format—students can graduate with their BSN in as few as 15 months!
UTA believes tuition should be affordable and is an online nursing program that accepts several options for financial aid. Additionally, once you enroll in the nursing program at UTA and continue without interruption, your tuition rate is locked in for the duration of your program. UTA is an online nursing school that accepts FAFSA and has other forms of financial aid. These include various scholarships, grants, and a student work-study program.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University’s online RN-BSN program is a strong option for those who have already earned a nursing diploma or associate degree.
Like every nursing program, WGU’s field placement portion must be completed in person, but students have the ability to do so at established facilities in their local community. So, under most circumstances, you can complete the program without ever learning town.
Western Governors’ tuition structure is different from other schools. Instead of charging per credit hour or course, they charge per six-month term. You can advance through courses as quickly as you can complete them, allowing you to earn your degree at your pace—and likely faster than at other schools.
Additionally, several forms of financial aid are available. This online nursing school accepts FAFSA and financial aid through state grants, scholarships, and employer reimbursement, depending on your place of work.
Online MSN Programs with Financial Aid
One of the benefits of working in nursing is the option to further your education and your career. If you are interested in a leadership role, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can help set you apart and provide you with the necessary skill set.
The following programs are all offered through online nursing schools that accept FAFSA and other financial aid. While they differ in their program offerings, they all recognize that as a graduate student, you likely have additional work/life obligations outside school. As such, they’re designed to accommodate your lifestyle with flexible course offerings and affordable tuition.
If you are interested in pursuing a leadership role in nursing, consider one of the several online nursing programs from Drexel University. Drexel University’s Online Master of Nursing program offers four concentrations: Clinical Nurse Leader, Leadership in Health Systems Management, Nursing Education, and Quality, Safety, and Risk Management in Healthcare. These concentrations prepare students for various leadership positions, and are each eligible for financial aid. This online nursing program also accepts FAFSA. Additional savings are available for Drexel University alums, those in the military, and those involved with one of their partner organizations.
Walden University offers several master’s programs with concentrations for leadership roles, including the master’s concentration as a nurse executive as well as several nurse practitioner certifications.
Walden is unique in offering two learning formats — Tempo Learning® and course-based. While not all programs are available in Tempo Learning®, the benefit of this option is that it allows you to complete courses at your own, often accelerated pace.
There are options for traditional financial aid at Walden, too since Walden is another online nursing school that accepts FAFSA. The an online nursing program also accepts other forms of financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, depending on your program, to reduce the cost of graduate school.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University offers several online master’s programs, including an RN-MSN pathway for students who don’t have a BSN. You can complete classes at your own pace, move through courses as you complete them. For example, students in WGU’s leadership and management MSN program can complete the degree in as little as one year. This program is entirely online, and is supplemented by WGU’s innovative immersive virtual reality training to simulate real-life scenarios as well as traditional clinical practice experience.. If leadership and management aren’t your focus, there are several other MSN tracks, such as education, informatics, and nurse practitioner options.
Financial aid is available for all master’s degrees. As an online nursing school that accepts FAFSA and offers other forms of financial aid, WGU can help students graduate with little to no debt. Additionally, students’ ability to complete courses as quickly as they can master the material, allows them to save money they would otherwise have spent on classes whose material they already knew. This is possible because of WGU’s payment model, which charges students per six-month term instead of per credit.
WGU also offers several scholarships. And students don’t just save on tuition since you can have transcripts from several schools sent to them for free. With the waived application fee, you can also save money during the application process.
Online DNP and PhD Nursing Programs with Financial Aid
If you are interested in teaching, research, and academia, then a PhD in nursing is for you! Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) exist, too, and will suit you if you’re interested in taking your care and leadership skills to the next level. While many people mistakenly believe that there isn’t a difference between a PhD in nursing and a DNP, that’s not quite true. While both prepare you to teach and conduct research, a DNP tends to be more practice-based. You’ll often find DNP programs that are combined with nurse practitioner programs or that emphasize practice management and leadership. In contrast, PhD programs have an emphasis on training students to conduct independent research.
Regardless of your preference, both online DNP and PhD programs are a great option to take your nursing career to the next level. That’s why we’ve featured some of the best schools (with some of the best financial aid) that offer them below.
Duquesne University, a leader in online nursing education, has offered online PhDs for decades. They offer two traditional online nursing PhDs, the general PhD and the PhD in nursing ethics. Duquesne also provides an online DNP to PhD program option for those who already hold a DNP and are interested in moving into a more research-centric position. While an MSN is a preferred prerequisite, applicants with a BSN are still considered, however, additional coursework will likely be required.
If a DNP is what you’re more interested in, they also offer an online DNP program with two concentrations: clinical leadership or executive nurse leadership and health care management.
As an online nursing program that accepts financial aid, including the FAFSA, Duquesne University prides itself on their options for financial aid. Tuition discounts exist at various partner organizations and for students who belong to specific nursing organizations, such as the Transcultural Nursing Society. Duquesne University also offers graduate assistantships to decrease costs further and receives funding from the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP).
Those who apply for and accept NFLP funding and go on to teach full-time at a nursing school for four years can have the majority of their loans forgiven. NFLP funding is an excellent option for those who want to enter teaching and academia after graduating.
The University of Texas at Tyler
The University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler) offers both a BSN-PhD and MSN-PhD program. This nursing program is nearly entirely online, however, new and returning students are required to attend in-person workshops in the spring.
UT Tyler also offers a primarily online DNP program whose online coursework is supplemented by required in-person clinicals. However, these can typically be completed where the student resides. There may also be occasional on-campus visits required of DNP students. However, UT Tyler notes that students are notified of these visits well in advance.
UT Tyler offers a robust financial aid program and, as an online nursing school that accepts FAFSA, extends funding opportunities to fully, provisionally, or conditionally admitted degree-seeking students. The nursing school also accepts other forms of financial aid, including grants, loans, scholarships, work study, veteran benefits, fellowships, stipends, and graduate assistantships.
UT Tyler also offers the NFLP loan for those interested in teaching, although students must submit an additional application to be considered.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UW-Milwaukee) offers online and in-person PhD programs. Their online PhD program is available to both bachelor’s and master’s-prepared students. While students’ bachelor’s or master’s do not have to be in nursing, they must be in a health-related field.
For those with a bachelor’s degree, a sequence of courses is required before fully matriculating into the online PhD program. For more information on this path, you can meet with one of the school’s academic advisors who can help you plan a course of study suited to your situation.
While the in-person program admits students annually, the online PhD program only admits students in the summer term of odd years. The coursework is intended to be completed within three years in a cohort format. While the coursework itself is entirely online, two on-campus visits are required. On-campus visits take place at the beginning of the program for one week and again in the summer before the third year for two weeks.
UW-Milwaukee’s an online nursing program accepts not only FAFSA but other financial aid, including scholarships, grants, student employment, fellowships, military benefits, and more.
Like Duquesne University, UW-Milwaukee receives NFLP funding. This is an attractive option for those planning to pursue a career in teaching nursing since most of the loan is forgiven after four years of full-time employment.
If you’re more interested in a DNP program, UW-Milwaukee also offers an online DNP program for students with a master’s in nursing. For students with a bachelor’s, they also offer an in-person BSN-DNP program.
How to Find a Nursing School That Accepts Financial Aid
There are approximately 1,000 accredited nursing schools in the United States. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to narrow your choices. One of our top tips is to list what is most important to you in a school and search for those that offer the items on your list.
Since a program’s cost is a big part of the decision, consider which types of financial aid are the most important to you. For example, you could search terms such as “online nursing school that accepts FAFSA,” “online nursing program with graduate assistantships,” or “online nursing PhD with NFLP funding.” Online nursing programs that accept financial aid are important to be able to finish your degree.
Applying early offers many advantages. While some programs offer rolling admissions and several start dates throughout the year, others have strict deadlines for applications. Either way, it’s best to give yourself plenty of time to write, gather, and submit your application materials.
Make sure to check the requirements of the schools you are interested in applying to and apply well before the deadline. Applying early not only allows the admissions team to reach out if anything else is needed but also allows you time to speak with the financial aid office to understand better what options might be available. Some scholarships and financial aid options may also be offered on a first come, first serve basis.
It’s essential to confirm a school is appropriately accredited. Most nursing programs will be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). There’s some variation for advanced degrees, but typically, you want to look for CCNE or ACEN accreditation.
Programs can be in the process of gaining accreditation, be on probation, or in rare cases, lose accreditation. It is always a good idea to check your intended program’s accreditation status with the appropriate organization and ensure there aren’t any pending issues. A program’s accreditation status can have a major impact on whether or not you are eligible to receive financial aid and, down the road, whether your employers will feel confident in your qualifications.
Explore Schools’ Financial Aid Pages
Most nursing programs have information about financial aid options under a tab on their program information page. If they are part of a larger school, you may find more details by navigating to school’s main financial aid page.
If you’re unsure about the options available, contact the school’s financial aid office. Most online nursing programs accept financial aid and the financial aid office will be able to point you in the right direction and answer any questions you may have. While you may not be able to graduate debt-free, several options exist to help manage school debt.
Research Online Schools
Online programs are attractive because they usually fit better around students’ work and family obligations. If you’re looking to attend an online program, consider searching for terms such as “online BSN nursing program with financial aid.” This will help you narrow your search to include programs with an online component and financial aid without spending ours sifting through irrelevant search results.
Since online nursing programs are fairly common, you could narrow your search even further. For example, maybe you want an online school with a physical campus nearby so you don’t have to travel far for on-campus intensives. Or perhaps it’s really important for you to find an online nursing school that specifically accepts FAFSA. Play around with your search terms until you find an option that works for you.
Search FAFSA School Codes
A final tip is to search for FAFSA school codes. When filling out the FAFSA, each school has a designated code. If you’d prefer a complete, searchable list, Federal Student Aid provides a downloadable Excel spreadsheet with all the schools participating in FAFSA. If you already have a list of schools that interest you, this is a quick and convenient way to check that they accept federal financial aid.