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Online MSN Degrees with Financial Aid: Find Top Schools for 2024

Your MSN program tuition shouldn’t stand in the way of taking the next step in your nursing career. The three programs below have generous financial aid options to make it possible.

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Author: Jenna Tidd
Editor: Kari Scare

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A woman wearing glasses and a blue shirt is sitting at a desk, looking at a computer monitor. The background features large windows with a view of greenery and plants near the desk.

An online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program can open doors to positions of authority in healthcare in as little as one year. An MSN allows you to focus your time and skills on your preferred nursing specialty, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. The cost of advanced education can be daunting, though, and may even make you question your aspirations of mastering your field. Fortunately, it is possible to further your career without financial stress and massive debt.

This guide can help you get the scholarships and resources you need. The three schools highlighted below offer both quality online MSN programs and a variety of financial aid options for students of all kinds. In addition, the three most common types of financial aid are explained to give you a basic understanding of each and where to find them. The guide also shares helpful tips on making the most of your benefits and navigating the financial aid process with minimal anxiety. Keep reading for the need-to-know information on how to pay for your online MSN degree without breaking the bank.

A Look at 3 Online MSN Programs with Financial Aid

To help you in your search for an affordable online MSN program, the three schools below have quality programs that accept financial aid and offer multiple funding options. With details on tuition costs, scholarships, grants, and more, this list gives you an idea of what kind of aid is available.

Ohio State University

The College of Nursing at Ohio State University offers a high-quality MSN program that prepares students for advanced practice nursing in settings such as hospitals, clinics, and private practices. It includes an online format for three specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

The program cost (including tuition and fees) for Ohio residents with full-time enrollment is about $53,000. For out-of-state students, the cost is about $54,000. Part-time enrollment costs substantially more with in-state part-time students paying about $80,400 and out-of-state students about $82,000.

The school accepts state and federal aid in the form of scholarships, loans, grants, and a work-study program. Financial aid is available for incoming freshmen, transfers, international students, and online students. The College of Nursing also offers a variety of scholarships, both need-based and merit-based. Students only need to apply once to be matched up to the appropriate scholarships.

Saint Xavier University

Logo of Saint Xavier University in Illinois featuring a shield with a checkered pattern and a cross, flanked by the name of the university in green and white.

Saint Xavier University’s School of Nursing offers an online MSN program with a nurse practitioner track and a nurse educator track. This top-ranked program is #3 in the nation for online MSN programs, according to the U.S. News and World Report. The nurse practitioner track lasts three years and consists of 47 credits, while the nurse educator track requires 38 credit hours. Tuition for both programs is $750 per credit hour, making their total costs about $35,250 and $28,500 respectively.

Financial aid includes scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans. Incoming freshmen are eligible for merit awards, and students who complete their Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) typically receive additional funding. Saint Xavier also offers many scholarships according to the type of student, major, and more.

University of South Carolina

If high-quality education is a priority, then the online MSN program at the University of South Carolina should be at the top of your list. The school’s online master’s program, according to U.S. News and World Report, ranks #1 in the nation. It also offers six specializations along with a direct entry option. Tuition for South Carolina residents with full-time enrollment is $6,867 per semester while non-resident, full-time students pay $14,880 per semester. Part-time tuition is $572.25 per credit hour.

In addition to its stellar nursing program, the university also offers many financial aid options. It accepts state and federal aid, participates in the federal work-study program, and offers institutional scholarships and grants that address the needs of first-generation students, lower-middle-income, and outstanding high school students. The university also has scholarships for state residents, non-residents, and dependents of school staff members.

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Financial Aid for MSN Students: Most Common Types

When planning how to pay for your MSN program, you’ll most likely research healthcare scholarships, but they may not be enough to cover your costs. To help you take charge of your financial aid and find funding that meets your needs as a nursing student, the three most common types, where they come from, and how they can benefit you, are explained below along with examples and resources to get your search started.

Scholarships

When paying for an MSN degree, scholarships have tremendous benefits. They don’t need to be repaid, and they significantly enhance your resume by showing employers that you have extraordinary potential in your field. If you’ve already chosen your school, it may offer institutional scholarships, some of which may be designated for nursing students or the MSN program specifically. Private scholarships, usually coming from foundations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations, are also good sources of field-specific funding. Another option, federal scholarships, are typically more general and therefore more competitive. Find government scholarships for nursing by checking out resources in your home state.

Grants

Grants are like scholarships in that they don’t need to be paid back. They are usually awarded based on financial need. The federal government gives out substantial grants that may allow you to attend a better school, and some states have individual grant programs for state residents. You may also find nursing grants through nonprofit organizations since they often dedicate funds to individual fields. Certain schools also offer nursing grants to students facing financial challenges. Applying for field-specific or even degree-specific grants may increase your chances of receiving them due to a smaller pool of applicants.

Loans

The third major type of financial aid is student loans, which must be repaid. In general, federal student loans are preferred for their lower interest rates, especially subsidized loans that don’t accrue interest while you’re in school. Private loans, like those issued by banks, typically have much higher interest rates that can result in significant debt. If federal loans fail to cover expenses, private loans can help make up the difference. However, taking on excessive debt may influence future career decisions if you choose positions to pay off your loans instead of expanding your skills or working in your preferred specialty.

An Eligibility & Application Checklist for Students

Each form of financial aid has its unique requirements, but most also have some general steps in common. In addition to using your best habits for staying organized, the checklist below gives you more detail and creates an overview of the process to help you find and receive funding quickly and smoothly.

Complete the FAFSA Early

The FAFSA is the first step towards receiving federal aid, and colleges use it to determine your eligibility for institutional scholarships and grants. Filling out your FAFSA early can result in being awarded scholarships sooner, which allows you to plan out your finances more effectively. At a minimum, submitting it early reduces the chances of making mistakes caused by a frantic, last-minute rush to submit it on time.

Thoroughly Review Eligibility Criteria & Requirements

Each type of financial aid has specific application requirements as well as conditions to maintain eligibility. You must determine if you’re eligible, submit all the requested documents, and make sure you can meet the conditions to continue receiving payments after being awarded the aid package. If you don’t, you may waste time submitting ineligible applications and miss out on valuable financial opportunities.

Check Deadlines and Apply Early

Financial aid deadlines may conflict with other important school deadlines, so applying early prevents you from missing a submission or scrambling to get it in on time. This conscientious approach also shows the financial aid committee that you take your education seriously and deserve to be given aid. In cases where awards are given out on a first-come, first-served basis, you stand a much better chance of being awarded funding when you submit before the deadline.

Gather All Necessary Documents

Many scholarship applications for MSN programs include several types of documents, including transcripts, standardized test scores, a personal essay, financial information, and letters of recommendation. Assembling all these may take some time, so prepare them beforehand to streamline the application process and allow you to submit them early. It also minimizes the risk of making a mistake that could render your application ineligible.

Receive Feedback on Supplemental Materials

When applying for aid for an MSN program, getting feedback and advice on the written portions (e.g., essays and statements of purpose) may be especially helpful. A teacher or mentor can suggest ways to emphasize your skills, accomplishments, and goals with targeted language that shows their relevance. The goal is to stand out from other applicants by presenting yourself as the most deserving candidate.

Review Award Letters

After being awarded a financial aid package, you’ll receive an official award letter from the school explaining critical details about your aid. It will state the type and amount as well as any terms for maintaining eligibility to continue receiving payments. An award letter also explains how to accept or decline the aid, and it helps you compare offers from multiple schools.