Inside Today’s Most Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs

Find low-cost, high-quality online RN to MSN programs that can help you take the next step in your nursing career and learn about other ways to keep college costs down.

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Timon Kaple

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Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.

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Earning an online RN to MSN degree opens doors to higher-level positions, increases earning potential, and provides the opportunity to specialize. And while going back to college to get your bachelor’s and master’s may seem financially out-of-reach, there are many accredited, affordable online RN to MSN programs that can help minimize costs and allow you to keep working.

This guide will point you toward quality, budget-friendly online RN to MSN programs that can help you achieve your career goals without overpaying. You’ll also find tips on how to limit student debt and obtain financial aid and discounts to keep more cash in your pocket as you make your way toward graduation.

Most Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs for 2023

Paying for college can seem daunting, and affordability is often a top consideration. This rankings list can help you locate the most affordable online RN to MSN programs. Using the latest information from IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System), we chose schools based on several key educational quality and cost metrics. For more information on our ranking methodology, click the “About the ranking” button below.

What Makes an Online RN to MSN Program Affordable?

Many factors affect the overall cost of your RN to MSN program. Understanding what makes an RN to MSN program affordable can help keep your tuition and college expenses in check.

How much financial aid you can secure for your online RN to MSN program

Financial aid, especially grants and scholarships, can go a long way in offsetting the cost of your RN to MSN program. Apply for any available awards through your graduate school but also at the local, regional, and national levels. Apply for as many scholarships for which you qualify. Remember that you can apply for scholarships and grants even after you enter a program, and many sources offer awards for both new and continuing nursing students.

Whether you live in-state or-out-of-state

Some programs offer online learners the same tuition rates as in-state students no matter where they live. In most cases, however, out-of-state students pay more than in-state students. For example, the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s tuition rates for out-of-state learners are more than double than those for Tennessee residents. For exclusively online learners, however, out-of-state students pay only about $55 more per credit than in-state online students.

How much it costs to apply

RN to MSN programs usually require an application fee of $30 to $75. If you apply to several programs, those fees can add up to quite a bit. Save some money by narrowing your search and applying to fewer schools overall. Pick those nursing programs where you’re a strong competitor and those with low or no application fees.

If the RN to MSN program has a class schedule that allows you to continue working

Many RN to MSN programs offer part-time and flexible options for professional RNs who want to work while they’re in school. These options may not be available for all RN to MSN programs, however, so check out those scheduling details before applying.

How much of the RN to MSN program coursework is offered online

In general, you’ll probably spend less on commuting costs and incidentals if you earn your RN to MSN mostly or entirely online. You’ll also spend less on day-to-day necessities and indulgences like coffee or eating at cafes and restaurants. Keep an eye out for programs that have some in-person requirements and what that might entail in terms of costs.

If the nursing grad school is private or public

Tuition rates for nursing programs at private institutions are typically higher than at public colleges and universities. During the 2018-2019 school year, the average tuition at private schools for full-time learners was about $35,700. In-state learners attending public institutions paid an average of $9,700, while out-of-state students at public institutions paid about $21,600.

How to Lower the Cost of Your Online RN to MSN Degree

Make your online RN to MSN degree more affordable often comes down to pooling your resources and exhausting all potential avenues for financial aid. Keep these cost-saving strategies in mind to help you lower the cost of your online RN to MSN degree.

  1. Search for scholarships and grants designed specifically for nursing students and your specific demographic.

There are many local, regional, and national scholarships reserved specifically for nursing students. Some organizations even have scholarships for MSN degree-seekers specifically. You can also find scholarships for BIPOC students or learners who live in a particular county or state. Take time to locate and research all of your options, including those detailed in EduMed’s nursing scholarship guide.

  1. Ask about RN to MSN tuition reimbursement programs

Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities have tuition reimbursement programs that cover a solid amount of an RN to MSN program’s tuition. It’s in their best interest to retain top talent and up-level current nurses to higher level positions, even if it means footing the bill for their employee’s education. Great examples include Vanderbilt Hospital which covers up to $8k per year in tuition costs and Los Angeles County Hospital (up to $3K per year). Talk to your current employer to see what they offer.

  1. Look for nursing student discounts

Discounts and perks abound for nursing students at all stages of education. Take advantage of these discounts and other benefits to help make your RN to MSN program more affordable. From hotel and travel insurance discounts to discounts on certification courses and nursing supplies, many organizations thank nursing students and professionals for their critical roles in healthcare with excellent discounts.