When you pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, you are making an investment in your career that is likely to pay dividends in the future. However, you understandably may want to make sure you have a plan for paying for the degree before you commit to a program.
If you are interested in earning your DNP, consider these eight strategies to make the degree more affordable:
Look at your budget
When you decide to apply to a DNP program, the first step is to take a look at your budget and identify areas where you can cut back. You may find that little changes, such as bringing a lunch from home each day or taking advantage of public transportation options can add up quickly, leaving more of your income for tuition.
If you currently do not have a budget, now is the time to make one. Establishing good spending habits before you start your program will help ensure that more of your income goes toward your education rather than unnecessary expenses.
Take advantage of tax credits
If your budget isn’t stretching quite as far as you would like, be sure that you are factoring in educational tax credits that you may qualify for when in school. Under the American Opportunity Tax Credit, for instance, you may qualify for up to $2,500 in annual credit each year while in school. It is available for up to four post-secondary years of education.
Choose an online program
You may find that continuing to work full- or part-time will be the best option for offsetting the cost of tuition — while simultaneously continuing to gain valuable workplace experience. To make work more manageable while pursuing your degree, consider enrolling in an online DNP program. By completing your degree remotely, you will be able to complete coursework, listen to lectures and take tests at the time and place of your choosing. This option can be especially beneficial if you do not have a fixed schedule. Managing day shifts one week and night shifts the next may be challenging if you take courses at a physical location, but through an online program, your academic schedule can change alongside your professional commitments.
Programs, such as Bradley University’s online DNP, also offer cost savings in a number of other ways. For instance, you do not need to worry about the expense of commuting or relocating to a physical location when you study remotely.
Apply for grants and scholarships
A number of private and public organizations want to help you finance your nursing degree. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), some groups that offer scholarships include the following:
- American Cancer Society.
- AfterCollege/AACN Nursing Scholarship Program.
- Oncology Nursing Society Foundation.
- CPR Certification Institute.
- National Black Nurses Association.
Be sure to check for scholarship opportunities with local health care organizations, as well.
Explore federal and state aid options
Federal and state aid also may be available to help with the cost of your DNP degree. You will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — the FAFSA — to qualify for this type of aid.You also should explore loan forgiveness programs, examples of which include the following:
- Disadvantaged Faculty Loan Repayment Program (DFLRP).
- The State Nursing Assumption Program of Loans for Education (SNAPLE).
- The Army Nurse Corp.
Additionally, a number of states sponsor loan forgiveness programs. You can learn more about those options and other state-specific nursing education information at the AACN’s State Resources page.
Find a workplace that will help
You are not the only person who recognizes the value of pursuing a doctorate. Your workplace also benefits from your higher nursing degree and, consequently, may be willing to help offset the cost. Some health care organizations offer tuition assistance to nurses who want to earn a related degree. Becker’s Hospital Review reported that some of the hospitals that offer this perk include Advocate Health Care (Oak Brook, Ill.), Andrews Institute Ambulatory Surgery Center (Gulf Breeze, Fla.), Baptist Health South Florida (Coral Gables, Fla.), Children’s Medical Center (Dallas), Geisinger Health (Danville, Pa.) and Kansas Heart Hospital (Wichita, Kan.). No matter the size of your workplace, it is worth looking into.
If you currently are job searching or considering switching workplaces, tuition assistance may be something to consider when making a decision. Not only does the assistance show that the organization wants to invest in your career as a nurse, but it will help make a DNP program more affordable.
Consider graduate loans
Even with grants, scholarships and other forms of assistance, you still may come up a little short. In that case, you do not need to put off your educational pursuits. Graduate student loans are options that, when used wisely, can be a solid investment in your career.
If you have questions about loans, scholarships, federal aid or any other component of paying for your Bradley University DNP degree, contact the Student Financial Services office at (309) 677-3089.