Yes! Financial aid in the form of loans, grants, and scholarships (both merit and needs-based) is widely available for students pursing their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Sources of financial assistance include the federal government, private lenders, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, nurse associations, and more.
It’s important to explore financial assistance from all sources—federal government, college/university, school of nursing, private lenders, nursing organizations, etc.—to ensure you’re taking advantage of all aid and awards available to you.
Are There Federal Government Resources Available to Help Pay for Graduate School?
Yes, which is why your first stop after being accepted into nursing school to earn your DNP should be the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It’s important to complete and submit a FAFSA for each academic year – even if you don’t think you’re eligible for any type of financial aid. You’ll need a completed FAFSA to receive federal/state grants, federally backed loans, and many scholarships.
As a graduate student, you’ll likely be eligible for one or both of the following:
*Keep in mind that all federal student loans for grad students are unsubsidized, which means you’ll be responsible for the accruing interest on the loan, even while you’re in school.
You can find more information on your federal loan options through the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Graduate School Preparation Checklist and Financial Aid for Graduate or Professional Students brochure.
What About Private Loan Options?
While you’ve likely learned that federally backed loans were the smartest financial option while you were an undergraduate, this may not apply to you as a graduate student. This is because federal loan origination fees and interest fees tend to be higher for grad students than undergrads, and you may find private lenders who can offer you more attractive rates and lower fees.
Check out private student loan options through your bank or credit union or consider well-known student loan lenders like Sallie Mae, Discover, College Ave, and LendKey, just to name a few.
In addition to interest rates and origination fees, pay attention to your repayment options when considering private loans. Some offer interest-only payments while in school, others offer deferred payments, and many offer graduated repayment options that allow you to transition from lower to higher payments throughout the life of the loan.
Where Can I Find Scholarships and Awards to Help Offset the Cost of Earning a DNP?
Lucky you, there’s a wealth of scholarship (both merit and needs-based) options available to graduate students. Once you’ve been accepted into a DNP program, check with the school’s financial aid office about any scholarships or grants that may be available to you. Many schools of nursing offer grants to students pursuing doctoral degrees, so spend time researching options available through your college or university.
But that’s not all—Countless professional organizations and private groups offer scholarships specific to graduate students or those in healthcare or nursing. CareerOneStop has a great search tool that lets you search for scholarships based on where you live, where you’ll study, the degree you’re pursuing, and more. Peterson’s is another useful website for searching for the latest scholarships and awards for graduate nurses.
You’ll find that many state nurse associations offer financial awards to nurses pursuing their DNP. Nursing foundations, such as the Oncology Nursing Foundation…nonprofits like the American Cancer Society…and APRN-related nursing associations like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) also frequently offer scholarships to graduate nurses.
Johnson & Johnson maintains a comprehensive list of the latest nursing scholarships to help get your search up and running.
Are Paid Fellowships Widely Available to DNP Students?
The most coveted spots in any DNP class are the doctoral fellowships, which are most often offered through your program’s school of nursing. Colleges and universities partner with clinical facilities to create doctoral fellowship opportunities for a number of students. These planned and supervised experiences will correspond with your DNP’s clinical focus. In addition to providing you with outstanding opportunities to elevate your professional experiences as you advance your education, doctoral fellowships usually come with a full tuition award.
While most fellowships are offered through schools of nursing, you may also find external fellowships through nursing organizations, federal agencies, health systems, and more. For example, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) offers a variety of fellowships each year. Your DNP program director will be able to help you locate available fellowship opportunities.
Will My Employer Cover the Cost of Earning a DNP?
You should never start a DNP program without first making a stop at your employer’s human resources office. Many healthcare organizations, governmental agencies, and hospital systems offer some sort of tuition reimbursement for nurses taking steps to further their education. Keep in mind you may need to enter into some type of agreement with your employer in exchange for tuition repayment. For example, you may need to commit to remaining with your local employer for a specific amount of time after accepting tuition funds.