By Bella Juliet
It’s widely acknowledged that students in the United States are often placed in difficult financial positions when preparing specifically for professional careers. Tuition fees for higher education are off the charts, such that even if that education is preparing students for lucrative careers, it’s starting them off at a financial disadvantage. According to an analysis from an associate professor at Seton Hall University, the average debt for a master’s degree (as of 2020) is just over $42,000.
Much of the focus when this topic comes up, though, tends to be on the higher end of the spectrum — the law and doctoral degrees that, as the same analysis noted, can result in up to $140,000 in debt. Certainly it’s easy to focus on the biggest numbers, or on graduate school averages. But other students preparing for specific careers are heavily burdened as well — including nurses, who by some estimates average some $50,000 in debt by the time they finish nursing school.
This speaks to a problem in how we go about education and professional preparation. That is a long-term problem though. In the short term, nursing students need to find their own ways to save money and combat debt while in school, so as to start their careers on the best footing possible. And we have a few tips as to how they might do so.
Hunt Down Affordable Books & Supplies
This may be one of the oldest tricks in the book for saving money in college and/or graduate school. But it always comes up because it rally is a valuable tip! Books and supplies can add up to close to $1,000 quite quickly, which at the end of the day is a significant chunk of cash to add to that eventual school debt. You can’t get it all for free, mind you, but today there are more ways than ever to find affordable books and supplies. On the book front, electronic downloads and used sellers can typically provide you with what you need at a fraction of the cost of new textbooks. As for supplies, what you need may vary depending on your program. But here too you can often find used options that save you significant money.
Consider Your Meal Planning
Strategic meal planning is an effective means of saving money at any point in life. But it can be particularly effective for busy graduate students — whose days often consist of little more than sleeping, studying, attending class, and squeezing in meals. In this environment it’s easy enough to wind up eating out more than you should, or — these days — ordering deliveries with $3 fees and $7 driver tips several nights a week. Those costs add up, and by planning meals a little bit more effectively you can save a great deal. Some will look to modern subscription services as a solution, and MoneyUnder30’s look at meal kit savings indicates that it’s possible to get a week’s worth of meals for about $60 this way. That may well be cheaper than what a lot of students are doing if they’re in the habit of eating out and getting deliveries. On the other hand, strategic grocery shopping is (still) usually the most affordable option.
Minimize NCLEX Costs
The NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination, is in some respects what nursing school is leading toward. It determines a student’s fitness for professional nursing, and is thus very important to prepare for. And yet, it’s also almost astonishingly expensive to prepare for! As of this writing, a “premium” Kaplan Schweser study packet for the NCLEX costs $999, and various online prep courses run anywhere from $200 to $500. Now, we’re not at all suggesting nursing students should skimp on preparation for this all-important examination. What is not necessary, however, is to splurge for multiple courses and kits — which can quickly rack up a bill of $2,000 or more. Instead, do your research, talk to recent graduates you may know about their experiences, and find the preparation that works for you, so as to limit expenses. Also, if you sign with Stride Funding to use an ISA to fund your education, you have access to a UWorld NCLEX discount!
Consider an Online Program for Higher Degrees
While the process of becoming an RN is still largely an in-person schooling experience, additional degrees in nursing (such as a BSN) can now be pursued online. This may seem strange to some, but as the online RN to BSN page on Maryville University explains quite clearly, these programs are accredited, fully online, and lead to professional degrees. They also happen to be more affordable than many in-person alternatives, both in terms of tuition and due to the fact that they don’t require any adjustment of living conditions. Ultimately, nursing students should pursue the programs that best suit their ambition. But it is worth keeping in mind that for some degrees in this category, online programs can lead to significant savings.
Pick Out a Good Payment Plan
Our last tip is more about setting up affordable, manageable payments than generating general savings. Nevertheless, it’s a vital tip for nursing students to heed. Specifically, we’re suggesting exploring Stride’s Income Share Agreements, which help students to finish off payments in just five years, as opposed to the 25 years it can take with federal loans. An ISA amounts to comprehensive financial assistance and guidance, which can help different students in different ways, but which all students should look into.
Apply for an ISA Today
Piece exclusively written for stridefunding.com
by Bella Juliet