Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Paying for nursing school without loans, can I, should I?  (Read 4821 times)

newgradnodebt

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I plan to get an accelerated nursing degree (BS to BSN) within the next 5 years. I am 4 months out of college with no debt but basically no savings. In 6 months I will be eligible for in state tuition and the total cost for the year long program w/out living expenses is about $16,000.  Nurses are in high demand in my area and the starting salary is around 60,000 a year.  I can get a loan to cover the full tuition but not the living expenses with no interest until the year after I complete the program.
Should I continue working for few more years to save up for living expenses or should I start as soon as I get in state eligibility and take out loans with interest for living expenses and get into a higher income bracket sooner?
Thoughts on how to decrease spending are also good.  However, our rent is about as cheap as it gets for our location,

Income: ~$20,000/year (~$1666/month) after taxes
I am currently a full time nanny.  I have a have a BS in Biology and History, but no success finding degree specific positions.

Current monthly expenses: $1,182
Living Expenses Total: $607
        Rent: $500 a month (split $1200 unequally with bf)
        Gas and Electric: $30
        Phone: $32
        Water: $20
        Internet: $25
Food:$230
        Groceries: $200
        Restaurants and Coffee: $30
Other: $345.40
        Savings towards emergency fund: $150
        Transit: $125.40 (I take public transit to work, I plan to lower this with biking more but need to work up to it and improve my bike as my commute is 15 miles each way)
        Upgrades for bike or savings for new bike: $50
        Misc:$20
$484/ month is left for savings for school
Assets:
$2,000 in Roth IRA
Liabilities:
No debt (yet)

Earthling

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Dear NewGradNoDebt:

In my humble view, I'd say it is a no-brainer to get the degree now, loan or not, instead of deferring. Nailing down your final professional credentials sooner rather than later will extend the time period over which you can earn a greater income.

If you were pursuing an advanced degree in a field other than nursing, I might have a different view. But with increasing numbers of Baby Boomers stumbling into retirement by the day, I can't think of a field with better long-term employment potential than nursing.

It is also telling that such a young person is here, asking this question. You are light years ahead of your peers.

So you are fine. Get the degree now, even if you have to take out a loan. In a few short years you will look back and view the loan as a critical investment in your vibrant future.

Best wishes to you.

thedayisbrave

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Welcome newgradnodebt! Congrats on so far being debt free :)

This may not be feasible, but wanted to toss the thought out there... could you work part-time while being in school? $16k for a graduate degree is not horrible, so honestly I'd be in favor of hopping to it and aggressively paying down debt (which should be fairly quickly with 60k a year to start).  You'd definitely be ahead if you paid cash, but given the job prospects you lined up it seems doing this sooner rather than later would be in your best professional interests.  Could you offer to nanny part-time for the family? Or tutor? Or waitress/bartend/be a barista on weekends? You likely wouldn't make 16k+ but you could at least have some spare change to throw at expenses while you incur them.  Just a thought!

caliq

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Welcome newgradnodebt! Congrats on so far being debt free :)

This may not be feasible, but wanted to toss the thought out there... could you work part-time while being in school? $16k for a graduate degree is not horrible, so honestly I'd be in favor of hopping to it and aggressively paying down debt (which should be fairly quickly with 60k a year to start).  You'd definitely be ahead if you paid cash, but given the job prospects you lined up it seems doing this sooner rather than later would be in your best professional interests.  Could you offer to nanny part-time for the family? Or tutor? Or waitress/bartend/be a barista on weekends? You likely wouldn't make 16k+ but you could at least have some spare change to throw at expenses while you incur them.  Just a thought!

+1

Another thing to look at would be on campus jobs through your school's student employment office.  I'm currently doing administrative stuff in a departmental office while finishing up my BS and I find that on campus employers are a lot more flexible about changes in schedule (ie. semester to semester), as well as needing to take time off for finals week, etc.  You don't have to have a work study grant to work on campus, at least at my school.

I definitely think you should go back now.  At $484/month, it'll take you 2 years to save up 12k for living expenses.  With your opportunity cost on a 60k salary vs your current one being about 40k/year...it's a no brainer in my opinion.

lb

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Seriously DO NOT work while getting an accelerated nursing degree unless it is a job where you can sit and study. Nursing school is a full job+ and the accelerated program is even tougher. It's a short program though, you should just go for it. I'm a nurse and it's a great living! Hard job but worth it. If you continue your frugal habits you'll have your loans paid off in no time.

Remember that some of your nursing loans may be able to be forgiven through various federal programs for each year you work, especially Perkins loans, and especially if you work in an under-served area.

Also, where do you live? I'm glad you say that nurses are in such demand. Where I live there are many nursing schools and many new grads vying for too few positions.

Good for you! You can do it!

GeneralJinjur

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Also, where do you live? I'm glad you say that nurses are in such demand. Where I live there are many nursing schools and many new grads vying for too few positions.
This has been the case in most major metro areas for years.  Everyone still spouts the "nursing is in demand" party line, but since 2008, older nurses have been remaining in the workforce rather than retiring.  The nursing shortage is for experienced nurses, not new grads.

I would vote for taking the loan and getting the degree.  I *highly* recommend against getting a degree from one of those private universities that advertise on the radio.  People are shelling out greater than $60K for those degrees and then struggling when they are unable to get a job as a new grad.  Check your local hospital ads for new graduate positions to gauge your market.  One of the Denver TV stations ran an article about a year ago because they found fewer than 10 new grad openings across the state.  There are more than 26 schools in the Denver metro area pumping out 2-3 graduating classes a year. 

The nice part?  I took the very first job offer I got, fell into a specialty I genuinely enjoy (locked psych ward -- not what most students aspire to) and have been able to move laterally to a big hospital with great staffing, a fabulous treatment program and excellent pay.  I graduated in December, was hired in April and mailed off the final payment that August. 

MnemonicMonkey

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As an accelerated grad in the Midwest, I can tell you that good jobs are not as plentiful as the schools make them sound. Our unit (in a level I trauma hospital) is currently running 2-3 people short most days, and the bean counters have approved a whopping two positions in the last 6 months (5 have quit in that time). At this point we're not practicing nursing, we're just trying not to kill people. But I digress...

If getting pooped/peed/bled/hit/spit on for not-at-all enough money is the only way you'll be happy in life, then yes, become a nurse. It has its moments that make it all worth it, but please understand what you're getting into. And be prepared to work nights (possibly in a nursing home) for a while.

From a planning perspective, do you plan on having kids? My wife just quit her NICU position she held for 9 years to stay at home with the kids. However, she came out of school with a whopping $1800 in debt from community college. I'm still paying for both my BS degrees, but I'll be working a while longer because of it. (I do have a side business in my 1st degree field, so not all was lost.) If you're only going to work a few years anyway, you ROI changes significantly.

If you decide to go for it, the ONLY work I would recommend doing is having a student/PCA/CNA/whateveryoucallatech position. The hours are usually limited (thanks ObamaCare) and they pay okay, and will usually work around your class schedule. Most importantly, it'll allow you to network and get your foot in the door. The students that work our floor and do well have first dibs at any open positions. Unfortunately, one good one ended up going to PCU since we didn't have a position, but again, she got hired because we knew from experience she was smart and worked hard.

Also, I finally signed up just to post this. Definitely hit me up with questions. I'm kinda at the same point about NP school though...

MnemonicMonkey

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I would vote for taking the loan and getting the degree.  I *highly* recommend against getting a degree from one of those private universities that advertise on the radio.  People are shelling out greater than $60K for those degrees and then struggling when they are unable to get a job as a new grad.


Exactly.

If you know what specialty you'd like to go into, set up a job shadow through the recruiters office. Then talk to the manager about what schools the hire from. I know many that prefer the university graduates to community colleges, and won't even touch the MedTech/Kaplan/Pheonix type programs. To a good extent, you get what you pay for.


The nice part?  I took the very first job offer I got, fell into a specialty I genuinely enjoy (locked psych ward -- not what most students aspire to) and have been able to move laterally to a big hospital with great staffing, a fabulous treatment program and excellent pay.  I graduated in December, was hired in April and mailed off the final payment that August.

Props to you! I only wish our locked unit could take more of our patients. I know the security guys by name. And congrats on being out of debt already!!!

kimmarg

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My spouse is in accelerated nursing school right now. Take the loans. Don't plan to work, at least in his case "accelerated" is about 2 full time jobs worth of work.

There are programs to repay your loans if you go into a high demand area, just be sure to get only federal loans, not private!

lizzzi

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As an RN with 42 years experience, I agree with all the good advice above: Do it. Don't work while doing it…other than possibly some kind of aide or nursing tech. part-time position. Make sure you are in a "real", fully-accredited nursing program…none of that U. of Phoenix stuff. Federal loans, not private. Do whatever you have to do to get good grades. Display the kind of personal qualities they'll be looking for: Caring, reliable, hard-worker, mature, pleasant to work with…try to demonstrate that you've got a stable personal life that is not rife with social problems. Be prepared to start your nursing career working off-shifts and/or rotating shifts. Try very hard to get at least one year's experience on a general med-surg floor, even if your career goals lie somewhere else. You need that basic, nuts-and-bolts experience to get started. Double-check with yourself that this is what you want to do--yes, nursing should give you a first-income, living-wage type of career. You should be able to drive a decent car and buy at least a little house on your income alone.  But here's the thing--you have to have the "X factor"--you have to be a caring person with a need to help people and do something worthwhile for society. If it's only about the money, you will never last. The work is going to be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining at times--you will always be working short-staffed--you will always be expected to do more than one human can possibly do--impossible to get everything done--but you get it done anyway. So think hard.

One big plus about nursing is that you will have a skill-set that will be very helpful to your loved ones at home if (God forbid) they need that. I've helped out family members who've had surgeries, taken care of an elderly relative with Alzheimers right up until the dead end, (he died at home, with me right there), and helped advocate for and advise many a relative wending their way through the health care system. It's hard to put a price tag on things like that, that you're able to help your family so much if need be.

newgradnodebt

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If you decide to go for it, the ONLY work I would recommend doing is having a student/PCA/CNA/whateveryoucallatech position. The hours are usually limited (thanks ObamaCare) and they pay okay, and will usually work around your class schedule. Most importantly, it'll allow you to network and get your foot in the door. The students that work our floor and do well have first dibs at any open positions. Unfortunately, one good one ended up going to PCU since we didn't have a position, but again, she got hired because we knew from experience she was smart and worked hard.
Do you have any recommendations for getting started with something like that? I am trying to start volunteering and my local hospital but I don't think they will let me do anything really hands on.  Is there something that I could do before I started my program?

As far as the hard/messy overworked nature of nursing, that is really something that I want (i also have a little practice with the messy part as a nanny)

MnemonicMonkey

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Most hospitals have a volunteer service. You're not going to be hands on until you're in school for liability reasons, but you can start by delivering flowers/mail, offering books & magazines, etc. Little things that really brighten a patient's day. Again, it'll get people used to seeing your face around and give you an opportunity to observe different units. I will say the people you work with can make a tough floor survivable. As crazy as my floor is, we have an amazing team of people without most of the gossip/backstabbing/eating their young you always hear about.

MicroRN

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If you decide to go for it, the ONLY work I would recommend doing is having a student/PCA/CNA/whateveryoucallatech position. The hours are usually limited (thanks ObamaCare) and they pay okay, and will usually work around your class schedule. Most importantly, it'll allow you to network and get your foot in the door. The students that work our floor and do well have first dibs at any open positions. Unfortunately, one good one ended up going to PCU since we didn't have a position, but again, she got hired because we knew from experience she was smart and worked hard.
Do you have any recommendations for getting started with something like that? I am trying to start volunteering and my local hospital but I don't think they will let me do anything really hands on.  Is there something that I could do before I started my program?

As far as the hard/messy overworked nature of nursing, that is really something that I want (i also have a little practice with the messy part as a nanny)

With an accelerated program, I'd work part time to offset costs, but not try to fully cover my expenses. 

You could go ahead and get your CNA cert.  Look for cheap/free programs in your area, often run by vocational programs or nursing homes.  I know one of our local nursing homes offers a free program, completed in 15 days.  All you pay is your state licensing and testing fees.  Some nursing programs will require the CNA before you start anyway, and it never looks bad to have that on your resume'. 

If you're already used to being a nanny, you could advertise for overnight child care.  When my husband was at sea I hired a student who would come in at 6pm, get the kids in bed by 8:30, and stay overnight.  I didn't pay as much as a regular nanny because my kids slept all night, so it was only a few hours of active time, and then she could study and sleep.

Snow White

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As an RN with 42 years experience, I agree with all the good advice above: Do it. Don't work while doing it…other than possibly some kind of aide or nursing tech. part-time position. Make sure you are in a "real", fully-accredited nursing program…none of that U. of Phoenix stuff. Federal loans, not private. Do whatever you have to do to get good grades. Display the kind of personal qualities they'll be looking for: Caring, reliable, hard-worker, mature, pleasant to work with…try to demonstrate that you've got a stable personal life that is not rife with social problems. Be prepared to start your nursing career working off-shifts and/or rotating shifts. Try very hard to get at least one year's experience on a general med-surg floor, even if your career goals lie somewhere else. You need that basic, nuts-and-bolts experience to get started. Double-check with yourself that this is what you want to do--yes, nursing should give you a first-income, living-wage type of career. You should be able to drive a decent car and buy at least a little house on your income alone.  But here's the thing--you have to have the "X factor"--you have to be a caring person with a need to help people and do something worthwhile for society. If it's only about the money, you will never last. The work is going to be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining at times--you will always be working short-staffed--you will always be expected to do more than one human can possibly do--impossible to get everything done--but you get it done anyway. So think hard.

One big plus about nursing is that you will have a skill-set that will be very helpful to your loved ones at home if (God forbid) they need that. I've helped out family members who've had surgeries, taken care of an elderly relative with Alzheimers right up until the dead end, (he died at home, with me right there), and helped advocate for and advise many a relative wending their way through the health care system. It's hard to put a price tag on things like that, that you're able to help your family so much if need be.

I was going to post but Lizzzi said it better than I can!  Long time retired RN here who concurs.  By the way...nursing is a fabulous career choice in my humble opinion! :)