Ironically “free” and “education” rarely co-exist side by side in a true statement. But if your educational goals are properly aligned, your home state may be willing to ante up the bucks for your education.
Healthcare professionals, especially nurses, are in perpetual short-supply. Nurses typically take jobs in hospitals and clinics where salaries are competitive and the opportunity for career advancement and tuition reimbursement are options. Registered nurses fall dangerously short almost everywhere, even within popular facilities such as these. In urban and rural areas populations of people are underserved medically. State medical facilities also suffer from shortages. Nursing jobs in public institutions are renowned for their stressful work environments, long hours and a shortage of staff support. For many states the only viable way to attract nursing talent is to dangle the tuition carrot in front of students’ noses.
If you’re at all considering a career in nursing, a tuition reimbursement agreement through your home state could pay all of your nursing school tuition.
States that offer tuition in exchange for service agreements package in terms including the expected work obligation and tuition maximums. For example, California offers nursing students reimbursement of student loans in exchange for a term of service in state medical facilities. Qualified facilities must “have a registered nurse vacancy rate of greater than 10%.” Nursing candidates must be enrolled in accredited and approved nursing programs and in many cases are expected to maintain a certain grade point average. The Department of Education recognizes a number of nursing accreditation agencies. All others are unrecognized in the U.S. and students should avoid schools claiming accreditation with any other body.
A report by the American Nursing Association (ANA) enumerates dozens of states by name and program that have proactively addressed shortages of both staff nurses as well as faculty. The faculty shortages have accounted for the limitations in students accepted into nursing programs. Proactive steps largely focus on “student loan assumption” programs for nurses that agree to service agreements.
Nursing is most heavily funded among state programs, but there are spotty instances of other types of professions that draw free tuition in certain states:
To find out if you can get a free college degree through your state, check out your state higher education website. Career-wise, nursing offers plenty of options, but it’s not for everyone. Don’t take a degree just for the promise of a free education.