Financial aid is at the top of every college student's mind and it’s important for graduate students to think about some of the opportunities for tuition assistance that are out there as well.
This goes doubly so when you’re a nurse considering an advanced nursing degree. If you’re interested in a career as an educator, there’s one resource you absolutely must look into: the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP).
The NFLP is an excellent way to earn an advanced degree at a fraction of the usual cost. But many people aren’t sure how it works or if it will apply to them. Today, we’re taking a closer look at this vital source of financial aid, revealing how nurses interested in teaching can get the most out of this incredible resource.
What Exactly Is the NFLP?
The Nurse Faculty Loan Program provides low interest loans (3%) to individuals who pursue a degree that would prepare them to become a faculty member within an accredited nursing program. At Nebraska Methodist College (NMC), that means acceptance into the Nurse Educator track of either the BSN to MSN program or the RN to MSN program or a post-master's nursing certificate. Loan recipients can also enroll in the DNP program taking educator courses as electives.
The federal government funds the NFLP, and institutions like NMC provide a matching percentage of each student loan. The individual who completes the advanced degree or certificate program may be eligible to have as much as 85% of the loan principal and interest forgiven.
To qualify for this loan cancellation, you must begin work as a full-time faculty member at an accredited nursing college within 12 months following graduation.
Full-time employment may be met by combining multiple part-time faculty appointments if they equate in total to full-time. Full-time employment may also be met through designation of nurse faculty in a joint nurse faculty appointment, serving as a full-time advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) preceptor for an accredited school of nursing within an academic-practice partnership framework.
However long you work full-time has a direct impact on how much of the loan is cancelled. Here’s how it all shakes out:
- Work one year as full-time faculty : 20% of the loan is cancelled
- Work a second year: 20% more is cancelled
- Work a third year: 20% more is cancelled
- Work a fourth year: 25% more is cancelled
You therefore maximize your investment when you work as full-time faculty for four years or more, leaving you with just 15% of the loan that needs to be repaid. Not a bad deal at all.
So What’s The Catch?
Right now, you may be thinking that the government isn’t in the habit of just giving away money, so there must be a catch. But the truth is that there really isn’t one. You work four years and 85% of your loan is forgiven, it’s that simple.
There’s a really basic reason why this program exists: the country needs nurses. And in order to fill demand, schools need qualified individuals who can teach new nurses so that they can fill the vacancies that are out there.
That’s a steep task. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that almost 60,000 prospective nursing students couldn’t get into a nursing program in 2018, in large part due to a lack of available faculty. This will continue to be a problem until the country has enough nurses with MSN degrees or higher who are willing to pass their skills on to the next generation of nursing professionals.
The lack of available nurses is proving so severe that the government and nursing colleges have stepped in to entice individuals to become professors. That’s why there’s no catch, and it’s why there’s probably never been a better time to earn your MSN or DNP.
How Does One Apply for the NFLP?
The NFLP application process is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you need to know to apply at Nebraska Methodist College:
- Be accepted for admission to the Nurse Educator track of the MSN program, RN to MSN program, post-master's certificate program or DNP program taking educator courses as electives
- Complete your FAFSA (yes, even grad students need to fill this out)
- Submit the NFLP application
- Once your credit report is reviewed by us and you’re approved for the NFLP, you must sign a letter of commitment
- Complete the promissory note and truth-in-lending disclosures
What’s the Fine Print?
NFLP funds can be used to offset direct costs such as tuition and fees, and an allowance is included each semester for books.
Additional tuition funding sources could play a role in the amount of loan you receive. Let’s say the hospital system you currently work at pays a portion of your tuition costs as an employee benefit. In that situation, the NFLP will not cover those costs because they are being reimbursed by an outside source. Unfortunately, the NFLP cannot be used for your living expenses (but there are other types of financial aid that could be).
A few more things to keep in mind: you have to go to school at least two consecutive semesters per academic year. For instance, you could skip summer semesters so long as you attend in the fall and spring, but to do even this, you must have a valid excuse and request a leave of absence ahead of time.
You also have to meet a certain academic threshold each year, but really, it’s not all that different from the grades required to earn your degree. Once you do graduate, you have a full year to attain employment as a full-time faculty member.
The NFLP cancellation can only help you if you graduate from the program and work full-time as a nurse faculty. If you leave the program before graduating, or if you graduate and don’t work full-time, then it’s up to you to pay the full amount of what you’ve borrowed up to that point. Plus, that attractive 3% interest rate increases to a variable market rate.
Are You Ready to Become an Educator?
I hope we haven’t scared you off. The truth is that the NFLP is an invaluable program that provides a shockingly affordable path to a new career, especially given the salary expectations that come with being an MSN-qualified nurse educator.
If you’re interested in learning more about what to expect from the MSN program at Nebraska Methodist College, click here. We hope you’ve found this blog useful and that you’ll consider the opportunities created by the Nurse Faculty Loan Program.