I’ve come across a lot of people who have made the final decision between NP vs CRNA solely on cost. CRNA school is not cheap, but on top of that, a majority of students cannot work during the program, especially once clinical begins.

Education is more than just education to me. It’s an investment in my life and my future. Simply getting a “degree” now-a-days just doesn’t cut it. I know way too many people with a bachelors degree working an entry level job, and people without a degree making a decent living. It all depends on what YOU want to invest in. It could be time, money, money & time. For me, I knew that a successful completion of my degree would enable me to pay off my remaining undergrad and newly acquired grad loans. I didn’t want to waste time saving up, knowing that it was the prime time for me (single, no kids) to go back to school. While it sucks to see the loans piling up, it motivates me to continue to do well in school so that I can pay them off.

Financial Preparation is Key!

I sufficiently prepped myself emotionally and financially prior to starting CRNA school. I did a travel nursing position in the OHU (Open Heart Unit) on top of my normal CVICU job and a per diem home pharmaceutical educational position. I worked my butt off to pay off my impulse car purchase of $22k in two years and also another $10k in credit card debt I racked up throughout college. (Quick Tip: Don’t use your first couple of nursing checks for that down payment on a car! It’s so tempting when you finally make money, but if you’re worried about finances, save the car purchase until after CRNA school!) To do this, I used my travel RN income towards my car, making large payments every month.  I used my main job’s income to pay my bills.  During this time, I worked, slept, and ate.  I didn’t go out, I didn’t spend my money on a daily coffee, I made my lunches and I didn’t travel much. It sucked, but it worked.  Once I paid my car and credit cards, I started saving portions of my travel RN income for trips and extra money I’d need for fun things during school breaks. Mind you, at this point I hadn’t even applied to school… preparation and planning is soo important! (SN: I seriously need to blog about travel nursing… it’s a major key especially for my CVICU nurses out there!)

I took about 12 credits of DNP pre-requisites non-matriculated at the CRNA school I wanted to go to. I took generic classes like conceptual foundations, scientific writing and research to make sure they’d have a higher chance of transferring if I changed my mind. The great part about that is my job offered 70% tuition reimbursement for courses taken at an outside university. This not only saved me money, but it also saved me time, as my schedule isn’t as crazy as my classmates. I have more time to focus on my core anesthesia classes than worry about that 20 page paper for my research class.

Without that debt I felt better to venture off to school. I received a grant and there are also few scholarships available. I take out federal loans and a grad PLUS loan that covers my bills if needed (I’m still working per diem because I like to travel and I need spending cash). Any financial aid I don’t use, I give back.

Loans, Loans, Loans!

  1. FAFSA or The Free Application for Student Aid should be what you apply for first.  You should be familiar with it if you applied for undergraduate loans, but it’s THE application for federal loans and grants.  Repayment terms and interest rates are usually less than private loans. There also is no credit check.  You only need to apply for FAFSA once for each academic school year, but don’t procrastinate.  Make sure you pay attention to the guidelines for your school.  Generally it is best to get your application in close to the FAFSA open date to improve your chances of getting the most moola.  You can apply for FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov. After you apply, you’ll receive your “award package” which will include federal loans, and could also include federal grants which is basically free money that you don’t have to repay. Normally FAFSA will be enough to cover your tuition bill and that’s it.  Because you’re unemployed during CRNA school, the next options will help cover your living expenses.
    Academic year FAFSA open date Federal FAFSA deadline
    2017-18 Oct. 1, 2016 June 30, 2018
    2018-19 Oct. 1, 2017 June 30, 2019
    2019-20 Oct. 1, 2018 June 30, 2020
  2. Direct PLUS Loans (I don’t think the PLUS stands for anything other than “in addition to”) is another low interest loan but it’s specifically for graduate and professional students.  (They also have a Parent PLUS loan that parents use to take out to assist their undergraduate dependent(s) that are enrolled half-time) While these are still low interest loans (usually less than a private loan), it does require a credit check. I decided to do the PLUS loan instead of a private loan because it’s still low interest, you don’t have to make a payment during school if you’re enrolled at least half time, there’s a 6 month deferment period afterwards, several repayment options that range from 10-25years, and no penalty for early repayment.  You can apply for a PLUS loan at any time and there are no income restrictions like there are for federal loans.  I use the PLUS Loan for books, fees, conference fees, and some of my living expenses. Apply for a graduate PLUS loan at studentloans.gov 
  3. Private Loans are what I consider the last resort for paying for college.  The interest rates are typically higher and you may not have the option of deferment or flexible options for repayment.  You would be able to borrow higher loans, depending on your credit worthiness. It’s important that you do your research and shop around for the best rates if it comes down to this!

I will graduate school with about $150k of student loans, including my undergraduate loans.  When you consider what I’ll be making, and my current living situation, I’m OK with that.  Everyone has to assess their own situation and figure out what will be best.  It’s not uncommon to see SRNAs with a spouse and younger children.  In those situations from what I’ve heard, the spouses income covers the basic bills, while Federal Loans take care of the tuition and PLUS loans supplement for what else is needed.

Also, I almost forgot to mention, there are military options for repayment and scholarships out there that I don’t know much about, so if you do, comment in the love box below!

You got options, don’t give up your dream!