By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
February 18, 2011 - Recognizing the need for more nurses to provide care in the United States, Congress, in passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, reauthorized Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs, increasing federal dollars to support nursing education.
“The biggest increase we have seen was last year, when we went from $171 million for these programs to $243 million,” said Suzanne Begeny, Ph.D., RN, director of government affairs for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in Washington, D.C. “A lot of those dollars went to loan repayment and scholarship programs, where students receive the funds directly.”
June Marshall, MS, RN, NEA-BC, said that we haven’t yet seen the full impact of the nursing shortage and that federal dollars are necessary to educate new nurses.
June Marshall, MS, RN, NEA-BC, director of advancing professional nursing practice at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, adds that nursing still needs federal and other funding for education, since “we haven't yet seen the full impact of the nursing shortage, especially in large urban areas.”
The largest dedicated source of federal funding for nursing education is through the Title VIII nursing programs, authorized through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), first established in 1961. Schools of nursing apply for Title VIII grants, but not all schools receive the money each year. AACN keeps schools aware of when funds become available.
“The funding has not kept pace with inflation, but in the past couple of years, the [program] has received more than normal,” Begeny said. From 2000 to 2010, the average percentage increase has been around 14 percent.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget includes a 28 percent increase for Title VIII nursing programs.
“This proposed budget represents a substantial commitment to addressing the nursing shortage and ensuring access to care for all,” said ANA President Karen A. Daley, Ph.D., MPH, RN, FAAN, in a written statement. “Increased funding for Title VIII programs is vital to reducing avoidable complications associated with the nursing shortage—saving lives and reducing health care costs.”
The Affordable Care Act provides additional funds for nursing faculty loan programs, which offer substantial financial assistance to repay education loans to nurses willing to work full-time at a health care facility with a critical shortage of nurses or as faculty at an eligible school of nursing. For a two-year commitment, the program will pay participants 60 percent of their total outstanding, qualifying educational loan balance. An optional third year will pay 25 percent of those notes, subject to availability. The act expanded the loan amounts and who would qualify.
Additionally, some funding for nursing is available through the Title VII Health Professions program, Begeny said. The Department of Labor has some funds for training in high-need areas through the Workforce Advancement Act.
Federal Pell Grants also present an option for undergraduate nursing students, younger than 24 years of age. The maximum award is $5,550 for the 2011-2012 school year. Grant amounts depend on financial need, cost of school and a parent’s status as a military veteran who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan since September 11, 2001.
Other sources of scholarships and grants
In addition to federal dollars, some states have developed programs to boost the number of nurses educated in their states, such as the Delaware Scholarship Incentive Program, which awards up to $2,200 to an undergraduate student with financial need and making good grades, and the Texas Professional Nursing Scholarships program, which awards up to $2,500 to a nursing student with financial need.
Marshall said she is not sure the Texas legislature will fund the program to prior levels, due the state’s budget deficit.
Robert Rosseter, chief communications officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said he cannot report on state trends. However, with many states facing budget shortfalls, funds for nursing education programs are limited and could face additional cuts.
Many professional associations offer scholarships to students interested in careers in that specialty. For instance, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) Foundation funds professional development scholarships to improve the health and safety of the nation's workforce, and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Foundation offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate-degree students with an interest in perioperative nursing. The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society offers scholarships to individuals committed to working within the wound, ostomy and continence nursing specialty.
Some scholarships are available to minority students, such as the William K. Schubert Minority Nursing Scholarship Program from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Kaiser Permanente College to Caring Program for Hispanic students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Other entities, such as McNeil Consumer Healthcare, offer scholarships for nursing education. The annual TYLENOL® Scholarship program, from McNeil, awards $5,000 and $10,000 scholarships to 40 outstanding students pursing health care careers. Cherokee Uniforms offers A Nurse I Am Scholarships of $2,000 each for tuition, fees and school-related expenses.
In addition, individual employers, such as HCA Inc., with about 164 hospitals in 20 states, often have provided scholarships to students willing to commit to work at their institution or within their health system for a period of time.
Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement, including Texas Health Dallas, which now requires a career development plan and documentation about how the courses taken will support those goals.
More scholarly advice
Nursing schools have the latest information about what support is available in their area. Students should “talk with their school’s financial aid department about what federal funding is available for students, specifically the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Program,” Begany said.
Students planning to apply for a scholarship based on financial need, typically, must complete the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions students about scholarship scams. Warning signs that a scholarship may be a scam include guarantees, requests for credit card numbers, an offer that the soliciting company will do all of the work, or a request for money to apply for the scholarship. The FTC advises that legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.
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