How Can I Afford CRNA School
Figuring out how to pay for your nurse anesthesia education can feel daunting especially if you don’t have much savings to fall back on to cover the costs of a 24-28 month program. There are a number of different options one can pursue to finance their education. In this article are brief overviews on the different options available to finance one’s education.
Savings Can Pay for CRNA school
Obviously, this is the easiest method of financing one’s education. If you have been saving for several years, kudos to your foresight. Why take out a loan if you have the money to pay for your education? Of particular interest, if you have money saved in a retirement account, specifically an IRA (short for individual retirement account), there is a tax provision allowing you to withdraw money from your account without paying a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Visit the IRS website to learn more about the conditions you must meet in order to take an early distribution for your education expenses.
Grants and Scholarships
Savings or no savings, this is a great option for funding IF you are able to find it. There are numerous sources on the internet one can visit in order to find grants, fellowships, and/or scholarships. Unlike loans, which have to be paid back, the biggest advantage to receiving a grant and/or scholarship is you do not have to pay back the amount that was given to you. However, grants and scholarships are hard to come by. That said, if you search hard enough, you can usually find a few on the following websites:
Fastweb Scholarships (www.fastweb.com) – This website matches scholarships based on your specific educational needs.
Grants (grants.gov) – You can browse through 1,000 federal programs to find potential grants to help fund your nurse anesthesia education.
AANA – The AANA offers student scholarships. However, most of the scholarships offered through this organization requires you to be a student at an accredited nurse anesthesia program and have completed a specified amount of time in school before qualifying to apply.
State CRNA Association – Contact a representative from state CRNA association that you will be attending school in. Inquire about scholarships and/or grants, if any.
Federal Student Loans Available to CRNA School Students
This is the most common method of financing one’s education, as most students do not have the savings to fund their graduate education. There are three different loan types that the Federal Government offers. They are the Direct Stafford Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Perkins Loans. In order to qualify for these loans, you must fill out a FAFSA (like you did when you were an undergraduate). You will receive a response that will alert you to which loans are available for you to utilize to pay for your education. Interest rates for these loans range anywhere between 3.76%-6.31%, depending on the loan you sign up for. Visit the Federal Student Aid site to learn more.
Private Student Loans
Sometimes the loans offered by the government are not enough to offset the cost of attending school (which is what happened to me) and as a result, you may need to find additional sources of funding. There are private banks (e.g., Chase, Discover, Citi, etc.) that offer student loan products to graduate students. When searching for the right student loan product, be sure to compare originations fees, interest rates, and repayment options upon graduation so that you can find a loan that is best tailored to your needs.
Some banks will assess an origination fee, which covers the cost of processing the loan. In today’s competitive banking environment, if a bank is charging an origination fee, RUN! There’s no reason why you cannot obtain a private student loan without paying an origination fee. In other words, you should not have to pay a fee to process a loan.
Interest rates on the loan can either be fixed (meaning the rate stays the same throughout the length of the loan) or variable (meaning the rate changes throughout the length of the loan). Fixed interest rates are typically higher than variable interest rates, but you get the comfort of knowing that the rate you are given stays the same regardless of what happens. Variable interest rates are typically lower than fixed interest rates, but there is a risk that the rate will increase (or even decrease) over the length of the loan. The decision between choosing a fixed versus variable interest is based on the degree of risk you are comfortable with taking on your loans.
Most student loans have a 3 to 6 month grace period prior to beginning to repaying your student loans. If a bank does not offer this option, find another bank that does because there is no reason why a grace period should not be offered. Most banks offer a grace period if you obtain a student loan through them.
GRADUATING FROM CRNA SCHOOL – WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you escaped nurse anesthesia school, without any debt, congratulations! However, most graduates from a nurse anesthesia program will have to pay back student loans that they collected from the government and/or private bank. If this is the case, the most important thing to look at is the interest rate of your student loan. If it is greater than 4%, you ought to consider refinancing and consolidating your student loans. If you only have federal loans or if your federal loan amount is high, you should consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
However, it is very difficult to qualify for this program unless you work in an area that is in critical need of anesthesia providers. If you live in a major metropolitan city and work in an academic environment, the likelihood of qualifying for the program is minimal and as such, pursuing refinancing/consolidation of your student loans to get a lower interest rate (in order to minimize the amount of interest payments you will make over the life of the loan) will probably be the best option. What to do next with your student loans will depend on where you work, the size of your loans, whether you qualify for public loan forgiveness and how quickly you want to discharge your loans.
Blog post by:
Peripatetic CRNA is a nurse anesthetist based out of the West Coast. He blogs about personal finance and private practice issues for new grad CRNAs.