[FONT=Franklin Gothic Medium]Shannon,
You may want to follow up with a post stating where you are located specifically, so those located in your state could chime in with any state-run finance or forgiveness programs. You could also actively investigate any schools/programs that partner with hospitals for loan forgiveness. Only one of the ABSN programs I'm applying to has something like this, they pair with three hospitals in the SoCal area, and for a two-year commitment, they will pay $25K (out of a $45K total) of your tuition upfront. I just mention this as an example.
In terms of state assistance, I'm only familiar with what California offers. It really does take a lot of leg-work to find these opportunities, I agree that it definitely should be easier to find ways to pay for school...but in the end, if I have to take loans, so be it. I would love to pay cash for my dream, but in the end, if I have to finance it wisely, I will do so via federal and private loans.