Accumulating debt vs cheaper NP school vs time

  1. Hello,
    I am going to be starting an NP program in the fall that will ultimately cost me 100K in tuition alone, and probably 15-25K more for housing, travel, etc. Given what you know now as practicing NPs (hindsight in terms of salary potential, graduating faster, opportunities in the field, continuing education, learning environment, professional work, etc) would you incur this sort of debt to become an NP? The school is very well known and i'm sure it might carry some clout when applying for a job, but not sure how much. The program is quick and fast--only 2 years in length. So is it beneficial to finish faster, be able to work as an NP and therefore potentially have a higher earning potential faster to pay off the loans?

    The other thing that i'm thinking about as well is that I will need to find my own preceptors. I don't know how stressful and time consuming and in the end beneficial this will be for me. How do i know the person i pick will be a good teacher and have the patience to work with students and actually enjoy it? We only do 2 rotations in our program as well if we are in specialized NP program. How much exposure does this give me?

    My other option is to wait a year and hope that I can get into my state program. It will be a 3 year program instead of 2. So ultimately it will be 4 years from now instead of 2 that i will be completed with my program. Time doesn't matter as much as debt, but I do think about it too. I will be able to work during my last year and half in the program. But its a "what if" situation (also depends on funding if the school can follow through with offering this program and they won't know until very last minute). This program in total will only cost me 40K, probably quarter of which I could pay out of pocket.

    I want to understand the ramifications of accumulating this debt especially because of the other options I have. I also am fully aware that as an NP my earning potential is not as much as an MD so going into this blinding thinking that oh yea, i'll be able to pay off this debt in a matter of 20 or so years making not as much as I anticipated also plays a role.

    To those with NP work experience, and or those who have in been in the field recently paying off debt, or otherwise have advice to provide, I would like some insight and feedback about the situation! What would you do or have done if you could do it all over again?

    Thank you.
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    About danceluver

    Joined: Jul '10; Posts: 650; Likes: 32


  3. by   coast2coast
    I paid about that much for school, and have had comfortable jobs with which to pay off loans since then; I wouldn't discourage you from the expensive school just because it's expensive. But I would NEVER go to a school where you had to find your own preceptors, for the reasons you mentioned - just not enough quality control. Particularly if you are going to pay on the higher end of the tuition scale - they should find preceptors for you.

    2 years is a long time so I understand this is probably a tough decision for you. What are the differences between the longer and shorter programs? If the longer program finds preceptors and gives you more clinical time or more rotations, I'd lean towards that option.
  4. by   CranberryMuffin
    I would be cautious about a program where you had to find your own preceptor and are paying that much. That's a pretty hefty sum to be having to go to those lengths.
  5. by   IrishIzCPNP
    I'm starting an NP program at a top level university...I'll be finding my own preceptors. My understand is that finding your own preceptor is normal. I was going to have to do the same thing for a CNM program I looked at.

    My mom is an NP. I have seen that she paid off her loans and makes a reasonable income. I have no issues becoming an NP especially after seeing where my mom has gone.

    Which program? I'd go with the one that felt right. I chose longer program that while cheaper will put me back further financially. If I did the more expensive one I'd be done and working in a year...making back what I paid. This Chrysler and longer program (though financially not the wiser decision) just felt right. It's a better my opinion. I know it's a well respected school and I believe the name will help me get a job.

    What feels right?
  6. by   IrishIzCPNP
    Oh and the "what if" part....that is a huge issue in my eyes. If you start and they shut down the program you could be screwed. That would be a major negative for me!!!
  7. by   BritFNP
    That is quite an expensive program. Private school? I'm about to start my last year of my FNP program. All together its going to lost me about $40,000 (I still currently work PRN as a RN two days - ish a week). You mentioned your school being a great well known one, I will say... from my experience, no employer has EVER cared where I got my degree from..just that I've got it and have my license.

    For me, there was no doubt in my mind about starting school again. Sure, add $40,000 to the debt I still have from my bachelor's...but where I'm from (texas), I'm doubling my annual salary for the rest of my life. It was a no-brainer.

    About the preceptors. I am in a program where I find my own as well. It was a huge challenge. Ultimately for the bulk of my program I am traveling 4 hrs away from my home. Luckily I have family near the site of my preceptor to stay with. I'm even from a big city in texas (Austin) and it was still a nightmare finding preceptors. How will you know you pick a good preceptor? You won't...until you start working with them. The good news is if you don't like them, you can always find a new preceptor for the next semester. Usually if they allow you to be there they are used to having students and don't mind it. In my program I have over 600 clinic hours required throughout. It spans over every semester except my first one. I have been in busy family practice settings and emergency rooms mostly. I will tell you, I get great experiences and learn more from these hours more than anything just like in nursing school. This program is two years in length like the one you're starting.

    In my opinion, go the two year route. The shorter amount of time you're not working full time the better debt wise. Are there no online programs in your state that may be cheaper and two years?

    HRSA is a government program that will repay up to $60000 of your qualified student loans in exchange for a 2 year commitment of service in primary care in a rural, high need area. I plan on job searching for those sites next year.

    Best of luck!
  8. by   danceluver
    Its Vanderbilt vs waiting a year and going to my state NP school. The difference in costs are vast hence a dilemma as well as figuring out if the setup of the program really works for me. I will also be doing a direct entry program (RN-MSN not a nurse yet)--have no children, fairly young still, not a homeowner, family etc to take care of. But these are things I of course want in the future. But I also feel the program might not give me the exposure i need to fill in the gaps if I want to work in a specialty or not. I understand that may come down the road, but preparing myself in case i'd find that to be my only interest. Do you think I should think this is a valid concern? I don't know if I want to be stuck only in primary care, therefore would like my flexibility in rotations which may not be possible. And yes, because i am "distance" 2nd year, I will need to find my own preceptors, lucky if they have one in my area from a previous student, but i'm not holding me breath on that. I will not have experience working as a RN, so I don't know if that will also relegate me to working in strictly primary care where the salary could be very low comparatively and therefore harder to pay off the debt. With having less debt, more clinical exposure, i feel i could be choosier about the jobs. Am I considering the right objectives? Can the debt be overwhelming with an program I'm not sure is what I'm looking for? Yes, the gamble is definitely high for me, because there is a lot of what ifs. Although living frugally after and or doing loan repayment are options, does planning for those things ever work out the way you plan?

    I feel i would also be more justified spending the $ like this for PA school because you have so many hours of clinical exposure in so many different areas. But I want to be a NP given all the possibilities and opportunities that come with that role. But I also don't want to be short changed on the quality of hours that i could have because I could not find the preceptor of my liking and settled. Any other thoughts anyone???
  9. by   BritFNP
    The fact of it is, I believe more programs make you find your own preceptors than not. I was a little confused cause you mentioned you are starting the NP program in the fall but that you're not a licensed RN yet? A girl that graduated from my FNP program is now in neurology so you are not necessarily confined to primary care.

    If you are not already a RN, my advice would be to look into PA school (if you hold your bachelors already). Although, these are all B&M programs, you don't have to deal with finding any of your own preceptors.