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Thoughts on ABSN/ELMSN School Debt

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Hi everyone, 

I'm currently applying to ABSN and entry level MSN programs, however I will be taking out a huge amount of debt. Right now I've decided to cap my budget at $70k solely for school without considering the living expenses. Ultimately I hope $100k debt is the maximum net total I'd accumulate. I really value the quality of education I'll be receiving, but I work with many nurse managers, nurse educators, and simply nurse leaders within healthcare. My goal is to pursue an MSN since I already have a bachelor's and I heard for the long run it will open more doors. 

The perspectives are mixed, several say regardless I will come out with the same license and the pay will be similar. However some say the quality of education is worth it because we are a product of our environment. To be frank, nursing can be viewed as both a "blue collar job" or one may feel called to create positive lasting change in our healthcare system. 

What are everyones' thoughts surrounding this topic? How much of a deficit are people willing to start out with and has anyone else also ran the numbers on how long it would ultimately take us to repay back these loans? 

Appreciate this community and hope to hear from you all! 

Edited by beeeaanss
nursing school debt

PugMafia, PhD, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg. Has 10 years experience.

I have 360K in student loans.  That is almost what I paid for my house.  While I am on the income-based repayment plan, it is still debt that will hang over my head for the next seven years.  I work at a non-for-profit college, so I am hoping for the loan forgiveness for public employees after ten years of payments and service.  However, something to consider because when I bought my home only two months ago, despite having excellent credit, I almost did not qualify because of my student loan balance.  So, if you don’t mind some advice- do an ADN program.  When you start working, have the facilities pay for your BSN, MSN, or doctorate if you want.  That will severely cut the debt amount.   

@PugMafia so grateful for your feedback! If you don’t mind me asking, what was your nursing journey like and how it led to over $300k in debt? I think that’s my biggest worry with applying to name brand schools.. that they come with a hefty price tag

NICU Guy, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 6 years experience.

On 11/18/2020 at 8:21 PM, beeeaanss said:

I think that’s my biggest worry with applying to name brand schools.. that they come with a hefty price tag

That could be your problem. Vast majority of hospitals in this country do not care that you went to a brand name/ prestigious nursing school. The schools will brag about their prestige to justify their outrageous price tag.   

@NICU Guy From your experience, do you believe the quality of education varies significantly? I’ve been through education where they simply push me through the system then experiencing when a program is filled with professors who truly want to invest in me as a person and contribute to my growth/career. Huge reason to why I’m in such a dilemma 

PugMafia, PhD, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg. Has 10 years experience.

On 11/18/2020 at 7:21 PM, beeeaanss said:

@PugMafia so grateful for your feedback! If you don’t mind me asking, what was your nursing journey like and how it led to over $300k in debt? I think that’s my biggest worry with applying to name brand schools.. that they come with a hefty price tag

Two BS degrees, Two MS degres, and a PhD.  I was a second career changer.  I earned an undergraduate business and MBA before going to nursing school.  

why not do an accelerated ADN at a community college? There's one in oklahoma city that's like 9 months, Houston has one that is "self paced" online didactic, Philadelphia has one for like 11 months (I believe this is a private program though, probably costly) and I think they're doing one in Seattle too. It's for people with prior degrees only. Personally, I'd do that and do a bridge program to an MSN. The BSN is a lot of BS from what I understand. The RN to MSN programs for nurses with bachelor's degrees in other fields are like 3 classes.

NICU Guy, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 6 years experience.

On 11/20/2020 at 1:10 PM, beeeaanss said:

@NICU Guy From your experience, do you believe the quality of education varies significantly? I’ve been through education where they simply push me through the system then experiencing when a program is filled with professors who truly want to invest in me as a person and contribute to my growth/career. Huge reason to why I’m in such a dilemma 

I went through an ABSN program at a state university (not prestigious). I got an excellent education and clinical experiences that are unique (health fair for inmates in the gymnasium of a Maximum Security Federal Prison and a mass casualty disaster simulation with the Army Urban Search and Rescue). We also had a 135 hr Senior Capstone placement in the department and hospital of our choice, which gave us an advantage in finding our first nursing job. Several of my cohort got jobs in Level 1 Trauma centers, Cardiac ICUs, and Level IV NICU (me) all over the country. None of the hospitals cared that we came from a state university instead of an Ivy League-type school. They are hiring the person, not the school.

My cohort had a 100% NCLEX pass rate with 1/2 of the class passing at minimum questions (75q at the time).

Once you get 3-5 yrs nursing experience, hiring managers only care about your experience. The school you graduated from is irrelevant. There may be some rare instances where your undergrad school could matter, such as a competitive CRNA program or Hospital administration positions.

In my opinion, going into massive student debt in order to get a degree from a "prestigious" school is a waste, if your plan is a bedside nurse. My BSN from a state university was $20k. My niece graduated from her ABSN program from a private university at the same time I did. Her cost was $65k for the same education.

I did an ABSN at a state school.  At the time, I think the cost was around 26K, though it's now closer to $40K.  If there had not been the public ABSN option, I would have gone with the community college ADN, which even now is only around $9k for the whole two years, but was less then.  Private ABSN programs were running around $55K, and I assume have gone up since.  I didn't even consider taking on that kind of payment.

As a bedside RN, I work with people who went to community college.  I work with people who went through diploma programs.  I work with people who went to expensive private universities.  And if I didn't know where they went through casual chatting, I would never know that nurse A went to a diploma program, and nurse B went to Duke.  It's pretty much irrelevant.

Nursing school doesn't prepare you to be a nurse.  Nursing school prepares you for orientation.  So much of what you are going to learn is what you learn on the job.  Nursing school teaches you the basics, and teaches you how to pass NCLEX. Your first job is where you learn how to be a functioning RN.

Is there a difference in the quality of the education? Possibly. It depends on the school. Sometimes you're getting a superior education, and sometimes you're paying for the name. My state's CC program is very competitive because it is both high-quality and low cost.  My cohort (state university) had a 100% first time NCLEX pass rate, with most of us passing with the minimum questions. People got jobs at various hospitals, or went on to NP school, including Ivy League. I don't think going to a private university would have helped me, and I don't think going to a community college would have hindered me.

Going $100K into debt on an undergrad degree is going to limit you.  It will make it hard for you to have a good work-life balance.  It could push you towards jobs you might not want and chain you to them (either jobs in underserved areas that will help with loan forgiveness or seeking out high-paying jobs where you can work a lot of hours).  It could limit your other big choices (buying a home, having a child, etc.). It can also hinder your MSN plans, as another degree is even more debt, and often does not bring much, if any, pay raise.

My husband is an economist and is always looking at the return on investment. If you have to take on a large extra cost for a small increase in quality, the ROI isn't there to justify it.

On 11/23/2020 at 10:47 AM, NICU Guy said:

I went through an ABSN program at a state university (not prestigious). I got an excellent education and clinical experiences that are unique (health fair for inmates in the gymnasium of a Maximum Security Federal Prison and a mass casualty disaster simulation with the Army Urban Search and Rescue). We also had a 135 hr Senior Capstone placement in the department and hospital of our choice, which gave us an advantage in finding our first nursing job. Several of my cohort got jobs in Level 1 Trauma centers, Cardiac ICUs, and Level IV NICU (me) all over the country. None of the hospitals cared that we came from a state university instead of an Ivy League-type school. They are hiring the person, not the school.

My cohort had a 100% NCLEX pass rate with 1/2 of the class passing at minimum questions (75q at the time).

Once you get 3-5 yrs nursing experience, hiring managers only care about your experience. The school you graduated from is irrelevant. There may be some rare instances where your undergrad school could matter, such as a competitive CRNA program or Hospital administration positions.

In my opinion, going into massive student debt in order to get a degree from a "prestigious" school is a waste, if your plan is a bedside nurse. My BSN from a state university was $20k. My niece graduated from her ABSN program from a private university at the same time I did. Her cost was $65k for the same education.

May I ask which school this is? Sounds awesome 🙂