Registered nurses (RNs) are those who have completed an exam and received a license from the state. Although a bachelor's degree is not required to become a registered nurse, many nurses find that having a four-year degree gives them significantly more job options, as well as opportunities for advancement. The cost of a bachelor's degree in nursing can vary widely depending on where a student completes her classes.
Several types of colleges offer a bachelor of science in nursing, or a BSN degree. Public or state-sponsored colleges and universities, private schools, and schools affiliated with hospitals may all offer traditional four-year nursing programs. In addition, many of these colleges and universities also offer online programs that allow students to complete many of their BSN degree requirements through the Internet, and some online-only schools also offer BSN programs. The average cost of a bachelor's degree in nursing is different at each of these types of schools, and the cost of tuition at most public schools also depends on whether the student is a state resident.
At most colleges and universities, the cost of tuition for a bachelor's degree in nursing is typically the same as for other programs. The College Board website (linked in Resources) estimates that in 2008, the average cost for 4 years' worth of tuition was $26,340 at a public university and $100,572 at a private university. This is comparable to typical nursing-school tuition rates. For example, the four-year BSN program at University of Washington costs approximately $28,000 in tuition for state residents, and $93,000 for non-residents. At the University of Pennsylvania, a top Ivy League school, a bachelor's degree in nursing costs approximately $150,000. At Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), a hospital-affiliated nursing school, tuition costs about $55,000 for residents and $100,000 for non-residents. Online nursing programs generally cost about $100 to $150 per credit, with most programs requiring about 180 credits for a bachelor's degree, for a total tuition cost of about $20,000.
In addition to tuition, the cost of nursing school also includes textbooks, lab costs and administrative fees. At many colleges and universities, lab fees for nursing school are higher than for other programs, because of the cost of specialized supplies and equipment. For example, the nursing-school fees at OHSU are approximately $1,700 per term. Students attending nursing school may also need to pay for parking, housing and basic living expenses, which can vary depending on the student's circumstances and where in the country the nursing school is located.
Many schools offer programs that allow students to use prior degrees or training to meet part of the BSN degree requirements. Some of the most common are RN-to-BSN programs, which allow nursing students who have completed a 2-year degree and the registered-nurse exams to complete a bachelor's degree in 2 years or less. Some bachelor's-degree programs have similar programs for licensed practical nurses (LPNs). As completing basic college and nursing-school requirements at a 2-year college can be significantly less expensive, at approximately $70 per credit, nursing students may be able to save money by starting at a local community college and then transferring to a school that offers bachelor's degrees.
The cost of a bachelor's degree in nursing can be reduced by scholarships, grants and work-study programs. The website for each nursing school generally offers financial-aid information for prospective students, and the nursing-school website linked to in Resources offers a list of financial-aid options that may be available at a variety of colleges.