Pursuing a higher degree can be a life-changing endeavor. Registered nurses who earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees open themselves up to a variety of job opportunities, some that pay very well.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary across all states for registered nurses is $75,510, with the highest 10% earning over $100,000. BSN-prepared nurses are more likely to advance into those higher-paying positions than RNs with just an associate degree.
However, education doesn't come free, and the cost of a BSN shouldn't put you in unmanageable debt. While defaulting or being late on a loan can have severe consequences and tangible items can be repossessed, lenders can't take back your education.
Fortunately, there are affordable RN to BSN programs that minimize debt load — you just have to know what to look for when assessing tuition rates.
Understanding the Different Types of Tuition Structures
When researching RN to BSN programs, it's important to consider all associated costs. Many schools determine tuition on a per-credit-hour structure, which can vary significantly. For example, Southern Utah University (SUU) charges $300 per credit hour. The total number of credit hours required to complete the program is 30, adding up to a tuition total of $9,000. SUU has opened up its program to RNs living in the five surrounding states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Idaho at no additional out-of-state costs.
Westminster College, in Salt Lake City, UT, also requires 30 credit hours but its rate is $525 per credit hour. The school also notes, "Due to the discounted tuition rate, students enrolled in the RN to BSN program are not eligible for merit scholarships."
Arizona State University doesn't upcharge for out-of-state students, and its per-credit-hour cost comes in at about $279. However, the program requires 39 credit hours, not 30, meaning total cost is $10,888. This amount also does not include "special class fees," which are not concrete.
Boise State follows the same kind of allowance, keeping tuition and fees the same for resident and nonresident RN to BSN students. But again, the per-credit-hour rate of $342 does not factor in additional costs and fees like the two separate application fees, background check, and drug test. The school estimates total cost to be approximately $12,610.
What Kind of Environment Is Best for You?
Ultimately, students who want to take advantage of the most affordable option still have to balance cost with other life factors, personal preferences and career goals. Someone who requires more of a hands-on online experience and wishes to have regular face-to-face time with faculty and students may be willing to pay more for that experience in a hybrid program. On the other hand, highly independent students might thrive in a strictly online environment — and the freedom it allows.
Another consideration is semester structure. Many of the schools mentioned above work with a three-semester system (spring, summer and fall). That doesn't necessarily work for everyone, especially if you're hoping to move through the program in a somewhat expedited manner — or, alternately, you need to take a break from coursework. A school like SUU offers its students more flexibility, with eight-week courses and six start dates each year.
Taking the next step in your nursing career by earning a bachelor's degree is a smart and strategic move. As the healthcare industry faces new challenges and a rapidly evolving climate, nurses with their BSNs will be a valuable asset.
Learn more about Southern Utah University's online RN to BSN program.
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