A young pretty asian nurse outside the hospital

What is the NURSE Corps Scholarship?

In 2016, the NHSC NURSE Corps Scholarship Program is one of the best ways to Avoid Student Loan Debt, because this program covers the costs of tuition, school fees, books, supplies, uniforms, equipment, and all the other costs associated with earning your Nursing Degree.

In fact, the NHSC Scholarship even includes a monthly stipend of $1,302 for the 2014-2015 school year, meaning that not only will all your Nursing-education costs be covered, but you’ll also be getting paid to go to school!

NHSC has offered the Nursing Scholarship program for many years now, and created it to help encourage more students to consider attending Nursing school.

What Benefits Does the NHSC Scholarship Offer?

The best part about this program is that it offers a series of benefits which are truly second to none – not even the Military Student Loan Forgiveness Programs can compete with the value provided by the NHSC Scholarship for Nurses.

Benefits include:

  • Full tuition coverage
  • Full “fee” coverage
  • Payments to cover “other reasonable costs”, like books, supplies, instruments, uniforms, etc.
  • A monthly stipend (like a grant) set at $1,302 for 2014-2015

That means your Nursing school costs will be covered by the scholarship, and you’ll be paid over $1,000 a month to go to school.

And that’s precisely what makes the NHSC Scholarship program the best Scholarship on the market in 2015.

How does the NURSE Corps Scholarship Work?

There is a bit of a catch to receiving the benefits outlined above, but it’s a relatively easy one compared to the awesome value that the program delivers.

To qualify for receiving an NHSC Scholarship, you have to agree to serve for 2 years at a “critical shortage facility” located in what the NHSC calls a “Health Professional Shortage Area” (aka HPSA).

This stipulation, naturally, leads to a couple of obvious questions:

Who is Eligible for the NHSC Scholarship?

First, before we even get into the definitions of Critical Shortage Facilities and Health Professional Shortage Areas, we need to point out that not all Nurses are eligible to receive this scholarship.

To be eligible for the NHSC Scholarship, you must be:

  • A U.S. citizen (born here or naturalized), a U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident
  • Enrolled or accepted for enrollment into a professional Nursing degree program (meaning a baccalaureate, graduate, associate or diploma program) at an accredited school of Nursing within the United States
  • Beginning classes no later than September 30th
  • Free of any Federal judgment liens
  • Free of existing service commitments (like the one required by the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program)
  • Not delinquent on any Federal debt

To tell you the truth, the only part of that which I think would be a problem for most applicants is the whole not having any other existing service commitments thing, because I might have trouble choosing between the NHSC Scholarship Program and the fantastic NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program.

The reason that this stipulation exists is that they don’t want people “double-dipping”, and essentially using up all the available funds, but the good news is that you could leverage these programs back-to-back, using one to get your undergraduate degree, then the other to cover the costs of your masters degree.

Just make sure that you do your research heading into the experience and that you time things right in order to make the most of the benefits – for some people, it’ll be a good idea to get the Scholarship first, while for others, it may be more lucrative to leverage the Loan Repayment Program first.

Once you’ve determined that you’re an eligible applicant, it’s time to get a handle on the whole Critical Shortage Facility and Health Professional Shortage Area thing, so let’s define what those actually mean.

What is a “Critical Shortage Facility”?

The entire purpose of the NHSC Scholarship Program is to encourage more Nurses to start working in fields that the U.S. Government has deemed to be in serious demand for new nurses.

The official mission statement of the program is that it’s supposed to “alleviate the critical shortage of nurses currently experienced by certain types of health care facilities located in Health Professional Shortage Areas”, meaning fields of Nursing where the demand exceeds supply of trained professionals.

The deal with the Scholarship is that you’re only eligible to receive it as long as you promise to serve for at least 2 years within one of these Critical Shortage Facilities, and in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

Eligible Critical Shortage Facilities must:

  • Be located in a Health Professional Shortage Area (defined below)
  • Provide primary care medical, dental, or mental and behavioral health services
  • Provide services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay for them
  • Offer discounted fees to patients who qualify for reduced rates
  • Accept patients under Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPs)

To find a list of sites that have been approved as Critical Shortage Facilities, go here.

What is a “Health Professional Shortage Area”?

The way the NHSC Scholarship Program speaks about Critical Shortage Facilities and Health Professional Shortage Areas makes them sound like totally different criteria, but as I understand it, they’re kind of the same thing.

You might think that a “Critical Shortage Facility” is a specific center or healthcare facility, while a “Health Professional Shortage Area” is a concentration area or specific field of healthcare work, but that isn’t necessarily what they mean.

Any Critical Shortage Facility is, by it’s definition, located in a Health Professional Shortage Area, so what we’re really talking about with these two designations is a facility on the list of approved places to work.

The official definition of Health Professional Shortage Areas is a facility, geographic region or population that has a shortage of primary medical care, dental or mental health providers.

Potential HPSA practice sites include:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
  • FQHC Look-Alike Centers
  • Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)
  • Hospital-affiliated Primary Care Out Patient Clinics
  • Indian Health Service, Tribal Clinics, and Urban Indian Health Clinics (ITUs)
  • State or Federal Correctional Facilities
  • Private Practices (Solo and Group)
  • Other Health Facilities, including a long list of centers like Community Mental Health Facilities, Free Clinics, Mobile Units, School-based Health Programs, etc.

Basically, any sort of location offering health services could be designated an HPSA, but the definition isn’t limited specifically to facilities, either.

In fact, an HPSA could be a county, a service area (a couple cities, or a part of a specific city), a group of people (like low income people, or Medicaid recipients), a specific hospital, clinic, or even a group of hospitals, or a chain of clinics (like state or federal prisons).

This makes it seem like it would be difficult to figure out whether or not your potential job will satisfy the conditions of the HRSC Scholarship Program, but fortunately, the HRSA has created an excellent online tool that allows you to search for HPSAs by State and County, so you can find one near you!

To use the HRSA HPSA Finder, go here.

What if My Site is Not On the List?

If the place you work, or want to work, is not listed in the HPSA database, then have no fear, because it’s possible that your location has been overlooked, but is eligible to receive the designation.

In fact, the HRSC even encourages you to work with your State Primary Care Office (PCO) to get your facility approved as an HPSA!

HRSC specifically suggests that if your facility is not on the list, you should contact your state’s PCO to help prepare and submit an HPSA designation request.

To find a list of PCOs by state, go here.

Selection Criteria

Another bit of great news about the NHSC Scholarship Program is that approvals for the Scholarship are supposed to be given first to qualified applicants who exhibit the “greatest financial need”, meaning that these Scholarships are supposed to go to those students who need them the most.

In a nut shell, that means that the poorer you are, and the more expensive your Nursing education costs are, the more likely you are to receive a scholarship.

Now I’m not saying that you should sign up for the most expensive Nursing school that you can find in order to maximize your chances of receiving this scholarship, especially because that could go horribly wrong if you don’t end up receiving it, but it’s certainly something to consider.

How do I Apply for the NHSC Scholarship?

This is where the first bit of bad news comes in.

For 2015, the NURSE Corps Scholarship Program isn’t even accepting applications yet.

According to NHSC, the application won’t be available until March (they don’t give a specific date), but they do offer the chance to sign up to receive Email Updates and get notified as soon as the application goes online.

You can get on their list by going here.

Personally, I would get on the list, because with most scholarship opportunities, the sooner you apply for them, the more likely you are to receive one.

You’re going to want to be one of the first people to get your paperwork submitted, because this is a program simply too good to pass up!

Other Questions?

For other questions about the NHSC Scholarship, your best bet is going to be contacting the HRSA itself, as they’re the only ones who can give authoritative answers.

You can find their Contact Us page here.

If you’d like to ask questions in a less formal way, feel free to sound off in the comments section below, but be aware that I’m not the authority on these issues, and that I can only offer general advice.

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Tim's experience battling crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on dealing with excessive student loans and advocates a cautious approach to funding education costs via borrowed money.