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DNP Discussions

Funding for DNP Tuition

Published April 13, 2012 2:52 PM by Catherine Nichols

Q: What are some tips for financing my DNP education?

A: Returning to school or continuing in the pursuit of a higher academic degree is a pivotal life-changing milestone. The decision to obtain the DNP should be weighed from all angles. You need to consider the time, commitment, social, family, professional and personal costs. A tool that can help you make the decision is a “pros and cons” spreadsheet. At the top of this list of important considerations is the actual financing cost of doctoral education.

Doctoral education is not cheap, but it can be funded in various ways. Student loans, personal investments and bank loans are means of funding on a personal level. Most employers, especially in the healthcare industry, offer tuition reimbursement. Check with your human resource departments. Other forms of funding are available as free funding and grants. Many national, state, community and employer agencies provide funding to those who have the resources to pursue them.

The Institute of Medicine has issued a statement called The Future of Nursing Report, which outlines the need for an increased number of primary care providers and provider education to enable patients to navigate our increasingly complex health care system. In accordance with the Affordable Care Act, these agencies supply funding to assist with the education of nurse practitioners and potential primary care providers. Some avenues for doctoral funding are listed here:


Health Workforce Information Center — A national organization supplying funding opportunities based on type of funding, such as awards (honorary), awards (monetary), educational opportunities, fellowships, free or discounted registrations, grants and contracts, incentive programs, loan repayment programs, loans, scholarships, technical assistance.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) — A national, philanthropic foundation providing grants and funding in multiple disciplines and health care initiatives. An excellent document published by the RWJF sites multiple venues to pursue for nursing education funding. See “Charting Nursing’s Future: A Publication of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation — A “New York-based philanthropy dedicated to improving the lives of patients and their families through nurse-led innovation” (University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 2011). The Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation was recently introduced, assisting in the funding of direct BSN to doctoral education. With the backing of the RWJF, the Hillman Foundation initiative is available currently at the University of Pennsylvania, and is being duplicated at multiple universities nationally. Check with your University for availability.

John A. Hartford Foundation — U.S. leading philanthropy focused on interest in aging and health. Geriatric healthcare is emphasized, with grants and funding opportunities. Currently partnering with the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence (see below).

Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence — The Jonas Center is a philanthropic organization dedicated to building the effectiveness of America’s professional nurses in three key ways: (1) developing outstanding faculty, (2) advancing scholarship and (3) sparking innovative practice. The organization offers grants and funding for all nursing education.


A specific example of a statewide initiative is in my home state of Michigan and has been approved by former governor Jennifer Granholm. This initiative is being duplicated presently in states nationwide, and many are being expanded to encourage providers to practice primary care in underserved areas. The Michigan Department of Community Health partners with the federal government to administer the National Health Service Corps Tuition Reimbursement program to place primary care providers, including physicians, PAs and NPs, around the state. The loan repayment program provides up to $50,000 to help repay student loans for graduates who agree to practice for 2 years in Health Professional Shortage Areas, which are generally rural or inner-city locations. Through this program, Michigan placed more than 30 healthcare professionals by the end of 2010. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 authorized an additional $11 billion nationwide to support this program over 5 years beginning in 2011. This additional funding could greatly increase placement of primary care providers in underserved areas. This program may be attractive to PAs and NPs, with average degree program costs of $31,210 (average in state, public school) and $16,624 (average in-state, public school), respectively.

To review other opportunities in Michigan, the Michigan Center for Nursing is an excellent resource ( Check your state Center for Nursing excellence and your State Department of Community Health for your funding opportunities in your region.

Pursuing the DNP degree is a valuable and career changing experience. With a little initiative and drive for funding, the DNP can be realized and utilized to develop excellence in healthcare for the coming millennium.


Editor's note: Here at the DNP Answers blog we take your questions about the DNP and answer them as best we can. This question is answered by blogger Catherine Nichols, MSN, ANP-BC, a DNP student and adult nurse practitioner. Comment below to discuss this topic, or send new questions to

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posted by Catherine Nichols


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