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    Top 5 Affordable and Fast Online RN to BSN Programs

    In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) made a strong recommendation that by 2020, 80% of the nursing workforce should have a baccalaureate degree (BSN). As we start 2020, there is an increased push for non-BSN prepared nurses to earn their degrees quickly and in the easiest way possible. 

    The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) also emphasized that all hospitals hoping to earn Magnet status must provide proof of their plans to increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses to 80% by 2020. 

    For Registered Nurses, the power of online BSN programs allows individuals to continue working while earning their Bachelor’s degree. These RN-BSN bridge programs often allow nurses to still interact with classmates and teachers through online forums such as Blackboard, Collaborate, and Canvas.  

    Online courses allow students who have different learning styles to explore different avenues for learning, without compromising the integrity of a nursing program. Currently, there are hundreds of online nursing programs, so it can be hard to decide which is the right fit for you. This article will give you the top 5 cheapest and fastest RN to BSN programs for nurses. 

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    Top 5 RN-BSN Nursing Programs

    1. University of Central Florida

    Admissions: Applications are accepted three times a year with summer, fall, or spring start dates.

    Program Length: 30-Credit Hours. Can be completed in as little as one year of study.

    Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability.

    Program Cost: $6,368.40 ($212.28 per credit hour) including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Institution by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    College of Nursing - Contact Phone Number: 407-823-2744

    College of Nursing - Contact Email Address: [email protected]

    2. University of Wyoming

    Admissions: Applications are accepted in the fall and spring of each calendar year.

    Program Length: 27-Credit Hours. Can be completed in one calendar year depending on course availability. Courses are 8-weeks long in this program. 

    Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability.

    Program Cost: $4,920 ($139.00 per credit hour) including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Higher Learning Commission.

    College of Nursing - Contact Phone Number: (307) 766-4312

    College of Nursing - Contact Email Address: [email protected]

    3. University of South Florida

    Admissions: Applications are accepted in the fall and spring of each calendar year.

    Program Length: 30-Credit Hours. Can be completed in as little as one calendar year depending on the number of courses taken at a time. 

    Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability.

    Program Cost: $3,152.10 ($105.07 per credit hour) plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

    College of Nursing - Contact Phone Number: (813) 974-2191 

    College of Nursing - Contact Email Address: [email protected]

    4. Appalachian State University

    Admissions: Applications are accepted in the fall and spring of each calendar year.

    Program Length: 30-Credit Hours. Can be completed in as little as one calendar year depending on the number of courses taken at a time. 

    Location: 100% online, with the ability to take classes on a full-time or part-time basis.

    Program Cost: $4,890 ($163.00 per credit hour) plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

    College of Nursing - Contact Phone Number: 828-262-3113 or 1-800-355-4084

    College of Nursing - Contact Email Address: [email protected]

    5. University of Texas Arlington

    Admissions: Applications are accepted in the fall and spring of each calendar year.

    Program Length: 35-Credit Hours. Can be completed in as little as NINE months. This is one of the fastest RN to BSN programs available online. 

    Location: 100% online, with the ability to take classes on a full-time or part-time basis.

    Program Cost: $8.995 ($257.00 per credit hour) plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

    College of Nursing - Contact Phone Number: 817-272-2776 or 866-489-2810

    What type of students should consider online RN to BSN bridge programs? 

    Online RN-BSN programs are a fairly new option for nurses and can fit most lifestyles, especially nurses who: 

    • Have young children and/or are caring for loved ones
    • Need to be employed and do not have the option to take time off work for school
    • Have busy schedules and not a lot of flexibility to attend classes in person
    • Limited financial resources to complete a BSN degree

    Why is it important to choose an accredited and credentialed program? 

    One major consideration that must be taken into account when applying to an online nursing program is accreditation. Non-accredited universities should be a HUGE red-flag for all nurses and students. The five programs mentioned are all accredited and students will earn a BSN at the end of the program that will be accepted in all states and by all healthcare organizations. 

    There are two main accrediting bodies for nursing programs:

    The purpose of accreditation is to focus on the same standards and criteria across all nursing programs. This ensures that there is a level of consistency within the programs. The accreditation process ultimately improves the quality of nursing education and keeps the curriculum up to date on current trends in advances in nursing and healthcare.

    RN to BSN Program Requirements

    The requirements for each of the five programs will vary slightly, but all share a few basic requirements:

    • License in good standing, which means that no disciplinary action without explanation and follow up. If this is a concern, reach out to the program and have a frank discussion with an admissions counselor to see if it will affect acceptance. Do not apply to a program if you have current disciplinary action and have not spoken to a program representative. 
    • Possess a Registered Nurse license as well as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) for all bridge programs. Some programs will require students to have a nursing license in a specific state, but this will be communicated prior to acceptance. 
    • Minimum 2.0 GPA to be accepted into the program. 
    • Criminal background checks are required for all individuals and must be current. This means that most will have to get another one even if they had one for their place of employment.
    • Working a minimum of 30 hours per week or completing the equivalency exam. As long as the student is working as a Registered Nurse during the program, this will fulfill the requirements. If a student takes time off from the bedside during the program, there are other ways to satisfy the requirements. It is best to talk to your advisor about this if it is a concern.
    • Completion of the required prerequisite courses is required in order to be considered for admission. If the classes were not previously completed, students will have to add these courses to their program. These classes include:
      • Anatomy and Physiology
      • Microbiology
      • Statistics
      • Abnormal Psychology
      • Nutrition
      • Chemistry
      • Developmental Psychology
      • Introduction to Sociology

    Based on the program, other requirements may include:

    • Child abuse clearance
    • Drug test
    • Vaccinations
    • Physical examination
    • Letters of recommendations

    How to Pay for the BSN Program

    Money can be a huge factor when it comes to obtaining your BSN degree, even for RN to BSN online bridge programs. But there are a variety of grants, scholarships, and loans that can help you offset the costs. These will vary based on your specific need but, we encourage you to explore all options. Most nurses will utilize tuition reimbursement from their employer to earn their BSN degree. 

    Scholarships

    A scholarship is an award of financial aid to a student to further their education. This money does not have to be repaid. There are a variety of different types of scholarships. These include,

    • Merit-based
    • Need-based
    • Student-specific (gender, race, religion, family, and/or medical history)
    • Career-specific
    • College-specific
    • Athletic

    Check out our full list of over 80 scholarships available to aspiring and current nurses. 

    Grants

    Grants are determined by financial need. They can be used to cover the cost of tuition, books, clinical uniforms and supplies, housing, and educational supplies. When applying for grants they will inform how they are to be applied towards your education. The amount of money you are eligible to receive depends strictly on your financial situation.

    Typically grants do not have to be repaid as long as you graduate nursing school. If you were to drop out, there could be incurred costs.

    Student Loans

    Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be repaid. Loans also incur interest, so you will ultimately repay more than the initial amount of the loan. The exact terms of the loan will depend on the lender and other factors. There are several types of student loans.

    Federal Student Loans

    The most common loans are called Federal Student Loans. Federal student loans are a great option for most students for the following reasons:

    • They don’t have to be paid back while you’re in school
    • They charge lower interest than loans from private lenders
    • If you’re having trouble paying back your loan, there are programs you can qualify for to assist you
    • You don’t need any credit history to get a federal student loan

    Stafford Loans

    Two other fairly common loans are direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans. These loans are also referred to as Stafford loans. Let’s break down the difference:

    Direct Subsidized Loans

    • U.S. Department of Education loan
    • Must meet certain income requirements
    • Demonstrate financial need
    • The government pays the interest rate on loan while in school
    • Payback once graduated

    Direct Unsubsidized Loans

    • U.S. Department of Education loan
    • Don’t have to meet income requirements
    • The student is responsible for accrued interest
    • Payback once graduated

    Private Student Loans

    The other type of student loans commonly used are private student loans. These are usually a student's last resort after applying for all the other options. 

    • Loans come from banks and credit unions
    • They typically have very high-interest rates
    • Payments are required while in school

    Loan Repayment

    Repayment will vary and is determined by the type of loans. Federal loans do not have to be paid back until after graduation. Additionally, repayment can be deferred if you decide to continue your education by taking master’s level classes. 

    For all private loans, repayment can occur while still in school. 

    A standard rule, whether the loans are for undergraduate or graduate school, the loans must be repaid within ten years of completion of the program. 

    There are two types of repayment plans.

    1. Standard Repayment Plan - The borrower repays a set amount each month. 
    2. Graduated Repayment Plan - Payments start out low and increase every two years, but will not be more than three times greater than any other monthly payment.

    If you cannot repay your loans, it is extremely important to immediately discuss this with the lender. Most will have repayment plans that can be deferred in times of financial hardship such as a job loss. 

    Loan Forgiveness

    Some nurses may qualify for nursing loan forgiveness. This will only apply to federal loans. These programs apply to nurses with varying degrees but there are certain requirements that must be met. 

    The most common Loan Forgiveness program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This program forgives the remaining balance of all federal loans after the borrower has made a minimum of 120 qualifying monthly payments. You must not default on your loans, and you must be using a qualifying repayment plan while working for a qualifying employer.

    • A qualifying employer means that you work for:
      • Government organization at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal)
      • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
      • Other types of not-for-profit organizations that are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
      • AmeriCorps or Peace Corps serving as a full-time volunteer

    It is very important to note for this loan forgiveness that the owner of the healthcare system must be a not-for-profit organization. At times, a hospital will be not-for-profit or serve an underprivileged population but will be owned by a larger for-profit corporation. 

    Individual hospitals will also participate in loan forgiveness up to a certain amount for years of service. These hospitals are generally smaller community hospitals in rural areas of the country.

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