38 FOCUS ON EDUCATION | 2018 | www.advanceweb.com ISTOCK A ccording to CNBC, the average annual tuition is on the rise. In 2015, a private, non-profit, four-year uni- versity cost an average of $31,231. A public four-year university cost approximately $9,139. This is in sharp contrast to the fees from 1971- 1972; a private education costed approximately $1,832, and a public education costed less than $500. Becausethecostofacollegeeducationkeeps rising and rising, so does our student loan debt. About $100 billion per year is financed, and we have a total of about $1.2 trillion – yes, trillion in outstanding student loan debt. If you’re hoping to earn your RN degree or go back to grad school and minimize your debt, here’s a few tips for you. CHECK OUT YOUR EMPLOYER’S TUITION REIMBURSEMENT PROGRAM I initially earned my LPN certification while working as a waitress. I wracked up loads of debt in just a few years of college. When I went back to school for my RN degree, I was working in a hospital that would pay 75% of my degree if I met two qualifications: • I had to work a 0.8 (about 4 days every pay period, as we worked 8-hour shifts) • I had to promise that I would work as an RN at my hospital for two years after graduation I weighed the pros and cons. I had no prob- lem promising to work for the hospital for two years – I knew I wanted to stay in the area. But working a 0.8 on night shift while going to school would prove difficult – there was little room for job movement at the time. But – I did it. And two years later, I gradu- ated with my RN degree with minimal student loan debt and a job (because they wanted me to work there – they had just paid for most of my degree!) Where do you work? A hospital, nursing home, private practice, insurance company? Check to see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement. But tread carefully – ensure that you understand the conditions explicitly before you sign up. Many will require that you work in the same facility after graduation – if this is not in your plan, you will want to find a different means of affording your education. SCHOLARSHIPS Now this is something I wish I had utilized when I was in school. There are so many scholarships available to students in their undergrad and even in grad school. Many universities and colleges offer scholarships based on merit, academic achievement, financial need, and physical achievements without even applying. However, often these scholarships are not enough to foot the entire bill. You will need to search for other scholar- ships and apply. Johnson & Johnson has compiled a lengthy list of scholarships. Their website can be fil- tered by multiple different requirements, such as education requirements (undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral, for example), state, gender, and ethnicity. And that’s just the beginning. There are many other websites you can search for scholarships! CONSIDER YOUR CHOSEN SCHOOL We all have that “dream school” we want to go to. What makes it the “dream school”? Is it because it is a top school? Is it in a desirable location? Did a family member go there? Education on a Budget: Affording grad school By Krystina Ostermeyer RN, BSN, CDE FINANCES  |  FOCUS ON EDUCATION