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Understanding Your Aid

Additional information on a range of topics related to costs and financial aid for graduate students:

Preparing financially for graduate school

There are lots of things you can to do as you get ready to apply for grad school. Do some financial planning and create a personal budget, including your income and expenses. Know your spending habits and make note of what will need to change. Keep a record of your assets and personal savings, and work to set up an emergency fund. Also, keep an eye on your credit; check your credit score, work to boost your number, and make sure that any errors on your credit report are corrected.

Program costs

Your program costs will depend on how many course units (CU) you take per semester. The average course offered at Penn is worth 1 CU, and it is equal to 3 semester hours. Courses that include a lecture and lab are sometimes worth 1.5 CUs.


The average projected total costs (tuition and fees) of the 2016-17 full-time graduate programs—which are based on 4 CUs each term—are as follows:

  • 12 month program costs (12 CU program): $64,807
  • 18 month program costs (16 CU program): $86,418
  • 24 month program costs (24 CU program): $130,577


Because every student’s living situation and personal expenses are different, we’ve calculated the estimated/projected costs for tuition only for the average part-time graduate program (12 CUs):

  • 2 year part-time tuition: $67,349
  • 3 year part-time tuition: $70,046

To be considered a full-time student you must have a course load of 3 CUs or more per semester, including summer terms; anything less, in any semester, is considered part-time. If you apply as a full-time student, but switch to part-time, lowering the number of CUs you take per semester, you will decrease the cost of your tuition and fees, which will in turn lower your student budget and reduce your financial aid eligibility. You will no longer be eligible for nursing grant or endowed scholarship funds.

Financial aid options

Federal Perkins and Direct Plus Loans are available for students who are attending at least half time (2 CUs). You can request $20,500 of unsubsidized funds as a direct loan each academic year, but please keep in mind that you must make a progression of 6 CUs to reach each new level of borrowing.

Is there a gap in your aid and expected tuition cost? Grad Plus loans can be used to cover your expected contribution and any difference between your need and the combination of your grants, scholarships, and loans.

Determining your financial aid package

Financial aid at Penn Nursing is need-based, and is calculated with regard to your assets and FAFSA. Specifically, your financial need is your total student budget minus expected student contribution. The student budget includes your tuition, fees, living expenses, books, and other personal expenses. We will meet your need 100% with grants (if eligible) and loans.

Concerned that your needs will change when you stop working? If you are leaving an employment position to come to school full-time, you should complete a Graduate Re-Evaluation application to have your financial aid based on your projected income.

Eligibility for School of Nursing grants and endowed scholarships

All you need to do to be eligible for these is to fill out a FAFSA. If you are eligible, the award will be automatically posted to your student billing account. These awards are calculated based on your financial need, number of CU’s you are taking, and your expected student contribution. In 2015-2016, they ranged between $100 and $3750 per semester.

If there’s sufficient need, you may be offered a School of Nursing Grant or a Nursing Endowed Scholarship for the academic year. You may also be offered a Federal Perkins Loan, Graduate Direct, and Grad Plus loans, if necessary. Your summer aid package will be similar to an academic year semester, except in place of a Perkins Loan you may be offered a Nursing Student Loan.

Undergraduate student loan debt

Your current student loan debt has no bearing on your graduate financial aid as long as you have not defaulted on a previous loan. Those who have previously defaulted on an educational loan should begin Defaulted Loans Rehabilitation, which involves contacting your loan servicer and starting to make payments. We suggest that you should try to make at least 12 consecutive payments.

Aid options when attending less than half time

There are alternative loans available for students who take 1 CU per semester during the academic year. Note, if you are taking 1 CU in the summer, that is considered half-time, and you then become eligible to borrow federal loans. These can all be found at

Increasing your student budget

You can have your student budget adjusted for educational costs that exceed your existing budget by submitting a Graduate Budget Increase Request form (PDF). You should do this for expenses like clinical travel costs, a one time computer purchase, or a financial need in any other area mentioned on the form in which you expect to exceed the University’s projected budget in that area.

For example, if your rent exceeds the housing budget you may be eligible to receive a 25% increase in your housing budget. For clinical travel expenses, calculate the mileage to and from the clinical location and be sure to include tolls. We suggest submitting the total cost of clinical travel per semester to ensure your student budget is adjusted accordingly.

Reporting outside scholarships

Follow the instructions on the Penn Student Financial Services website to report an outside scholarship.

Tuition benefits for working at UPHS and CHOP

Both the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) offer tuition benefits. Get in touch with their respective Human Resources Offices for specifics and eligibility.

International students

Unfortunately, Penn Nursing has a limited budget for financial aid and our international students typically have to rely on personal funds, though some of our students find a sponsor from their home country. Please review this information for the University of Pennsylvania’s policies and information for international students regarding financial aid.

GI Bill

Students who are using the GI Bill to fund their schooling can find some general information on the yellow ribbon program on the Veterans at Penn page.

Additional resources

The Student Financial Services (SFS) website is a wealth of information, and can help you find out what you need to know about federal loans, give you tips on consolidation, and help you navigate the Penn Loan System. This system can be used to request new Direct or Grad Plus loans, as well as update, decrease, or cancel existing loans.

At the top of every page of the SFS website is ASK BEN, a great tool for finding solutions to general questions. When possible, you should try to use this to quickly find what you’re looking for.

Still can’t find it? Get in touch! We’d love to help you.