Guide to Paying for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) School

By Melissa Brock · June 03, 2024 · 9 minute read

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Guide to Paying for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) School

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are nurses with graduate-level education who provide anesthetics to patients in surgical and other procedures.

Currently, nurse anesthetists must have a registered nurse (RN) license and a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Nurse anesthesia programs typically range in length from 24 to 51 months. By 2025, all CRNAs must have a Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP), according to the COA. It typically takes two years for a student with an MSN to earn a doctorate.

Continue reading for a look at nine tips that can help you learn how to pay for CRNA school.

Key Points

•   Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) require advanced education, typically a master’s degree from an accredited program, with a shift towards requiring a Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) by 2025.

•   CRNA school costs vary significantly, with tuition and fees ranging from around $45,000 to over $138,666 depending on the institution.

•   Funding options for CRNA school include federal student loans, grants, scholarships, and private loans, with potential employer sponsorship for tuition reimbursement.

•   Financial strategies for managing CRNA school expenses include choosing less expensive schools, saving money in advance, and utilizing federal financial aid through FAFSA.

•   Additional funding sources like grants and scholarships specifically for nurse anesthesia students are available through professional associations like the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).

How Much Does CRNA School Cost?

You may have already spent a few years paying for nursing school to get your registered nursing degree, but how much does it cost to further your education to become a nurse anesthetist?

The total cost of CRNA school (including tuition, clinical fees and other expenses) can vary widely, depending on whether you choose to attend an out-of-state institution, a private college, or an in-state university.

For example, the 2021-2022 tuition and fees at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, are an estimated $138,666. In contrast, tuition and fees are approximately $45,000 for Arkansas State University’s. Note that there may be additional costs associated with a CRNA degree, such as books, supplies, or exam fees.

Note that the average nursing school cost can vary widely, ranging from $6,000 for an associate degree to over $100,000 for an advanced degree.

9 Tips to Help You Pay for CRNA School

Let’s take a look at nine tips you can use to pay for CRNA school, from choosing a less expensive school to answering the question, “Will financial aid pay for CRNA school?”

1. Choose a Less Expensive School

You can save money by choosing a less expensive school and/or by making sure that you have residency in the state of the university you want to attend. For example, the total cost of attending Georgetown University’s DNAP program for the first year is $140,693, $86,361 for the second year and $75,884 for the third year.

The cost to attend the University of Iowa is $85,553 if you’re an in-state resident or $159,206 if you’re an out-of-state resident.

It’s important to compare and contrast the costs of several programs before you decide which school will both meet your needs and help you save money.

2. Save Money

You may also want to consider saving money for college to limit the amount of money you’ll have to borrow for CRNA education. Knowing the costs of the schools on your shortlist can help you earmark a certain amount of money to set aside. However, remember that you may receive scholarships and grants that you don’t have to pay back. You might not need to save for the complete costs of a nurse anesthetist program. One way to understand your exact costs is to meet with the financial aid office of the schools you’re considering. They’ll give you an idea of the type of institutional financial aid you could qualify for.

There are a wide variety of ways to save, including through a general savings account, certificate of deposit (CD) or a 529 plan, which is a state tax-advantaged plan that will allow you to withdraw funds tax-free to cover nearly any type of college expense. 529 plans may also have additional state or federal tax benefits.

3. FAFSA and Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) refers to a form you can complete to determine your eligibility for student financial aid. Learn more about the FAFSA with SoFi’s comprehensive FAFSA guide.

You can qualify for federal student aid, including grants and federal student loans, through the FAFSA. You may also have to file the FAFSA in order to qualify for institutional scholarships.

4. Work More

If you’re already working as a nurse, you may want to consider picking up some more hours in order or prepare to save for your CRNA degree. It’s important to note that since nurse anesthesia programs are so labor intensive, most students find it difficult to work while attending CRNA school. However, you can certainly save up as much as possible prior to entering school in order to save as much as possible. If you must work, you may want to strictly limit your hours, but that’s a personal decision.

5. Getting an Employer to Pay for Your Education

Will a hospital pay for CRNA school?

Hospitals and groups often offer tuition reimbursement to offset loan debt. However, you may have to sign a tuition reimbursement payback agreement, which means you may have to pay back your reimbursement if you leave the company within a specific amount of time.

Ask your human resources office and read the fine print if your hospital has an agreement to see if you need to repay tuition if you get laid off or fired.

6. Grants

Grants are “free money” that you typically don’t generally have to pay back. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) offers nurse anesthesia grants to develop research for member CRNAs to develop healthcare policy, the science of anesthesia, education, practice/clinical or leadership opportunities. The Foundation will reimburse up to 15% indirect costs with proper documentation.

The AANA grants listed above are research grants, but you may be able to tackle state grants, school grants for graduate students and other types of grants by filing the FAFSA. The best way to learn more is to ask more questions through the financial aid offices of the schools you’re considering.

7. Scholarships

Like grants, you also do not have to pay back scholarships.

The AANA also offers scholarships. Students who are AANA members and currently enrolled in an accredited nurse anesthesia program may be eligible for scholarships as long as you’re in good standing in your program, meet the application requirements, and apply online.

In addition, the university you plan to attend may also offer merit-based scholarships. Contact your school’s financial aid office to see what they offer and how to apply.

8. Private Student Loans

Private student loans originate with a bank, credit union, or online lender, not the federal government like in the case of federal student loans. Private student loans can fill in the gaps between tuition as well as your savings, grants, scholarships, and federal student loans.

It’s a good idea to explore the interest rates, fees, repayment terms, discharge, and repayment options among private student loan lenders.

The application process usually involves submitting information about your personal information, school you plan to attend, graduation date, and loan amount you need. You must also agree to the lender’s terms and conditions.

It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections, like income-driven repayment plans, as federal student loans, so they are typically considered an option only after they have thoroughly reviewed all other financing opportunities.

Recommended: Private Student Loan Guide

9. Direct PLUS Loans

Similar to student loans for undergrads, you can also get student loans for graduate school. You do have to repay loans.

As a graduate student, you can become eligible for federal loans that come from the U.S. Department of Education, including Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct Plus Loans. You can borrow up to your cost of attendance. Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a lower interest rate and origination fee than the Direct PLUS Loan, also called the Graduate PLUS Loan.

For Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate students disbursed on or after July 1, 2023 and before July 1, 2024, the fixed interest rate for Direct Unsubsidized loans is 5.50%. Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2023, and before July 1, 2024, have a fixed interest rate of 8.05%.

The benefits of federal loans include a six-month grace period before beginning repayment as well as flexible repayment plans with Public Service Loan Forgiveness eligibility. This means that as long as you make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan, you might get your loans forgiven as long as you work full-time for a qualifying employer.

How Much CRNAs Can Expect to Make?

Nurse anesthetists can expect to make a median salary of $214,200 per year or $102.98 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job outlook for these jobs will grow about 38% from 2022 to 2032.

The Takeaway

There are a lot of ways to make your dreams of becoming a CRNA a reality. You may want to consider filing the FAFSA to qualify for federal loans, grants, and other types of funds. The AANA may also offer scholarships that you qualify for, but don’t forget to check with your employer or other sources, such as local businesses, for other funds.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Can you get paid for going to CRNA school?

You typically cannot get paid to attend CRNA school. However, universities often offer a wide variety of financial aid options, through both merit-based and need-based aid. You may need to file the FAFSA in order to qualify for certain types of aid. Check with the financial aid office at the universities you’re considering for more information about your financial aid options.

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) also offers nurse anesthesia grants and scholarships to students who qualify.

How much does CRNA school cost?

The costs of CRNA school depends on a wide range of factors, including whether you plan to attend an in-state or out-of-state institution or plan to attend a private or public school.

For example, Georgetown University, a private institution, costs $140,693 for the first year, $86,361 for the second year and $75,884 for the third year. On the other hand, the full cost to attend the University of Iowa is $85,553 for three years as an in-state resident or $159,206 as an out-of-state resident.

How much do CRNAs typically make?

As a nurse anesthetist, you can expect to make a median salary of $214,200 per year or $102.98 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera

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