Iowa Student Loan and the Iowa Nurses Association announced a new program Tuesday that provides grants to nurses who seek teaching degrees. Iowa Nurses Association president, Ginny Wangerin, says the program will provide up to $125,000 annually in grants to nurses.

Wangerin says nursing education does not pay well and there’s a significant upfront cost to get the education, and this program will help offset that costs. She says it could help a nurses who are part-time — or may want to go part-time to take courses– to pay for the education, and the grant program allows them to decide where to use the money. Wangerin says right now the average age of a nurse educator is only about five years older than the average nurse.

She says that data shows that nurse educators will retire at a faster rate than other nurses and it is a concern. Wangerin says the Iowa Nursing Board identified 100 open positions two years ago, which means schools couldn’t accept nursing students because they did not have faculty to teach them.

Qualified nursing students can get up to four-thousand dollars per academic year from the program. Greta Degen, an assistant professor of nursing at Grand View University in Des Moines, was able to become get an advanced degree through a forgivable loan program. But, she says not everyone can work it out where they can wait to get help.

Degen says it’s similar to getting a medical degree, but while those who get a medical degree then have a higher salary to pay off their student loans, that’s not true in nursing education. She says nursing educators make less money than the students do as new nurses and that makes it tough to pay off the student loans. Degen says there are federal programs to help with nursing education, but they have restrictions that make them hard for some nurses to meet.

Degen says the biggest problem in Iowa was that none of the nurses qualified for the federal money unless they wanted to uproot their families and move to a larger city and university. She says there are likely many, many people in the same boat as she was. Degen says she did not want to move her family to take advantage of the federal money.

Degen says this new program will make it easier for Iowa nurses to pay for the education without moving. Nurse educators can begin applying for the “Iowa Student Loan Nurse Educator Grant Program” on December first by going to: www.studentloan.org.