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Purely Financial - RN or PA


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Hey guys,

I got an acceptance into PA school, my dreams came true! Until i realize that my loan principal will be roughly 170k. The payback period definitely looks like 10 years. In my young naive mind I always thought i would live like a bum and pay them off in a couple years. Maybe that would be possible with a 100k loan I dont know. 

Is it possible that doing an RN program would be more financially advantageous? If i went to a under 50k program I believe with some kind of job and pulling all of my savings I could probably come out debt free. Possibly take on a lot of overtime ect a couple years out and have a nice little savings account again.  I am sure that in 10 years the PA income would dwarf mine. But perhaps I could consider other options at that point, that is not as much of a concern.

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Guest HanSolo

Is this 170k purely for tuition or does this also include living expenses? 

The interest rate for graduate student loans (2019-2020 academic year) is 6.08% (https://www.valuepenguin.com/student-loans/student-loan-interest-rates). If you wanted to pay that 170k off in 10 years, you'd be paying $1894.19 per month. Total interest would be just north of 57k. Now, let's say you earn 100k per year and total taxes are, say, 20% of your take home pay. Obviously this will vary tremendously, but it's a nice easy number for now. Thus, you took home 80k = $6,667/month. Subtract the student loan debt and you're at $4,772.81/month. That may seem like a lot, but if you have other debt like a car loan, undergraduate loans, etc., then you could be further in the hole. You could, of course, live off that amount and be very comfortable. However, if you are like most people, your life will change, you'll probably have a family, might consider buying a house, etc.

You could calculate the same for an RN program based on average cost of education and subsequent salary. Those numbers seem to vary tremendously, so I am not sure what to use for calculations. You'd have to see what the options are in your area and what RNs get paid locally. Then compare it to the PA salary and see where you are at. In the end, there are RNs who are getting paid more than PAs, but that is not the norm and seems to be concentrated in a few geographic areas where the demand must be vastly greater than the supply. Furthermore, the job responsibilities are quite different, so you'd have to consider if that is even something you're interested in.

Overall, I think you are asking good questions that many people don't think about prior to school. If you can attend a program with cheaper tuition, I think it would behoove you to at least explore that option. Your future self might thank you. 

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Yes it is including living expenses approximately 30k a year that i hope I can cut down fairly easily. I used http://www.finaid.org and the interest rate for grad plus at 7.8% came out to around 82k over ten years and a $2100 payment or so a month.  

For PA school it seemed like it would be all in all, 1500 left over discretionary income a month after taxes and cost of living and a 10 year payement.  

I only wish I asked these questions sooner, I feel like I only have a short time to make a decision.. your right I guess i should plug in RN numbers.. is there a general concept to follow though?

I applied to USC Keck and with 150k tuition and 60 COA... that's a 210 principal I just dont think would be worth it. a $170k is better... I am not qualified to make this decision 😞

Edited by Ryanseacrest
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I mean, PA school is going to be expensive no matter where you go and RN school is almost always going to be cheaper. 

I’m a person who likes to think about why I did something in first place and think, “will it make me happy?”. Yes you’ll be counting pennies, but Sounds like your dream is to ultimately become a PA so I honestly would continue with pa school. If you do rn, do you think you’ll look back in the future and say “what if I went to pa school”? Would you be just as happy as an Rn? 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I recently made the switch from PA to RN, and money was a big factor.

I'm from a low-income family, and the thought of school debt is terrifying. But here's the thing: is PA your dream job? If it is, then do it. Your soul will thank you!

If money is truly a limiting factor, and "follow your heart" doesn't apply, then consider doing a nursing program, making some money, and then later on applying to a nurse practitioner role. By my research, it looks like an A-BSN is 50K and the nurse practitioner masters is another 50K, so equivalent to many PA schools (though doesn't sound like it for the one you got into) - but spread out with more time to buffer the damage.

Good luck!

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