I am 47 and recently divorced single parent of two children, ages 7
and 8. I spent the last 9 years as a stay-at-home parent. As a result
of the divorce, I am re-entering the job market. My last position, as
a training and development specialist for a bank, earned roughly
$45,000. It has been somewhat difficult obtaining full-time employment
and I really don't want to return to what I was doing prior to going
on maternity leave. I have been trying to figure out what career I can
go into that will pay enough to support myself and the
kids. Currently, I am looking into getting a second Bachelor's degree
in nursing. After I complete my pre-nursing classes, the program is 16
months. Once you are in clinicals, the school strongly suggests you
don't work. The cost of the program is around $45,000, not including
the cost of the six pre-nursing classes I need to take just to get
accepted into the program. In addition, I will need money to
support my living expenses. My child support is $85 a week. I have no
savings or assets and filed for bankruptcy (chapter 7) as a result of
the divorce settlement. I have both Bachelor's and Masters degrees,
but nursing is one area that I think I would enjoy pursuing that would
meet my financial needs of $60K or $70K in income. I am torn between
the amount of debt I will be in after I finish the program and the
income I will need as a single parent supporting two children.
Any feedback, insight or comments would be very helpful.
— Diane L.
Annual income for an RN (registered nurse) is about $60,000 to $75,000
a year. To become an RN, students must pass a licensing exam after
earning an Associate's degree or Bachelor's degree in nursing. Nurses
continue to be in demand, even during the recent economic
downturn. Some employers provide loan forgiveness programs for nurses
to help attract talent.
But an older student must borrow for more than just the cost of the
program. Older students must also borrow to support their families
while they are studying full-time. (Students who work full time and
study part-time are less likely to graduate and take longer to
finish.) Students who graduate when they 50 years old or older have
at most 15 years of employment before they reach the traditional retirement
age of 65. This contrasts with the 40 years of employment for a student
who graduates with a Bachelor's degree in nursing in her 20s. In
addition, repaying student loans may make it more difficult for an
older borrower to save for retirement and for her children's college
As noted in previous Ask Kantro columns, there is
very little financial aid for a second Bachelor's degree
other than loans and education tax benefits like the Hope Scholarship
and Lifetime Learning tax credits.
The high cost of an undergraduate nursing program will exceed the
annual limits on federal student loans, forcing the student to borrow
from a private student loan program. But a student who has
a recent bankruptcy discharge and no creditworthy cosigners is
unlikely to qualify for private student loans.
If a student's total education debt (including debt from prior
education) is less than the annual expected starting salary, the
student should be able to afford to repay the debt in about 10
years. Older students (and parents of college-age children) should not
borrow more than they can afford to repay in 10 years.