Pursuing a nursing degree in Texas may become less expensive if a bill introduced in the 86th Texas Legislature passes.
State Representative Stephanie Klick (R-North Richland Hills) authored HB 3111 in the Texas House to relieve the debt many nursing students face when they complete their degree. The bill will create a student loan assistance grant program for Texas nurses committing to a career serving older adults in Texas nursing homes. HB 3111 is scheduled for a public hearing in the Texas House Committee on Human Services today.
Representative Klick, a registered nurse, understands the strain student debt places on making career choices in nursing.
“We have some good news for nursing students. As a nurse, I know the dilemma facing new graduates entering the field. We want to pursue our passion for caring, but we also have a student debt that is hard to overcome. This bill will create a loan assistance program for nurses that want to care for our elderly. For many nurses, this can be the difference in pursuing their dream of working with older Texans.”
A 2014 analysis conducted by the National Student Nurses Association showed that the average debt burden of a nurse with a bachelor’s degree is $30,000, a figure that has risen steadily over the last several years.
Contrary to some perceptions, entry-level nurses are not paid at the same level as doctors or pharmacists. Nurses with student loans are less likely to take positions in nursing homes and long-term care facilities because the pay is often not as competitive as hospitals and private-practice settings.
A 2018 report by Forbes magazine found that student debt prevented 80% of borrowers from saving for retirement, 56% from buying a home, 42% from buying a car, and 50% from contributing to charity, according to the report. More than 85% said student loan debt was a major source of stress, and one in three said such debt is the biggest stress in their lives.
LeadingAge Texas, which represents 200 non-profit aging services organizations in Texas, sees the bill as a unique opportunity to recruit nurses into a quickly evolving field. “As Texas’ population ages, the demand for nurses in long-term care has never been higher and opportunities for professional development are endless. HB 3111 will give nursing homes the boost they need to attract the next generation of talent,” said George Linial, President & CEO of LeadingAge Texas.
According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, encouraging younger nurses to remain in the profession is critical. An aging nurse workforce is a significant challenge for Texas healthcare. In 2015, 39.8% of RNs in the state were 50 years or older.
“We cannot have a viable healthcare system in Texas unless we find ways to encourage our nursing graduates to pursue caregiving for our aging population,” says Klick. “Millennials and Generation Z start their careers with significant debt. This bill can help eliminate some of that burden if a nursing student pursues a career in long-term care where Texas is seeing the most need. Once these nurses see the difference they make in the lives of aging Texans, our hope is they will pursue a lifelong career in this field.”