Paying for Nursing School (With Elizabeth Gardner)

SON Student Services Director Elizabeth Gardner breaks down nursing school-specific costs; how to apply for scholarships; and why students shouldn't wait to ask for financial help. General Student Affairs email: Support Our School page:

Joe Gaccione 0:02
Greetings, you're listening to Vital Views, podcast for UNLV School of Nursing. This is Joe Gaccione, host and UNLV Nursing Communications Director. One of the hardest parts of college, let alone nursing school, is the financial side. Many students learning how to live on their own start seeing how costs in higher education can add up. Of course, there are resources available, which for some nursing students is critical for them to realize their goal of becoming registered nurses. Our special guest for today's episode is one most of our students and alumni are familiar with, Elizabeth Gardner. She is our Student Services Director. Elizabeth actually started with UNLV Nursing way back in the late 90s, and worked her way up to her current role, in which she assists students in a multitude of ways, including directing them towards financial aid. Elizabeth, thanks for coming in.

Elizabeth Gardner 0:50
Thank you for having me.

Joe Gaccione 0:51
What are some common nursing school costs that students may not think about that differ from other majors?

Elizabeth Gardner 0:57
The biggest two are immunizations, because I don't think that the average student has any idea how many immunizations a nursing student has to have. And then also health insurance, they have to have it, it's not an option. And if you don't have insurance through your parents, it's something that's probably not on your radar as much. So, those are the two big costs that I know students kind of experienced sticker shock. They also sometimes do or don't think about the fact they have to have uniforms. Uniforms have to be nice and clean, they can't be ripped. They don't think enough, I think, about all of the books and notebooks and things that they need to be able to be successful. And the costs of things like virtual simulation, that is part of their course work, in some cases.

Joe Gaccione 1:47
UNLV nursing has several scholarships and donations specifically for aiding students in times of need. Can you talk about some of them, both the widely known and ones that students may not be aware of?

Elizabeth Gardner 1:57
Absolutely. The biggest one that we have for the school, it's the Edward and Shauna Smith Scholarship. And they are such a wonderful couple, we actually have three separate scholarships from them. They give us, annually, $170,000 for undergraduate students, they give us $40,000 annually for psych-mental health students and they are the benefactor behind the Student Services Scholarship that we can offer. That's the $1,000 for an emergency issue. They are a fabulous couple and they're always asking us what else they can do. Tony and Renee Marlon give us $100,000 annually, that is reserved for Masters and PhD students. One of the little known ones, Diana Mae gives us, it's $30,000 annually, which doesn't sound like a whole lot in comparison, but it's $30,000, and it actually goes into the Nursing General Scholarship. So, that and donors from the school, myself included, that's where our money goes, is into that Nursing General Scholarship. So, we're kind of the nameless, faceless group. We also have a couple of scholarships set up by emeritus faculty. Michelle Clark has one, her scholarship right now is set up to give out $1,000 annually to a doctoral student. But there are others and it's, again, we are very, very blessed in the School of Nursing to have as many scholarships as we do.

Joe Gaccione 3:30
One common thread and speaking to scholarship recipients was that the process to apply was not as daunting as they originally thought and this was one reason given for others for not signing up sooner than they did. When I think about applying for a scholarship, much like applying for a job, there's almost an intimidation factor of how much is this going to cost me timewise? How, like, how long is this process going to be? But is the process really that extensive?

Elizabeth Gardner 3:55
It's actually very simple. Every scholarship that we have within the school, which is the ones that I control and can give out, requires that a FAFSA, a free application for federal student aid be on file. It is incredibly easy to fill that out now. You used to have to have a copy of your taxes and find the right box to fill the right number. Now, there's a link on it, go out, find my taxes, it brings all those numbers in and just automatically does it for you. That's what generates an EFC, which is an estimated family contribution. And then based on that, financial aid does the rest of the calculation with a cost of attendance less EFC equals need. That allows me then, once I can see, most of our scholarships, if you even have $1 in need, I can award scholarships to you. So, it makes a big difference. We only have two overall that don't have the need component to them. But again, it's rare that we have students that don't have some need.

Joe Gaccione 4:55
But every little bit helps and talking with these students, whether they're pre-nursing, undergrad, graduate, or even recent alums, they say even just the smallest amount is a huge burden taken off their shoulders, because that might, that might help pay for gas, that might help pay for maybe, maybe meals. You know, it's like it's taking, it's one less thing they have to worry about.

Elizabeth Gardner 5:16
Absolutely. And that is why I work so hard to make sure that any student that has need, that we can help them out, regardless of what that need is. We work on making sure we have all up-to-date things about not, not only the scholarship funds that we have, but also any opportunities in the community that we can share with students, where they can go if they are food insecure, if they’re housing insecure, we want to make sure that we help them. I tell them all the time, my shoulders are really big, and they are very dry, I can handle it. Let me know what I can do to help. My job is always to remove those roadblocks for you.

Joe Gaccione 5:57
So, how does the process normally work? Do you reach out to them? Do you see a need? Or do they have to come to you first?

Elizabeth Gardner 6:03
It actually happens both ways. I have the general scholarship list that financial aid sends me of all of our students and how much need they have. And that kind of starts the process. But I've worked really hard with all of the faculty and the rest of the staff, if they hear a whisper of something going on, they let me know, then I will seek out that student and try and find out what's going on and figure out the best way that we can help them.

Joe Gaccione 6:29
And it has to be challenging for some students, because to admit that you need help. As honest as that might be, it might be a little intimidating for them to say, “I'm struggling, I need help.” It takes a lot for someone to admit that.

Elizabeth Gardner 6:42
it does. And I feel so bad because some of the students wait until it's absolutely critical that we help them just because they've been so, I guess embarrassed to come and talk to us that they have this need, when truly, that's what we're here for. That's why we have jobs. It's also our passion. I'm very blessed that my whole team has this passion. “How can we help the student?” We are working hard to let students know that we are here to help them. Again, we try to do different email campaigns just to let them know what's going on and what we offer and how we can help benefit them and get them across that finish line of graduation.

Joe Gaccione 7:21
When it comes to reaching out to a student who may not reach out to you first, are you able to, you're able to just nominate them yourself, is that how it works?

Elizabeth Gardner 7:29
What happens is I have all of the scholarships under us, I can award them to anyone I want, basically. There are structures within each one, but it is left to my expertise to be able to award. There are a few that we hold, like the Student Services Scholarship, in case a student is in trouble and needs that additional funding. We always have that available. I never fully award each semester just in case we have that little, “Help me, please,” moment with a student so that I can access that, get it to them, and hopefully reduce some of the stress that they're feeling.

Joe Gaccione 8:03
And another common thread that I've picked up on is with the students that are applying, it's never one moment, it was never this breaking news kind of thing. It was always a gradual feeling of “Well, maybe it'll get better, but it's not getting better. Let me just see how it goes. Okay, it's actually getting a little bit worse. We're approaching crisis mode.”

Elizabeth Gardner 8:21
And sometimes the hardest part is admitting that it's happening. I know for myself as well, I'm just as guilty. “I've got this, I can handle this, I'll fix this.” Whereas had I asked for help right when this started, I probably would have been much better off myself. So, I try to encourage students all the time, when you start seeing something bubble up, let's talk about it. It may not be critical, right now, it may be that you just need x. But if you wait, you're going to need x, y and z, which is a little bit harder to manage. So, it's, by far, the most common issue, is that it's been a creeping issue for even a full semester before it turns crazy. But, whatever we can do to help them, we try to encourage them. And having those personal relationships, like the lunches and the picnic and stuff allows us to talk to them a little bit more, get a little more familiar with them, and then they kind of open up and let us know what's happening and we always want that because we want nothing but the best for our students.

Joe Gaccione 9:25
There's a student out there right now listening, they need help. Where do they go to first? Is it online? Do they come to your office? Which, what do you recommend?

Elizabeth Gardner 9:33
Because you never know when we're in our offices or not, my suggestion is always either to call the main line, which is the 702-895-3360, they will hunt one of the three of us down, or to email, we have a general email, which is That goes to my entire team. All of us are constantly monitoring it. So, if one of us is out, the other two can pick up.

Joe Gaccione 10:03
And on the website we also have a Support our School section, which also details some of these donations and scholarships they can look at as well, correct?

Elizabeth Gardner 10:10

Joe Gaccione 10:11
And we will have links for the website. We'll also have the email address in this episode when it drops.

Elizabeth Gardner 10:17
We are actually developing an information sheet. Some of these scholarships come in because the donor can tell us they want anything, they can say they have to be born May 15, they have to be under five foot, they have to have purple eyes, they can tell us whatever. And some of these things are almost impossible for us to know about a student unless you very personally know them. So, we've created this information sheet with some of those one-offs, you know, single parent, military, those kinds of things, that I'll be sending out to the students very soon. That also helps communicate back to me what some of their needs are.

Joe Gaccione 10:51
Elizabeth, thank you so much for your time.

Elizabeth Gardner 10:53
Thank you so much for having me on.

Joe Gaccione 10:55
For everyone listening out there, have a great day.

Transcribed by

Creators and Guests

Elizabeth Gardner
Elizabeth Gardner
Student Services Director, UNLV School of Nursing
Paying for Nursing School (With Elizabeth Gardner)
Broadcast by