To encourage more graduate nursing students to pursue educator roles in higher education, the University of Central Florida College of Nursing will begin a loan forgiveness program funded with a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Through the HRSA Nurse Faculty Loan Program, the college is able to provide a loan to qualifying Ph.D. students that would cover 100 percent of their tuition, books and related expenses. After graduation, the student would have 85 percent of the loan forgiven if they work full time as an educator at an accredited nursing program for at least four years.

“We are pleased to be able to bring this national loan forgiveness program to UCF to benefit our doctoral students,” said Susan Chase, associate dean for graduate affairs at the UCF College of Nursing. “For students, it makes UCF an even greater value and earning a doctorate degree more affordable. But for the nation, it helps create more faculty and bring in a new generation of thought leaders to educate the next generation of nurses.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there is a nationwide shortage of doctorally prepared nursing faculty that is limiting student capacity at a time when demand for professional nurses is growing. Furthermore, in its landmark “The Future of Nursing” report, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine) recommends doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate degree by 2020.

UCF is already one of the nation’s “best value” colleges and universities, according to The Princeton Review, Kiplinger and Forbes. The Ph.D. program at the UCF College of Nursing combines the strengths of the nation’s second-largest university with the convenience and flexibility of an online format. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, experience small class sizes of less than 20 and receive one-on-one academic support.

While curriculum is taught online, there are also scheduled synchronous class times so faculty and students can interact in real time. In addition, students will only need to travel to Orlando twice per academic year for two multiple-day onsite intensive classes.

“With access to world-class faculty and cutting-edge research areas, including simulation, our doctoral students graduate as leaders in the application of innovative technologies to educate nurses and contribute to solutions that will advance health care worldwide,” said Donna Felber Neff, Ph.D. program coordinator at the UCF College of Nursing and author of the grant.

UCF received a one-year grant from HRSA for $45,577, which will support up to five Ph.D. students. The program is available to current and prospective Ph.D. nursing students. Students will need to apply by Jan. 15, 2016 and classes will begin in summer 2016.