Checking out the CAAHEP accredited ultrasound programs reveals a large variation in the total costs for tuition and fees. In addition, each school has mandatory and non-mandatory fees for things like parking, health insurance, laboratory classes and others. Sonography students also pay for textbooks, uniforms and immunizations. Figuring out how to pay for everything can be overwhelming so it is important to systematically review options to ensure no available financial support is overlooked.
Add It All Up
The first step in managing the cost of sonography school is making sure all expenses are included in the calculation of total costs. Each school has a Board of Trustees approved tuition schedule and fees that all students pay. One of the first things to keep in mind is that tuition rates are significantly different for in-state versus out-of-state students and for public versus private schools. Some state schools even have different rates for in-district and out-of-district state residents with Texas being a good example.
To minimize the total for mandatory tuition and fees, the prospective ultrasound technician student can first consider in-state programs at public universities, colleges, community colleges and technical colleges. However, that is only part of the story because there are many other fees that come into play, like laboratory fees charged for classes with a lab component. This category are fees charged to all students who are enrolled in certain types of classes.
A third category of fees are often associated with particular programs like sonography. With a few exceptions, sonography students are required to buy their own uniforms and to buy health insurance.
Types of Financial Assistance
At the same time students are calculating the total sonography program costs, they can investigate financial aid opportunities. Financial aid for sonography students can take make forms that include:
- Grants – federal, state and local money that does not have to be repaid
- Government subsidized loans – loans guaranteed by the government but funded by financial institutions; have lower interest rates compared to traditional loans; must be repaid but payments usually start after graduation
- Private loans – loan is not backed by the government so interest rates may be higher; must be repaid but terms of repayment are negotiable
- Tuition waivers – all or a portion of the tuition charged does not have to be paid back; whatever is not waived must be repaid
- Sonography scholarships – money awarded based on predetermined criteria like GPA, type of degree sought, enrollment in a particular Allied Health program like sonography, etc.
- Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs – not related to work-study, the student agrees after graduation to work in a particular area or do some type of specific community service related work and in return a portion of a student loan debt is forgiven; most programs involve federal loans
- Employer tuition subsidies – though sonography students are asked to devote full-time to the program, there are employers who will pay for employees to earn their sonography certification or degree with agreement the person will return to work for a set period of time upon program completion
There are several types of scholarships based on the source of administration:
- Institutional scholarships – administered by the school
- Professional association scholarships – sonography students can apply directly to associations like the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)
- Corporate Scholarships – corporate foundations offer scholarships, sometimes to the children of employees but often to people interested in working in their industry
- Private scholarships – philanthropists also set up foundations to administer their own scholarships, like that Gates Millennium Scholars Program
To be considered for any institutional scholarship requires completing the online ‘Free Application for Federal Student Aid’ (FAFSA) form and specific scholarship applications. Also, when searching for financial support, be sure to inquire about funding for students majoring in an Allied Health field which includes Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
It is important to start the search for financial resources early and to apply as soon as allowed before the planned school start date. Though the FAFSA form can be submitted after being admitted into a Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, it is wiser to apply months in advance to ensure it is in place when it is time for the school’s Financial Aid office to determine the types of financial aid the student is eligible for. Begin a search online for resources and talk to the school counselors, sonography program personnel, admission staff and financial aid staff.
A good plan is to plan ahead. Set aside time each day to work on finding financial resources. It takes time to complete and submit scholarship applications, loan forms, grant applications and so on, in addition to searching for schools and programs that fit the student’s need. This is not a time to procrastinate when serious about becoming a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer.