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  • Writer's pictureSandhya Nakhasi

Nursing Certification Lending Program

Updated: May 1, 2020


Community Credit Lab is partnering with the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center at Highline College to remove economic barriers faced by foreign-educated immigrants and refugees navigating pathways back to their chosen career. The initial product is designed for foreign-educated nurses seeking financial assistance to obtain their U.S. certification as a Registered Nurse. People enrolled in the Welcome Back Center’s NCLEX Test Prep Course can access a 0% interest, no fee loan up to $500 to cover the cost of the course. Loan repayment is patient, flexible and aims to address challenges that individuals face in their career transition, while also providing an opportunity to build credit history. By providing this product, Community Credit Lab and the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center hope to support foreign-educated nursing professionals to access sustainable employment opportunities and build credit.


We’re excited to announce the launch of our first partnership with the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center at Highline College to support foreign educated immigrants and refugees navigate pathways back to their chosen career. The initial product will be 0% interest, no fee loans up to $500 to support foreign-educated nursing professionals working towards obtaining their U.S. certification. These loans will be available to people enrolled in the NCLEX (nursing license exam) Test Prep Course offered through the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center, will cover the cost of the 6-month intensive course and will support individuals to build credit history. The goal of this partnership is to complement the work that the Center has been doing by removing an economic barrier that some immigrants and refugees face locally as they seek to re-enter their profession in the U.S.

About Our Partner

The Puget Sound Welcome Back Center has been helping foreign-educated professionals navigate pathways into their chosen careers for over 10-years. With the help of the team (Cheryl, Linda and Fernando), we’ve learned that these pathways can be long, complex and costly. Each member of the team works individually with those that come in to the Welcome Back Center to design pathways that people can follow back to their career. While they provide personalized support, they simultaneously work to standardize these pathways and make them equitable for all. The team has and continues to advocate at the state level for more clear processes along multiple career paths in healthcare, STEM, law and education. Though the Center works with many different career paths, we collectively decided to pilot a loan product with the nursing certification pathway for a few reasons:

1) The nursing certification process has been one of the longest running at the Welcome Back Center and, therefore, more clearly defined, more well-known, and serving more people.

2) It is relatively easier to find employment once nursing professionals receive their U.S. certification, given a shortage of nurses in Washington State and nationally (currently 100%).

3) The economic benefit that a person sees when moving to become a certified Registered Nurse is high. In most cases, nursing professionals are able to access more employment benefits and double their salaries (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018 the mean Nursing Assistant salary for WA was $15.45/hour and the mean for Registered Nurses was $39.75/hour).

Nursing is the first pathway we are exploring, but off the back of the learnings from this initial cohort, we will continue to see how we can work together with the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center to potentially support more of the career paths they work within.

About the Product

With guidance from Cheryl, we were able to map out the process that nurses take to get certified in the U.S. and the barriers people face at each stage of the process.

Nursing Certification Process

One significant barrier identified by the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center team was paying for the NCLEX Test Prep Course. This course, while an optional part of the process, is one that significantly helps foreign-educated nurses pass the NCLEX Test. As Cheryl explains, foreign-educated nurses already know all of the content - they have been practicing as nurses in their home-countries. But, unlike nurses trained in the U.S., they were not taught how to take the NCLEX exam. Nursing Schools in the U.S. help prepare people for the test from day one and she wants those that she works with to have the same support and advantages. This course does just that – it teaches nursing professionals how to pass the test. The first-time passing rate for foreign-educated nurses taking the NCLEX is 31%, but that same rate for those taking the course is 68%. Unfortunately, $500 can be a barrier to people, which together we are partnering to remove.

In collaboration with the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center team, we designed a product that we hope will benefit, not burden, those taking the course:

Nursing Certification - Overview & Pilot

Individuals interested in taking a loan will be able to access funding up to $500 and there will be no interest or fees due or collateral requested. We will work with each individual to design a repayment plan that works best for their budget once they have passed the exam and are working as a Registered Nurse. Community Credit Lab will also report repayment history, in an effort to help individuals build credit history. For more detailed information on the product and how people can access it - please reach out to Sandhya at Community Credit Lab.

Final Thoughts

Throughout this process, we have learned (and will continue to learn) a lot about the challenges and barriers that immigrants and refugees face trying to find sustainable employment. And we know that employment is just one of the many other things people must navigate in a complex process to settle in their new home. We are truly in awe of the lengths to which people go to achieve their dreams, provide for their families and make the best of their journey in a new home.

Our learnings and the development of this new product would not have been possible without the generous support from the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center team. Cheryl, Linda and Fernando, thank you for the extra hours you spent working together with us, for sharing the stories and experiences of those that you work with and, most importantly, for all that you do every day working alongside those in your community to provide pathways into sustainable careers.

We are excited to adapt and iterate based on what we learn through this new partnership and pilot affordable credit product and we look forward to sharing those learnings and stories in the future.

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