Nursing Program Admissions Drop

February 11, 2010

nursesA new report indicates that admissions to pre-licensure nursing programs fell in 2007-8 for the first time in at least six years.

The report, issued by the National League for Nursing, indicates that student interest in such nursing programs remains high. However, a lack of hospital and clinical spots are preventing programs from expanding.

"What we're seeing is the impact of the recession on the ability of programs to accommodate more students," said Kathy A. Kaufman, a senior research scientist at the NLN who authored the report and was interviewed by Inside Higher Ed. "I expect for the number of programs not to increase all that much in the coming years."

The report noted that in 2008, almost 40 percent of pre-licensure programs were forced to turn away qualified applicants --about 119,000 in all. Nursing programs cited a "lack of clinical placement settings" as the primary reason they were unable to admit more students.

Inside Higher Ed reports that the nursing program at Hudson Valley Community College near Albany, New York, is one example. According to Drew Matonak, president of the college, the average student spends two years on HVCC's waiting list.

Kaufman did offer a bit of heartening news to Inside Higher Ed: Some initiatives across the country may very well may expand placement opportunities. For example, she noted that some programs are trying "simulated" clinical trials in high-tech work rooms to supplement real-world hospital placements. But because of the high cost involved, these initiatives have been slow to catch on.

Other report findings indicated that shortages of faculty also contribute to the lack of growth. Among post-licensure programs, this was cited as the main obstacle to expansion.

Surprisingly, 9.8 percent of U.S. nursing programs reported unfilled vacancies for new student admissions. Of those schools, 44 percent attributed the vacancy rate to a lack of qualified students, while 19 percent cited a "lack of affordability" or "high cost of education" as the main obstacle to student recruitment.

NLN CEO Dr. Beverly Malone noted that the report findings were significant. "These data are critical to tackling challenges related to the nursing education workforce and nursing education capacity," she said in a press release.

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