ACC proposes RN-to-BSN program for nurse graduates

Austin Community College is proposing a new program that would offer associate degree nursing graduates the opportunity to earn a bachelor of science in nursing – a credential that is increasingly required by health care providers.

“Texas and the nation are already facing a severe nursing shortage. It is important to do everything we can to ensure a workforce with the training and credentials that clinics and hospitals require,” says Dr. Charles Cook, ACC provost/executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our goal is to provide a flexible, affordable pathway for our registered nurse graduates to earn their bachelor’s degree.”

While associate degree nursing students are eligible for the same registered nurse (RN) licensure as bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) students, the four-year degree has become essential. Many clinical agencies and hospitals require currently employed registered nurses to complete the bachelor’s degree within a specified timeframe.

“I had to sign a contract to get my BSN within five years,” says Michael Park, ACC nursing graduate. “If I could get my BSN at ACC then I could afford to work part-time while attending class to meet my five-year requirement.”

The program would require legislative approval; the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommends state lawmakers increase the number of community colleges allowed to offer RN-to-BSN programs.

If approved by the Legislature, ACC would begin offering the RN-to-BSN program in 2017 for 25-40 registered nurses. The program would allow the nurses to complete the additional 60 credits of core curriculum and nursing coursework needed to earn a bachelor’s degree. Students would pay less than $4,500 for two years in tuition, compared with $10,000 to $15,000 at a public university.

The need for ACC’s graduate output is high in Central Texas. There is a critical nursing shortage because of the aging workforce, an aging population, and an expanding population. ACC graduates more than 200 associate degree nurses a year who are then eligible to take the state licensure exam to become registered nurses. ACC graduates excel on the exam, with pass rates exceeding 91 percent.

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