Budget Cuts Mean Fewer Nursing Undergraduates at UNC

UNC School of Nursing News Release
For immediate release: February 14, 2011

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing will reduce overall undergraduate enrollments by about 25 percent because of ongoing state budget cuts. The enrollment reductions begin with admissions for the summer semester, which starts on May 9, 2011.

In January, Chancellor Holden Thorp instituted campus-wide cuts equal to a 5 percent permanent state budget reduction to take effect July 1. That move anticipated expected reductions to the University’s state appropriations that could reach as high as 15 percent for fiscal 2011-2012. These anticipated cuts come on top of almost 10 percent in permanent cuts that the School of Nursing has absorbed over the last two years.

“We are committed to offering high-quality, rigorous and safe programs for entry into nursing practice at the baccalaureate and advanced practice levels,” said School of Nursing Dean Kristen M. Swanson, also Distinguished Alumni Professor. “The budget challenges have left us little alternative but to reduce the number of students we enroll.”

The enrollment reductions must be implemented now because postponing them until January 2012 would not allow adequate savings to meet budget requirements. The school continues to explore additional means to absorb the anticipated budget cuts.

School of Nursing students have two options for preparation to enter into practice as a registered nurse (RN): the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) six-semester program or the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) four-semester program for applicants with a baccalaureate or higher degree in another field of study. Together, the BSN and ABSN programs have been graduating approximately 200 new nurses each year.

The projected need for nurses continues to grow because of health-care reform, the health-care needs of the aging Baby Boomer generation and an aging nursing workforce.

“Given the nursing shortage it is truly unfortunate to find ourselves reducing enrollments to the levels we realized 10 years ago,” Swanson said. “However, we cannot sacrifice the quality or safety of nursing education, so our difficult choice was to reduce the number of students.”

The School traditionally admits both BSN and ABSN applicants in January and May, but beginning with the May 2011 admissions cycle only BSN applicants will be admitted in May and only ABSN applicants admitted in January. The pacing of enrollments enables economies of scale. Students can overlap in some of the main lecture courses while clinical requirements are spread out over the academic year.

The School has offered the 174 individuals whom have already applied for the May 2011 admission to the ABSN program the option of having their materials considered for admission to the January cohort, and the University has agreed to refund application fees to those who choose to withdraw their application.

“These are hard economic times for the State, University and School,” Swanson said. “While the decision to cut enrollments is painful for all, it will be experienced as a very real loss to current ABSN applicants whose plans will be delayed, to faculty whose livelihood will be directly impacted, and to pre-nursing students who will find it more difficult than ever to access nursing education.”

More UNC budget information is available at http://universityrelations.unc.edu/budget.

For admissions questions please contact the School of Nursing Office of Admissions and Student Services at nursing@unc.edu or (919) 966-4260

School of Nursing communications contact: Nancy Lamontagne, (919) 966-4619,nlamont@unc.edu.

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