State Budget Cuts Bring Changes to SON

The School of Nursing has taken many steps to meet the budget realities of the coming year and beyond. The state of North Carolina, like much of the nation, has realized some challenging economic times. The University of North Carolina and the School of Nursing have lived with several significant budget cuts that have stretched our capacity to sustain quality.

“Like the rest of the University, we are doing our part as the state of North Carolina copes with a challenging budget situation,” says Dean Kristen M. Swanson. “We remain committed to offering the high-quality, rigorous nursing programs that have led us to be consistently recognized as one of the nation’s premiere nursing schools.”

Undergraduate Changes
In February the School announced that it would reduce overall undergraduate enrollments by about 25 percent beginning with the May 2011 admissions cycle. This reduction will took place in both options students have 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 who have already earned 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 School has traditionally admitted both BSN and ABSN applicants in January and May, but will now admit only BSN applicants in May and only ABSN applicants 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.

Decreasing enrollment in the undergraduate program by 25% will save almost $300,000 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year and will save additional money as currently enrolled students graduate. For every eight undergraduate nursing students, their two years of supervised clinical experiences alone costs approximately $72,000 in fixed-term faculty salaries. These are the clinical experts on whom we rely to provide the superior education for which the School of Nursing is known.

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

RN to BSN Program
In March the School announced that admissions are suspended for the RN to BSN option of the BSN program. The RN to BSN option is for registered nurses who hold an associate’s degree or diploma. Only students that committed to completing the four courses specific to the RN to BSN option by the end of the spring 2012 term were admitted in May and August 2011. Registered nurses with an associate’s degree or diploma can enter the School’s RN to MSN option.

Women’s Health NP
Budget cuts as well as a history of low enrollments led the School to suspend admission to the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner specialty in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. A last cohort of full time students was admitted in August 2011. The School will continue its Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Health Care Systems, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Primary Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner MSN options.