The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has released
preliminary survey data showing that enrollment in entry-level
baccalaureate nursing programs increased by 6.1% from 2009 to 2010,
which marks the 10th consecutive year of enrollment growth in
professional registered nurse (RN) programs. Preliminary findings are
based on data reported from 648 of the 807 schools of nursing in the
U.S. (80.3% response rate) with baccalaureate and/or graduate nursing
programs. Though enrollment is growing, nursing schools point to a
shortage of faculty and clinical education sites as the primary barriers
to future expansion.
“Given the calls for a more highly educated nursing workforce from the
Institute of Medicine, the Tri-Council for Nursing, and other
authorities, we are pleased to see that demand for baccalaureate nursing
education continues to rise,” said AACN President Kathleen Potempa.
“AACN applauds the efforts undertaken by schools to find creative ways
to expand the nursing student population despite funding cuts and
resource constraints facing many academic programs.”
Demand Increases for Baccalaureate Nursing Education
AACN’s annual survey is the most reliable source for actual (versus
projected) data on enrollment and graduations reported by the nation’s
baccalaureate- and graduate-degree programs in nursing. This year’s 6.1%
enrollment increase for entry-level baccalaureate programs is based on
data supplied by the same 536 schools reporting in both 2009 and 2010.
To download a graphic depicting enrollment changes in baccalaureate
nursing programs from 1994-2010, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/pdf/EnrollChanges.pdf.
Preliminary AACN data show a strong surge in applications to
baccalaureate nursing programs this year as a result of growing student
demand and changing employer expectations. The number of applications to
entry-level baccalaureate programs increased from 208,784 in 2009 to
226,675 in 2010 (8.6% increase).
The AACN survey also found that the number of students enrolled in
baccalaureate degree completion programs, also known as RN to BSN
programs, increased by 20.6% from 2009 to 2010 (469 schools reporting).
This year marks the 8th year of enrollment increases in these
programs and offers further validation of the need for nurses to advance
their education and for employers to cultivate a more highly qualified
RN workforce. Looking ahead, AACN will work collaboratively with all
stakeholders to ensure that enrollment in both baccalaureate and
master’s level degree completion programs for RNs expands even further
to meet the recommendations outlined in the recent Future of Nursing report
prepared by the Institute of Medicine (see http://thefutureofnursing.org).
More Students Entering Graduate Nursing Programs
Preliminary data from AACN’s Fall 2010 survey show that enrollment in
master’s and doctoral degree nursing programs increased significantly
this year. Nursing schools with master’s programs reported a 9.8%
increase in enrollment (427 schools reporting) and a 10.1% increase in
graduations (389 schools reporting). In doctoral nursing programs, the
greatest growth was seen in Doctor of Nursing Practice programs where
enrollment increased by 25.6% (113 schools reporting) from 2009 to 2010.
During this same time period, enrollment in research-focused doctoral
programs (i.e., PhD, DNSc) increased by 4.5 percent or 180 students
according to preliminary estimates (117 schools reporting).
“Moving more nursing students into graduate programs is a top priority
for the profession given the growing demand for more nurses to serve as
primary care providers, teachers, researchers, leaders, and
specialists,” said Dr. Potempa. “As the work to reform health care
continues, many more nurses with master’s and doctoral degrees will be
needed to provide essential healthcare service, including nurses to
serve as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and in other specialty
Qualified Students Turned Away
Though interest in nursing careers remains strong, many individuals
seeking to enter the profession cannot be accommodated in nursing
programs despite meeting all program entrance requirements. Preliminary
AACN data show that 52,115 qualified applications were turned away from
565 entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs in 2010. This number far
exceeds final data reported on students turned away each year from 2005
through 2009, which ranged from 36,400 to 42,981 applications. AACN
expects this number to increase when final data on qualified
applications turned away in 2010 is available in March 2011.
Based on data received from 367 schools of nursing, the primary barriers
to accepting all qualified students at nursing colleges and universities
continue to be a shortage of clinical placement sites (66.8%) and
faculty (62.9%). For a graphic showing the number of qualified
applicants turned away from entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs
over the past eight years, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/pdf/TurnedAway.pdf.
To help address the primary obstacles to enrollment growth, AACN is
leveraging its resources to:
Identify the hallmarks of effective academic-practice partnerships
through a joint task force led by AACN and the American Organization
of Nurse Executives.
Secure more federal funding for professional nursing programs and
Expand the pipeline of nurse educators by offering regional faculty
development conferences, administering minority faculty scholarship
programs, collecting annual data on faculty vacancy rates, and
identifying strategies to address the shortage.
For more details on the need to prepare a more highly educated nursing
workforce and the nursing faculty shortage, see:
AACN Fact Sheet: Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforcehttp://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/FactSheets/NursingWrkf.htm
AACN Fact Sheet: Nursing Faculty Shortagehttp://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/FactSheets/FacultyShortage.htm.