Nebraska has approved seven schools to operate professional nursing programs at the baccalaureate level and nine to operate at the associate level. Two of these schools have branches in more than one Nebraska city (http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/crl_nursing_rn-lpn_edprograms.aspx). It is also an option to complete a program approved in another jurisdiction. With so many options, how do you choose?
One important consideration is the degree earned. The traditional baccalaureate (BSN) requires four years of college. The associate in nursing (ADN) includes prerequisites and typically takes three years at Nebraska colleges. More than half of Nebraska's RNs have baccalaureate degrees (http://www.center4nursing.com/documents/RNWorkforceSurveyReport2011_000.pdf).
The percentage is greatest among younger nurses. While ADN and BSN nurses are both eligible for the same licensing, many positions require a BSN.
For those who choose the ADN, there will be ample opportunities to articulate later. The Board notes that all Nebraska schools that offer generic BSN programs also offer RN to BSN degree completion.
A closely related issue: admission policies. Nursing schools have more applicants than they have available spots. Some programs handle demand by becoming increasingly selective; meeting GPA and test score standards will not guarantee admission. Some schools are open to all who meet the stated standards, but are forced to relegate qualified candidates to a waitlist. Some Nebraska schools have no waitlist while others have waitlists as long as 2 1/2 years.
Nationwide, nursing students who are having difficulty locating programs without waitlists may consult the Discover Nursing site.
Prospective nurses may also consider pass rates on the national board examination, the NCLEX-RN. Excellent pass rates reflect program quality in many cases, but can also reflect admission policies.
Programs at community colleges in Nebraska may run about $9,000, according to data provided by Nebraska Workforce Development; WIA-eligible ADN programs at Nebraska colleges and technical schools range from about $3,000 to about $15,000 (http://traininglink.dol.state.ne.us/). You may expect BSN programs to be more expensive, especially those housed in private colleges.
Nursing students may be eligible for various types of financial aid, both need-based and merit-based. Some registered nursing programs are approved for individuals receiving funding through the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA). Since WIA funding is approved only for short term training programs, most WIA-eligible programs are at the associate's level. There is one approved accelerated BSN program for individuals who already have college degrees in fields unrelated to nursing.
There are many additional sources. The schools themselves can be rich sources of endowments, particularly at the higher levels. A student may search for financial aid on the site of the Nebraska Center for Nursing (http://www.center4nursing.com/nursinged.shtml).
The average salary for Nebraska’s RNs is $27.09 an hour or $56,350 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). This figure includes professionals with various levels of expertise. Schools may reveal graduate entry-level salaries of graduates. Southeast Community College, for example, reports that ADN graduates typically start at about $20.20 an hour (https://www.southeast.edu/AssociateNursing/).
The Workforce Development site is another source of information about entry-level salaries for associate programs; the site provides information about what recent WIA-funded graduates are earning (http://traininglink.dol.state.ne.us). The average entry-level salary? $32,039. The department does note the limitations of their data, for example, that figures are not adjusted to reflect full-time or part-time work. According to the department, 69% of those graduates who are earning wages are earning $29,000 or more. Nationally, BSN graduates tend to get hired on sooner, according to data by the Association of Colleges of Nursing.
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