Choosing an LPN Program in North Carolina
North Carolina has many practical nursing programs. Though a few are private, most are at community colleges. There are many similarities between these state-supported colleges –including tuition. Thus location may be a big consideration.
There are, however, some differences between programs. Students are more successful at some institutions than others. Here is a guide to selection.
NCLEX Pass Rates and Program Completion Rates in NC
There are a couple bits of hard data that a prospective student may want to look at. One is NCLEX pass rates. The NCLEX-PN is the standard for entry-level practice around the nation; licensure depends on it. The North Carolina Board, like many licensing agencies, requires schools to post acceptable rates to maintain full approval. A full four years of testing data is available on the Board site (http://www.ncbon.com/dcp/i/nursing-education-nursing-education-program-statistics).
Completion rates are not as vital, but are worth considering.
The on-time completion rate for North Carolina LPN programs averages just 63% (http://www.ncbon.com/myfiles/downloads/1012-on-time-completion-pn.pdf). At some schools, the rate is well under 50%. At others, it is above 80%. These figures are based on a program’s stated length. At the least, students may want to figure in this data when estimating the time needed to earn their certificate or diploma.
Prospective students may also consider the faculty-student ratio and the program facilities.
Program Level Accreditation
Accreditation is another consideration for some. Five North Carolina programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). While not nearly as fundamental as state approval, this is an extra badge of accomplishment. It signifies that the program has met a rigorous set of standards by a nationally recognized organization. In some cases, completing an ACEN-accredited LPN program makes it easier to articulate to a higher level nursing program later. Some college nursing programs look for the accreditation. However, this is far from universal.
The Admission Process
A prospective nursing student will also need to consider the admission process. Most nursing schools don’t have the faculty to educate all students who are interested and have the potential for success.
State funded North Carolina schools typically base admission decisions largely on TEAS scores. Grades in prior coursework also carry weight. CNA certification may also figure into the algorithm. Private colleges may have different requirements.
A top tier candidate can expect to be admitted without being relegated to a waitlist. However, schools not uncommonly maintain lists of alternates –they don’t want slots to go unfilled.
Practical nursing education is less expensive in North Carolina than in some other states. A semester of full-time coursework at a North Carolina community college will cost a state resident about $1,000 (http://www.durhamtech.edu/html/prospective/tuition.htm). A student can expect to pay some additional fees. Private colleges may cost significantly more.
The student will not necessarily be responsible for the full cost. Many practical nursing students are eligible for financial aid. A student will file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for need based financial aid like Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Stafford Loans.
Some students may be eligible for funding through the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA). Many North Carolina LPN programs are WIA-eligible.
Ultimately, North Carolina’s LPNs make good money. They average $19.96 an hour ($41,510 a year) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). Wages tend to go up with experience. LPNs, like workers in other occupational groups, often start below the mean. Schools are often a good source of information about starting wages in their area.
For further information prospective students are advised to attend information sessions at schools they are considering.
Career Overview: Becoming an LPN in North Carolina
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