Choosing an LPN Program in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has approved many practical nursing programs. Most are held at the state’s technical colleges. Since the vast majority are part of the same school system, geography may be a big determining factor. However, there are differences, particularly when it comes to admission requirements. The following is a guide to selection.
The Admission Process
Nursing students at any level should be prepared for some selectivity in the admission process. Some schools expect students to take a nurse assistant course first. There is typically an admission test. Programs may require a particular exam (like the HESI) or choose to accept any of several exams.
Some schools give preference to applicants who live in particular regions of the state. Schools use different methods to determine who gets a spot – including admitting qualified students based on the date they file an intent to enroll. Some Wisconsin practical nursing programs do have significant wait lists. However, this is not the norm.
Wisconsin NCLEX-PN Pass Rates
LPN candidates across the nation take the same licensing examination, the NCLEX-PN. The Wisconsin Center for Nursing reports that in 2012, Wisconsin LPN programs enjoyed, as a whole, a pass rate more than twelve percentage points above the national average.
The Board has made two years of pass rate data available. Interested individuals can see the number who took the test each quarter and the number who passed.
NCLEX scores are one indication of a quality program, but a school with a 100% rate isn’t necessarily better than one with a rate in the 90’s.
A student may exert more caution, however, with a new school that has been approved by the Wisconsin Board to admit students, but has not yet achieved approval.
Some LPNs decide to continue on for professional nursing education and an RN license – this can give them more job roles to choose from as well as higher earnings. It’s not necessary to decide at the onset, but choice of schools can make for a streamlined process. The technical college system has a program in place where students can test for an LPN license and then continue straight on for an associate degree in nursing.
Full-time programs are generally completed in two semesters. Some programs, though, have part-time options.
Paying for a Practical Nursing Program in WI
Tuition and fees at a technical college system member school may run about $7,000, though some are less. A private college, on the other hand, may cost significantly more.
Students who enroll in for-credit practical nursing programs are generally eligible for government financial aid, provided they demonstrate financial need on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). State programs are described on the site of the State of Wisconsin Higher Education Aids Board (http://heab.state.wi.us/programs.html). Wisconsin has a nursing student loan program in which half of the loan can be forgiven for two years of service (http://heab.state.wi.us/programs.html#table).
Institutions may also have financing plans.
Making Practical Nursing Pay
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Wisconsin LPNs earn $20.36 an hour on average (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). Experience plays some role in determining earnings.
Individual schools often have data about the starting salaries of their graduates. Western Technical College, for example, reports full-time workers starting at $17 to $22 an hour. Of course these figures only reflect those who are employed! Schools may also release data about the percentage of graduates who have positions six months after graduation.
Schools host information sessions to help prospective students know if a program is right for them. They sometimes make attendance an application requirement. Even when it’s not, it can prove useful.
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