Arizona Nursing School Takes Budget Hit

By Pam Robinson

Jun 5, 2009 10:47am

ABC News On Campus reporter Maxine Park blogs:


With nearly $88 million in state-imposed budget restrictions for Arizona State University’s upcoming year, the school is cutting everywhere it can. And the program that seems to be getting hit the hardest is nursing. 

ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation is being forced to cut its enrollment in half for fall 2009. The school had about 2,000 students enrolled last year. Officials say it’s because the nursing program is the most expensive major the university offers.

And the news is forcing many students to make a choice: either wait a whole semester to reapply or enroll in another school’s nursing program.

Senior Madeline Hallare, 22, applied for the program at ASU but wasn’t accepted. She’s now turned to neighboring Grand Canyon University but at almost three times the price.

“The nursing program here is $8,000 a semester because it’s a private school versus $3,000 a semester at ASU,” Hallare said. “Money is hard right now but I have no choice if I want to stay on track for graduation.”

Hallare said that most of her credits from ASU transfer over but that Grand Canyon has extra class requirements, meaning even more money out of her pocket.

“I’m excited to start the program but I never thought getting a nursing degree would cost this much,” Hallare said.

College of Nursing Student Services Director Cheryl Herrera said having fewer nursing students at ASU could have a ripple effect.

“If fewer students graduate from our nursing program each year, there will be fewer baccalaureate-prepared nurses to enter the workforce in Arizona, and beyond,” Herrera said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Arizona had 681 registered nurses per 100,000 people last year, placing it below the national average of 825 registered nurses per 100,000 people.

Jennifer Mensik, clinical director for Banner Health and president of the Arizona Nurses Association,  said the numbers don’t bode well for the state.

“Arizona is the lowest state in registered nurses graduating with BSN degrees compared to Associate degrees, about 30% versus 70%,” Mensik said. “Research has demonstrated that patient outcomes are better when the nurses have bachelor’s degrees.”

“ASU is cutting what the state needs most, which is more RN’s.”

Ashley Wallace, 20, who applied for the program but didn’t get accepted, believes hospital patients will ultimately have to pay the price.

“It seems they never cut any other programs besides nursing,” Wallace said. “We’ll spend money on football but not on nursing. We already have a shortage of nurses in the state and if we’re letting less students in at a time, that’s not even a guarantee that all of them will graduate to become nurses.”

“This will ultimately affect the patients, making waiting room times longer and affecting the quality of care that people get.”

Wallace is now waiting until next winter when she can apply again but with rumors of more enrollment cuts for spring 2010, she’s turning to more affordable options: community college.

“I’ve now applied at a community college in the meantime and then hopefully I’ll be able to transfer back to ASU to get a bachelor's,” Wallace said.

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