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ACC Hopes to Tackle Nursing Shortage With Bachelor's Degree Program

Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Austin Community College wants to offer graduates with an associate’s degree in nursing a chance to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.
The proposal comes as more healthcare providers increasingly require nurses to have more advanced degrees and the state deals with a nursing shortage.

The program would let students with an associate’s degree take 10 extra courses to receive a bachelor’s in nursing. Studies show facilities that have more nurses with baccalaureate degrees often have better patient outcomes, and the Institute of Medicine is recommending 80 percent of bedside staff at hospitals have a bachelor’s in nursing by the year 2020.

“That would allow students currently working in our hospitals who have an RN to have an affordable pathway and an accessible pathways so they don’t have to quit their jobs, they can take it through ACC, and get their BSN,” says ACC’s President Richard Rhodes.

Students at ACC would pay less than $4,500 for two years of tuition. That compares to UT's Nursing program, which costs $9,100 over three years and an additional $25,000 in indirect costs.

“For many of our students, they’ve established ACC as kind of their educational home,” says Pat Recek the interim executive dean for Health Sciences at ACC.

She says this program would provide more options for many low-income students or students who are the first in their families to attend college. Plus, Recek says it increases diversity in the workforce.

“If you look at vocation nursing programs, extremely diverse and so if we can get those students move on through BSN that will increase diversity of workforce is what we need,” she says. “Patients need to see nurses who look like them.”

The expansion requires legislative approval, which ACC is hoping to secure next session. Last session, the legislature mandated a study on whether community college baccalaureate degree programs should be expanded in Texas.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board looked at five fieldswhere Texas has unmet workforce needs, which included Computer and Information technology, Fire Science and Health information technology.

According to the study, a nursing shortage and increased demand for nurses with bachelor degrees would make a community college nursing baccalaureate degree worthwhile.

The implementation of the program is directly tied to the M&O tax cap proposition, which is on the November ballot. Those funds will allow the college to implement the program by 2017 and to more students. 

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