Editorial: Expand Nursing Schools

Michigan faces an estimated shortage of 18,000 nurses in the next five years. Bachelor’s degree nursing programs at four-year colleges and universities cannot accommodate all the students who want to attend. The state should allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

The two-year schools now offer associate’s degrees in nursing that can lead to a student becoming a registered nurse. But increasingly, hospitals and other health care organizations prefer registered nurses to have four-year degrees, according to legislative testimony noted in a state House Fiscal Agency analysis.

A nursing BA is one of four four-year degrees the Michigan Association of Community Colleges is seeking permission to offer. The others are cement technology, a highly specialized program that would benefit students who want to work in the cement and quarrying operations in the Alpena area; culinary arts, which is offered by many of the state’s 28 community colleges; and a maritime degree that is now begun at Northwestern Michigan Community College and completed at Ferris State. Northwestern Michigan argues that it could offer students a chance to complete a bachelor’s degree in maritime technology in less time than the current transfer arrangement.

About 20 other states allow community colleges to offers bachelor’s degrees for certain technical occupations, including Indiana and Minnesota in the Midwest.

Studies on higher education produced by the Granholm administration have supported giving community colleges limited technical degree-granting authority for high-demand skills. Nursing certainly qualifies.

One problem could be that the nursing profession requires that a certain percentage of faculty in accredited nursing schools hold doctorates.

But giving community colleges the authority to grant nursing BAs could pressure existing four-year schools to increase their own classes and make more agreements with community colleges to allow for the smooth transition of students to their four-year programs.

And a greater market for nursing teachers might encourage more nurses to obtain the necessary doctorates to become professors as well.

Giving community colleges the power to grant nursing bachelor’s degrees is worth a try to meet a compelling need for nurses.


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