NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

NC Community Colleges May Offer Bachelor's Degrees in Nursing

October 22, 2014

Community colleges typically offer associate's degrees in nursing, a program that takes between two to three years to complete. Five states, however, allow their community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing through a four-year program. North Carolina is the latest state to consider the option and would join Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington if it decides to allow the change.

Harry Painter of the Pope Center explains the coming transformation within nursing education. For years, most nursing positions have not required a college degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is the highest paying job of all the jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree. And the field is only growing -- nursing is expected to grow by 19 percent in the decade between 2012 and 2022, much higher than the 11 percent average growth that other jobs are expected to see.

Rising numbers of nurses are getting degrees beyond the typical associate's degree, whether bachelor's or master's; today, over 50 percent of nurses have such degrees. Some employers are starting to require that nurses carry a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN), and nursing and medical groups have also encouraged bachelor's degrees for nursing.

What would the move mean for community colleges? Currently, many community colleges have partnered with four-year colleges to offer joint programs, but if community colleges offer bachelor's degree, students would have no need for dual enrollment and could instead enroll in the less expensive community college. Some have expressed concern that the move would pull community colleges away from their initial mission, but others are very supportive. There is concern, however, that the BSN degree might be perceived as less valuable if it comes from a community college rather than a standard four-year college.

Source: Harry Painter, "Should community colleges offer bachelor's degrees in nursing?" Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, October 20, 2014.


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