ACC will launch bachelor’s degree program for registered nurses in fall

Austin-American Statesman: ACC will launch bachelor’s degree program for registered nurses in fall

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz - American-Statesman Staff

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The program is designed for people who have already earned a nursing credential and passed a licensing exam.

One student who plans to enroll calls the $5,100 cost for two years of study “really, really affordable.”

Austin Community College this fall will begin offering a bachelor’s degree for the first time, now that accreditors have signed off on its plan to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

The program is designed for people who are registered nurses, meaning they have passed a licensing exam after earning a credential such as an associate degree from a two-year college or a diploma from a hospital-based program.

“I’m thrilled,” said Megan Snay, 32, who earned her associate degree at ACC in May 2017 and works in hospice care in Southeast Austin. “I’m looking forward to it. And to boot, it’s financially really, really affordable.”

Tuition and fees for the two years it will take to earn the bachelor’s degree run $5,100, thousands less than programs offered by Concordia University Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University.

Most four-year schools in Central Texas don’t have nursing programs set up to accommodate students who already hold a two-year credential. A 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine, now the National Academy of Medicine, recommended that the nation increase the share of nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Research shows that hospitals with higher percentages of nurses holding such degrees have lower mortality rates.

“We have had a challenge scaling our nursing graduates to keep pace with our growing population,” said Drew Scheberle, a senior vice president at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. “We have roughly 1,555 job openings for registered nurses as of May 2018. ACC’s milestone will provide a low-cost, high-quality way for taxpayers and future BSN earners to take advantage of these opportunities.”

ACC will accommodate up to 50 students when the program opens in the fall. Students can opt for traditional classes or a hybrid approach that includes online classes. Most so-called RN-to-BSN programs are 100 percent online.

Snay, who plans to enroll in the hybrid version in the spring, said ACC’s program will allow her to continue working full-time with hospice patients, their family members and her colleagues. “ACC’s really good about that. They understand their student body includes nontraditional students, adults, people with families, people already working full-time jobs,” she said.

Senate Bill 2118, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last year, allows ACC and certain other public junior colleges to seek permission to offer bachelor’s degrees in some high-demand, workforce-oriented fields.

The Texas Board of Nursing approved ACC’s nursing plan in February, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board signed off in April and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted approval Friday.

The legislation allows ACC to pursue up to three bachelor’s degree programs, said Richard Rhodes, the college’s president and CEO. No firm plans have been made, but the possibilities include a bachelor’s in applied science in a trade or technology field, he said. ACC is launching an associate degree in entrepreneurship in the fall.

“We want to make sure we meet the needs of business and industry in Central Texas,” Rhodes said. “It would not be anything that duplicates the University of Texas or Texas State.”



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