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Almost 40,000 Qualified Nursing School Applications Turned Away

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, December 3, 2009

Enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs increased 3.5% in 2009, but nearly 40,000 qualified applicants were turned away, according to preliminary data released today by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Even with a decade of enrollment increases, and the continued heavy demand for nurses, AACN's 29th Annual Survey of Institutions with Baccalaureate and Higher Degree Nursing Programs found that nursing schools are still hindered by a shortage of faculty, insufficient clinical education sites, and budget cuts.

"Despite considerable financial challenges and capacity constraints, nursing schools nationwide were successful in their efforts to maintain a robust pipeline of future nurses this year," said AACN President Fay Raines.

This year's 3.5% enrollment increase for entry-level baccalaureate programs is based on data supplied by the same 511 schools that reported in both 2008 and 2009. This is the ninth consecutive year of enrollment gains.

Though interest in nursing careers remains strong, the survey found that faculty and resource constraints meant that 39,423 qualified applicants were turned away from 550 entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs in 2009, a number comparable with data from the last five years, which ranged from 36,400 to 41,385 rejected applications. AACN expects this number to increase when final data on qualified applications turned away in 2009 is available in March 2010.

Based on data received from 318 schools of nursing, the primary barriers to accepting all qualified students at nursing colleges and universities continue to be a shortage of faculty (60.7%) and an insufficient number of clinical placement sites (61%). With cuts in state funding to schools of nursing last year, the number of schools reporting budget cuts/insufficient budget as a primary reason for turning students away more than doubled from 14.8% in 2008 to 31.1% in 2009.

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