Board passes nursing initiative

Board of trustees member Joel Anderson, Pro-Tempore Marty Abroms and University President Kenneth Kitts discuss a resolution in their March 17 meeting. The B2BSN resolution will encourage nurses with an associate degree to earn their bachelor’s online from UNA.

The board of trustees approved a resolution March 17 to establish the Bridge to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Initiative, which could bring more nursing students to UNA.

The B2BSN Initiative allows the College of Nursing to develop academic partnerships with about 15 community colleges and health care facilities. It also encourages nurses with an associate degree to earn their bachelor’s degree online from UNA.

Students participating in the program would receive an almost 20 percent reduction in the distance learning fee and an 18 percent reduction in tuition, said Vicki Pierce, dean of the College of Nursing.

Students taking the six required RN to BSN courses will pay approximately $7,768, according to the resolution. This saves the student $1,762 in tuition and fees.

However, only courses in the program qualify for reduced tuition, and students needing other courses to meet graduation requirements for the university and the College of Nursing must pay full price for them, Pierce said.

“(Students) will have to meet the same standards for admission and graduation at the university that all of our students would,” Pierce said.

“So, we will look at each of their individual courses, and we will accept transfer credit. We will look at what classes they’ve taken and evaluate what courses they need to take.”

Students in the program will have two years to complete course requirements through the initiative, according to the resolution. After that, the cost for all remaining courses will be standard tuition and fees.

The College of Nursing will offer the initiative as a pilot program in summer 2016 to Northwest Shoals Community College students.

There are currently three students committed to the pilot program, said Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost John Thornell.

“We will know more in August whether or not (our marketing and advertising) has been successful or not,” he said.

The program will be a benefit for students who want to work and attend school simultaneously, said Michalia Lewis, a NWSCC student.

Lewis said she is considering the program.

“I am already looking at what I need to do to receive my bachelor’s at UNA, and the fact that it will save me money is a plus,” she said.

In a 2015 board of trustees meeting, the board discussed using a marketing firm to help advertise the online nursing program, but decided the university should “give it a try ourselves first,” said Trustee Libby Jordan.

Temporary nursing faculty member Cathy Malone, who helped start the online nursing program, has visited local community colleges with an enrollment coordinator to encourage the partnership, Pierce said.

The College of Nursing also purchased a print ad for the program, and Director of University Communications Bryan Rachal is working on a university app which will geo-target, or send specific advertising content, to cellphones of local nurses who could join the program, Pierce said.

Although the initial focus is on community colleges, the College of Nursing will soon begin communicating with hospital employees.

“I would envision going into the VA Hospital because we know the federal government will pay for their nurses to go back to school, and there’s a push for them to be BS-prepared,” she said.

Ultimately, a big part of the initiative’s success will come from advertising, said President Pro Tempore of the board of trustees Martin Abroms.

“I think the key is getting the word out to every single (registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing) that we can offer very valuable courses at this discounted rate,” he said.