With very high demand for nursing training, some community colleges are admitting only the best students instead of using wait lists or lotteries, reports Inside Higher Ed. That’s increasing graduation rates.
Southern State Community College in Ohio will use grades and entrance exam scores to admit nursing students. Currently, students with a minimum 2.5 GPA who’ve completed math and science prerequisites are placed on a long waiting list. Only 62 percent of those admitted graduate in two years; 75 percent pass the licensing exam on their first try. Other Ohio community colleges increased success rates when they switched to competitive admissions and Southern State hopes to do the same, says Julianne Krebs, director of nursing.
“Right now we may have a student who walks in with a 4.0 but cannot get into the program because of where they are on the wait list,” Krebs said. “I think it’s fair to put them at the head of the line. There’s a lot of correlation between overall GPA and grades in science classes and success in nursing programs. We want the most highly qualified nurses to graduate from our program.”
“It’s no advance to let in all comers and then have 50 percent or less of them graduate,” says Patricia Benner, professor emerita at the University of California at San Francisco School of Nursing and lead author of a recent Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching study on nursing credentials.
California community colleges, which used to choose by lottery among minimally qualified students, now admits applicants with the highest grades.
“Community colleges with as high as 50-70 percent drop-out rates moved to accepting the students with the highest grades in prerequisites, or at least a minimal grade of B,” Benner explained. “This lowered the failure rates, repeat course rates, and the drop-out rates. … It is expensive to take students who are likely to fail and/or drop out. Saddleback Community College nursing program in Southern California near [Los Angeles] is my prime example of this policy. They have a high completion rate, and they also have 100 percent pass rates for the nursing licensing exams.”
Some community college nursing programs still offer open access — for those who are willing to wait. Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, now sets aside 25 percent of nursing slots for highly qualified students, but believes the rest of the nursing program should remain open access “to maintain a diversity of students, based on a range of factors including socioeconomic status and race.”