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Five For-Profit Nursing Programs Under Scrutiny By State Board

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Despite a shortage of nurses in Indiana, five nursing programs in the state are in danger of being shut down by the State Board of Nursing for their graduates’ lackluster performance on license exams.

After a student completes a nursing program, he or she is required to take a licensing exam before becoming employed.

If a school’s pass rate on the exam falls below 80 percent (a standard deviation below the national average) for three years or more, it has to create a correction plan. If it still doesn’t improve, its accreditation can be taken away.

The five schools in question have pass rates for their nursing associate’s degree grads that range from 41 to 72 percent, although enrollment numbers vary widely. For example, only 46 graduates of Merrillville’s MJS School of Nursing took the exam since 2012, but more than 750 from four ITT Tech campuses attempted a license.

One thing these schools have in common? They’re all for-profit institutions, schools that, according to data from the nursing board, don’t have a great track record when it comes to preparing students.

The exam pass rate for students who graduated with an associate’s degree from for-profit programs was only 58 percent. That lags behind public and not-for-profit schools, which boast pass rates of 88 and 83 percent, respectively.

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The Nursing Board declined an interview for this story, but Indiana Higher Education Commission spokesperson Stephanie Wilson says it’s a consumer-protection problem.

“You invest all this money into a program that you think is going to get you into a career of your choice, and you pass!” she says. “You get all the way through the program, and you cannot pass the licensure exam.”

She continues:

“I don’t think there’s any way you can look at that data and not be concerned at the results, and not see the very clear difference between the sectors.”

Wilson says for-profit colleges attract students who might not be aware of the amount of work it takes to pass the exam. She also says advertising by for-profits could misrepresent how easy it is earn a license.

In a statement, Toni Herron, Education Compliance Officer for the Indiana State Board of Nursing, says the board is “committed to continued collaboration with the Comission for Higher Education to find more ways to ensure Indiana’s nursing programs are high quality and provide significant value to our state’s future nurses.”

Wilson says it’s important future nursing students are educated about prospective programs, pointing them toward the commission’s online return-on-investment reports that show payoffs from different Indiana schools’ programs.

She also recommends students look at exam-pass data for every RN and practical nursing program, available online.

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