The National League of Nursings annual survey of all nursing programs in the U.S. found slowing growth. Expansion in the number of prelicensure RN programs ground to a near halt between 2007 and 2008, with the nation adding only 15 additional programs, a less than 1% increase. In addition, in a surprising turnaround, annual admissions to prelicensure nursing programs fell and enrollments were flat for the first time in at least six years.
Graduations did increase significantly in 2008, a lagging effect of an upsurge in admissions between 2003 and 2005.
Demand for admissions continues to outstrip supply, with 23.4% of U.S. nursing programs of all types receiving more qualified applications than could be accepted in 2008. Among prelicensure programs, there was considerably more unmet demand for admissions; more than 119,000 qualified applications or 39% of all qualified applications were turned away from prelicensure programs in 2008. At 62% and 60% respectively, almost two thirds of ADN and diploma programs were highly selective, meaning they accept fewer than half of all applicants; another 39% of baccalaureate programs fell into that category.
Among schools that did not accept all qualified applicants, postlicensure programs were likely to cite a shortage of faculty as the main obstacle to expansion. Prelicensure programs reported that lack of clinical placement settings were the biggest impediment to admitting more students.
Unfilled vacacancies were reported in 9.8% of nursing programs. Of those schools with unfilled spots, 44% attributed the vacancy rate to a lack of qualified students; 19% stated lack of affordability or high cost of education was the main obstacle to student recruitment.
NLN research data is available at www.nln.org/research/slides/index.htm.
The 2009 annual survey was administered from May to September 2009 to obtain 2007-2008 data.