Nursing & Healthcare News

Nursing School Report

Enrollments remain robust, but programs need more faculty

Nursing school professor stands next to two nurses pointing to scans on a lightboard.

The latest annual BRN school report shows that California’s nursing programs are doing a great job of attracting and preparing students. However, with strong applicant interest and an urgent need for more trained RNs, program capacity may become a bottleneck.

Comparing the 2021–22 Academic Year with Prior Years:

  • Applications were through the roof! The prior school year (2020–21) had set a record with 55,551 applications, but qualified nursing program applications for 2021–22 blew past that figure to reach an amazing 64,299.
  • New enrollments hit a 10-year high. In 2021–22 nursing programs enrolled 16,612 new students, almost 10 percent more than in pre-pandemic 2018–19.
  • Program completions also hit a 10-year high, totaling 13,372.
  • Attrition rates were higher than in 2020–21 at 8.7 percent, but still lower than in pre-pandemic years.
  • Overall first-time NCLEX pass rates declined a bit to 87.6 percent for ADN programs and 84.8 percent for BSN programs. However, first-time pass rates for accelerated ADN and BSN programs were outstandingly good: 96.2 and 96.5 percent, respectively.
  • New grad employment rates were strong. RN programs reported that 84.7 percent of 2021–22 grads were employed in nursing jobs in California — not surprising given the current high demand for nurses.

More Faculty, Please

California nursing programs clearly have no shortage of applicants. “Every dean is going to tell you that they have a waiting list or enough qualified applicants that they turn away students,” California Association of Colleges of Nursing President Karen Bradley, RN, DNP, PNP-BC, NEA-BC, told CalMatters.

However, with applications now greatly outpacing new enrollments, it’s equally clear that nursing programs need more capacity, and more faculty. Schools had a total of 710 nursing faculty vacancies in 2022 — a vacancy rate of 12.1 percent — and 68 percent of schools reported overloaded nursing faculty in 2021–22.

Gov. Newsom’s 2023–24 budget earmarks $300 million over the next five years to increase the capacity of California nursing schools.

Using that money to increase faculty budgets might give the state the most “bang for the buck” in addressing our nursing shortage.

AARON SEVERSON is the associate editor of Working Nurse.

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