New Data From Annual Nursing Survey Show Decreasing Enrollment Rates in Some Academic Nursing Programs

April 16, 2024
Many programs offering advanced degrees in nursing saw decreases from 2022 to 2023.

New data released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and published in Business Wire demonstrates that “sustaining student enrollment in baccalaureate and graduate programs continues to be a challenge at U.S. schools of nursing.”

The AACN conducts a yearly national survey of nursing schools; the 2023-2024 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing survey “contains data reported by 975 schools of nursing, which represents a 90.1% response rate.”

Data shows that “enrollment in BSN [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] degrees increased by 0.3% or 825 students from 2022 to 2023.” Meanwhile, the number of students in “RN [registered nurse] to BSN degree-completion programs decreased significantly for the fifth consecutive year. These bridge programs for nurses entering the workforce with an associate degree or diploma programs provide an important pathway for nurses looking to advance their education to better meet patient care needs and employer expectations. Last year, enrollment in RN to BSN programs decreased by 9.9% or 9,774 students.” Students in master’s programs “decreased by less than 1%” since 2022, and enrollment in PhD nursing programs “continued to decline,” with a 3.1% decrease from 2022 to 2023.

Another problem highlighted by the data is the number of applications “not offered admission to nursing programs. Even though enrollments were down across program levels last year, thousands of qualified applications were turned away from four-year colleges and universities.” AACN “remains concerned that nearly 10,000 applications were turned away from graduate programs, which may further limit the pool of potential nurse educators.”

The primary barriers outlined for accepting all qualified students “continue to be insufficient clinical placement sites, faculty, preceptors, and classroom space, as well as budget cuts.”

About the Author

Matt MacKenzie | Associate Editor

Matt is Associate Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News.