Published July 19, 2021
While often useful to group all private institutions together, private/secular, and private/religious nursing schools vary considerably in their geographic distribution, average enrollment, student to faculty ratio, and faculty characteristics.
Religious and secular private schools are not evenly spread across the U.S. In the Midwest 49% of schools are religious, while in the South 32% of all schools are religious, and 15% are private/secular (Figure 1).
Average enrollment, at all program levels, is significantly smaller at religious schools than private/secular schools (Figure 2). Some of the nursing schools with the largest total enrollments are private/secular, and 98.5% of for-profit schools are private/secular.*
Figure 2. Fall 2020 Average Program Enrollments at Private Institutions
AACN calculates an approximate student to faculty ratio at each school using information from the 916 schools that contributed faculty data to the latest 2020-2021 AACN survey. This ratio is the total students enrolled at each program level - baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral - over the number of full-time nurse faculty that report teaching at the given program level. Taking the mean of these ratios at private/religious and private/secular schools provides an estimated national average student to full-time faculty ratios. Private/religious schools have the smallest student to full-time faculty ratios while private/secular schools have the highest ratios, well above religious or public schools (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Average Student to Full-Time Nurse Faculty Ratio by Program Level, by Institutional Control
The faculty characteristics are different in religious and private/secular schools. Full-time nurse faculty at private/secular schools are the most racially diverse with 23.2% of faculty from underrepresented groups in nursing compared to 13.8% of faculty at religious schools.
Figure 4. Percent of Full-Time Nurse Faculty that are Doctorall Prepared, Racial Minorities, Tenured/Tenure Track, by Institutional Control
In the private/secular schools, 13.5% of faculty are tenured or tenure track. Finally, a slightly lower percentage, 50.6%, of full-time faculty at private/secular schools have a doctoral degree, compared to 54% at religious schools and 63% at public schools (Figure 4).
*Enrollment data from the 956 institutions that responded to the enrollment and graduation portion of the 2020-2021 AACN Annual Survey.