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Diversity Continues to Increase in Nursing Schools

Published May 23, 2022

As outlined in its 2021-2022 Federal Policy Agenda and FY 2023-2025 Strategic Plan, AACN serves as a prime advocate to advance diversity within nursing. 1, 2 Ensuring that students from all backgrounds - especially those from disadvantaged or marginalized communities - have access to higher education is an AACN priority. In addition to preparing diverse students for leadership roles and a wider array of career opportunities, facilitating higher education also drives innovation, encourages collaboration, benefits the economy, and achieves the goal of an educated citizenry. Welcoming students from communities of color into nursing programs enrich the academic and professional practice environments. Exposing students to a plethora of viewpoints and perspectives advances collaboration in their work. With diversity, equity, and inclusion among AACN’s core policy values, the association looks forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to achieve a more diverse student population and workforce.

Five-Year Trend Data

The graph below shows the variation in the enrollment of total minorities by nursing program over the past five years. 3 

Percent Diverse Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Students by Program Level, 2017-2021

The a bar graph showing the variation in the enrollment of total minorities by nursing program over the past five years. 

Diversity in Schools of Nursing Across the Nation

Since 2016, the percentage of diverse baccalaureate and graduate nursing students has increased in almost every state. The map below shows a state-by-state breakdown of diversity representation in 2021. 4

A map showing a state-by-state breakdown of diversity representation in 2021.

Percent of Diverse Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Students by State, 2016 & 2021

A table showing percent of diverse baccalaureate and graduate nursing students by state in 2016 & 2021

Diversity Across Program Levels

In 2021, over 30 percent of baccalaureate and graduate nursing students were from diverse backgrounds.

Nursing Students by Race/ Ethnicity and Program Level, 2021

Four pie charts showing percentages of  nursing students by race/ethnicity and program level
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2021). 2021-2022 Federal Policy Agenda. Retrieved from: www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/Policy/PDF/FPA-2021-2022.pdf 

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2022). FY 2023-2025 Strategic Plan. Retrieved from: www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/Publications/Brochures/strategic-plan.pdf

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2022). 2021-2022 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing. Percentages will not add up to 100% due to the exclusion of students that had unknown race/ethnicity. Percent minority is calculated using the percent of students that are Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and/or two more races.

Ibid.