Data Spotlight: Declines in RN-to-BSN Program Enrollments

For the fourth year in a row, enrollment in RN to Baccalaureate (RN-to-BSN) program have decreased. The 2022-2023 school year saw a 16.9% decline (19,871 students) in RN-BSN programs in schools reporting data in both 2021 and 2022, marking the first-year nationwide enrollment has dropped below 100,000 since 2012. Regionally, schools in the Midwest saw the smallest change, with a 12.9% decrease, compared to a 20.9% decrease in North Atlantic schools (Figure 1).

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) saw a greater decrease than Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). RN-to-BSN enrollment at HBCUs decreased by 21.7% compared to the 16.8% at PWIs. Conversely, overall Black student enrollment decreased by the smallest percentage (12%) of any single racial/ethnic group. The largest decline was seen in American Indian or Alaskan Natives with a 20.2% decrease (Figure 2).

In addition, public schools realized the smallest enrollment decrease at 15.4%, while secular private schools are down by 16.3% and religious private schools are down by 24.3% (Figure 3).

Despite the decline in both entry-level Baccalaureate and RN-to-BSN enrollment, over 70% of employers express a strong preference for BSN program graduates. The education and experience gained with a BSN is necessary to meet the healthcare system’s changing demands and ensure adequate patient outcomes. Completing a BSN will provide nurses with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to pursue graduate level education and assume leadership roles in practice and education (AACN, 2023).

Figure 1: Regional Changes in RN-to-BSN Enrollments

Map of the US showing regional changes in RN-to-BSN Enrollments

Figure 2: Demographic Changes in RN-to-BSN Enrollments

Bar graph showing demographic changes

Figure 3: RN-to-BSN Changes in Enrollment by School Type

Bar graph showing RN-to-BSN changes in enrollment by school type in comparison to year 2021 and 2022