Rounds with Leadership: A Closer Look at the AACN Data

Rounds with Leadership: A Closer Look at the AACN Data

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

Earlier this month, AACN released findings from our Fall 2022 annual survey, which show declining student enrollment across nursing program levels. AACN staff are working to discern the causes of this downward turn and how we can best support schools in reaching their enrollment targets.

We know from looking at the data from the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate college enrollment has dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022. This trend combined with the overall decline in the college-age population may be affecting enrollment in baccalaureate nursing programs. Higher education leaders are also concerned about the impact of interrupted learning, resulting from the pandemic, on the college readiness of high school graduates and the decisions they are making regarding career choices. At the graduate level, we are taking a closer look at whether students are opting for a doctoral degree in some instances versus master’s preparation. Maintaining steady enrollment in PhD programs is a persistent challenge, and we recognize that more must be done to highlight careers in nursing science and how nurse researchers are leading the drive to innovate nursing practice.

AACN is working on several fronts to advocate for greater federal support to ensure the pipeline of students into nursing remains strong. In addition to more funding for existing Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs, we are advocating for the reintroduction of the Future Advancement of Academic Nursing (FAAN) Act, which would provide significant support to develop and hire more faculty. Growing the faculty population is key to accommodating all qualified applicants in nursing programs. AACN also is calling for full participation in NursingCAS, the profession’s centralized application service for students applying to nursing school. Through NursingCAS, students are alerted to open enrollment slots at schools of nursing, which will help to ensure all available seats are filled and fewer qualified applicants are turned away.

Understanding the latest trends clarifies the work ahead to ensure nursing programs continue to thrive and prepare enough graduates to meet workforce needs.  Staying abreast of the latest data and trends in academic nursing also helps deans and faculty to negotiate for resources, shape policy, advance research, and rally support from partners to lead innovation and change.

For more than 40 years, AACN’s annual surveys have served as the leading source for data on collegiate nursing education. The information collected goes beyond enrollment, graduation, and application data and provides a snapshot of student demographics, trends in distance education, faculty and dean salaries, programs planned, and much more. For example, AACN’s latest survey found that:

  • 530,290 students are currently enrolled in baccalaureate and higher degree nursing programs, including more than 45,000 students in doctoral programs.
  • Nursing schools employ nearly 55,000 faculty, including 31,783 part-time educators.
  • More than 40% of students in baccalaureate, master’s, and DNP programs are from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups. Representation in PhD programs is 35.8%.
  • 66.1% of RN to BSN programs are offered completely online, 37.7% of baccalaureate to master’s programs are delivered solely through distance education.
  • 30 schools are planning new accelerated BSN programs, and 18 are opening entry-level MSN programs. 41 RN to BSN and 21 RN to MSN programs are closing.
  • Average faculty salaries ranged from $59,865 for master’s prepared professors in secular schools to $132,335 for professors with doctorates in secular institutions.
  • Nearly 70% of all nursing deans are serving in their first deanship role, with 43.1% serving in this role for two years or less. 

We strongly encourage you to take a closer look at AACN’s recent annual surveys and consider how this information can support your scholarship and benchmarking needs.

As part of AACN’s newly redesigned website, an online Research and Data Center has been created to better showcase our survey data, findings from AACN-led research studies, program assessment surveys, customized reports, and resources to support nursing scholarship. Please take a moment to review the information-rich resources contained on this site, including the latest Data Spotlight focused on enrollment trends in baccalaureate nursing programs.