Rounds with Leadership: Helping to Meet Your Enrollment Targets

AACN Board Chair Cynthia McCurren and AACN CEO Deborah Trautman

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.

Given last fall’s enrollment declines and new concerns about the impact of the Supreme Court decision on race-conscious admissions, many academic leaders are anxious about what the new fall semester will bring. There are signs that enrollments may spike to pre-pandemic levels – most notably data reported by the Common App, the largest source of college application data in the U.S. Though there is some room for optimism, concerns remain given declining public confidence in higher education, uneasiness about the enrollment cliff, and an increase in the number of younger nurses leaving the profession and the impact this may have on career seekers. Sustaining strong interest in your nursing programs will require new student screening and admissions strategies to ensure your enrollment targets are met. 

To assist your school in meeting its goals, we encourage you to consider the many benefits of NursingCAS, the centralized application service operated by AACN. NursingCAS provides an online application for prospective students and a web-based admissions software to manage your admissions pipeline. With a platform that can be integrated with campus systems, this free member service will allow you to cast a wider net for college applicants while freeing up staff time to focus on applicant reviews and other recruitment efforts. NursingCAS is highly customizable and can be tailored to fit your school’s approach to student recruitment, including those institutions offering holistic admissions reviews, which assess an applicant’s unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic achievement, such as grades and test scores.

Many have asked if holistic admissions review is still possible following the Supreme Court ruling on Affirmative Action, and the simple answer is yes.  In a statement released jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice earlier this month, federal authorities state that "universities may continue to embrace appropriate considerations through holistic application-review processes and provide opportunities to assess how applicants’ individual backgrounds and attributes—including those related to their race, experiences of racial discrimination, or the racial composition of their neighborhoods and schools—position them to contribute to the campus in unique ways.” NursingCAS makes holistic admissions more manageable by providing a platform that easily captures multiple data points for consideration by the admissions committee through customized questions and other features. By using NursingCAS, your school can continue to consider factors deemed relevant to assessing applicant readiness and meeting your program’s mission.

Another benefit of NursingCAS is the ability to fill open seats in nursing schools. Even though enrollment declined last year, AACN has reported that more than 78,000 qualified applications (not applicants) were turned away for baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. NursingCAS provides a much-needed mechanism to help students find open seats at affiliated institutions. Filling all available seats in our nation's nursing schools is critical to addressing the nursing shortage and meeting the projected demand for RNs.

Though more than 300 schools are now using NursingCAS, greater participation would help AACN generate a more comprehensive data set, which would be a valuable tool in projecting nursing workforce needs, determining national applicant-to-seat ratios, identifying common admission criteria, and producing an unduplicated count of nursing school applicants. AACN is striving for full participation in NursingCAS among all member schools to help ensure access into the profession for all future nursing clinicians, researchers, faculty, and leaders.

We encourage you to schedule a demo today with your enrollment and admissions teams to find out how NursingCAS can benefit your program. For those looking to energize your recruitment efforts this fall, NursingCAS is hosting a Discover Nursing School Virtual Fair on October 3, 2023. Schools can engage with prospective students nationwide through chat, video, panel discussions, presentations, or other creative opportunities. The fair is an efficient and cost-effective way to introduce students to your program, support students through the enrollment process, and/or encourage prospective applicants to matriculate next semester. Click here to learn more.

AACN is committed to being your partner in generating renewed excitement for nursing as a dynamic and rewarding career option. We will continue to advocate for the nursing profession at the national level while promoting opportunities and resources that will help all member schools thrive.