Posted: July 30, 2004

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Nursing enrollment up 16 percent statewide at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Minnesota is on the verge of a critical shortage of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses - a shortage that has an impact on patients, hospitals, health care facilities and the community. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, which produces 78 percent of all new nursing graduates in the state, is responding rapidly to the shortage.

The system's nursing program administrators this fall reported the number of students enrolled in nursing increased 16 percent over fall 2002. A system survey showed more than 7,100 students this fall were enrolled in licensed practical nursing and registered nursing, including bachelor's and master's degree programs, an increase of about 980 students.

In addition, preliminary reports show 2,712 nursing degrees and diplomas were awarded in fiscal year 2003, a 19 percent increase over 2002. The figures include practical nursing diplomas and associate degrees, registered nursing associate and bachelor's degrees and nursing master's degrees.

Seven new nursing degree programs have been added since July 2001 by institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. Also since then, system colleges and universities have expanded existing nursing programs by increasing enrollments and by offering 26 programs in new locations, including hospitals and health care facilities.

"The system's colleges and universities are working together to expand their programs and create innovative partnerships to train new nurses and help current nurses upgrade their skills while on the job," said Chancellor James H. McCormick of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. "These collaborations are helping to build the economic vitality of Minnesota's communities."

Approximately 3,600 nursing positions in Minnesota are unfilled, according to a spring 2003 Governor's Workforce Development Council report, which also predicted vacant positions will more than double by 2008. At the same time, interest in nursing education is high, and many state colleges and universities have waiting lists to enter their programs.

Across the state, innovative programs that Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have developed to recruit and retain nurses include these examples:

  • A college-business partnership to train, recruit and retain nurses in south central Minnesota has been established by Minnesota State University, Mankato; South Central College; and Immanuel St. Joseph-Mayo Health System; Thro Company; Mankato Lutheran Home; and St. Peter Community Hospital and Long Term Care Facility
  • A Patient Simulation Center at Metropolitan State University, together with HealthPartners, provides a high-tech teaching tool for nursing students to gain experience without putting patients at risk
  • A "fast-track" licensed practical nurse program at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids trains displaced workers for new careers
  • The East Metro Health Career Institute, a consortium of Century College and four St. Paul hospitals - Gillette Children's Specialty Health Care, HealthEast Care System, Regions and United - provides nursing assistant and health careers training to underemployed people in the East Metro area. To help meet the needs of the area's increasingly diverse population, training includes Occupational English and Spanish for health care professionals.

"Partnerships among the health care industry, education and the workforce development system have proven to be one of the most effective strategies in addressing the crisis in health care employment," said Mary Rothchild, project manager for strategic partnerships in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

"Nursing education programs are expensive to operate, and tuition typically covers less than one-third of the cost of providing the instruction in public colleges and universities," Rothchild said.

Filling Minnesota's need for nurses not only has positive implications for the health care industry, but also the state economy. Nursing careers pay better than the increasing number of low-wage service jobs being created - licensed practical nurses earn average pay of $15 per hour and registered nurses earn an average of $25 per hour. The field also offers excellent opportunities for nurses to move up the career ladder by returning to college for additional degrees after gaining experience.

Almost all of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities offer nursing programs, as well as other health care programs. For a list of programs, call toll-free at 1-888-MnSCU-4-U (1-888-667-2848).

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System is a critical source of occupational training and education in the state.The system is responsive to the needs of business, collaborating with employers to provide affordable, customized training and education programs.