Students accepted into a new Ed.D. program in nursing education offered collaboratively by Southern and Western Connecticut State universities can have a portion of their tuition, fees and books paid through a federal loan – most of which is forgivable if they become nursing professors after earning their degree.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded Southern and Western a grant of $98,720 to help students afford the cost for the three-year program that began last September. The Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) initiative is designed to help address the state and national shortage of nursing faculty, which in turn, will help create a greater number of highly qualified nurses.
Most doctoral programs in the country fall under the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or D.N.P. (Doctor of Nursing Practice) categories. The former focuses on research, while the latter centers on clinical skills. But the Ed.D. program is geared toward developing nursing teachers and is one of only a handful in the country, according to Barbara Aronson, Southern professor of nursing and the university’s Ed.D. program coordinator.
“The program is really distinctive – one of the few that specifically seeks to bolster the teaching of nursing,” Aronson says. “With a shortage of nursing faculty, it is very difficult for colleges and universities to maintain or expand their nursing programs, even though there is both a serious need for more nurses and increasing student interest. The nursing shortage is projected to worsen in the years ahead. It is crucial to create a larger pool of nursing faculty so that we can develop more highly qualified nurses.”
Aronson says 18 students registered for the first year of the program – nine based at Southern and nine at Western. Students accepted must have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in a master’s degree program in nursing from a regionally-accredited institution, as well as a current R.N. license. The Ed.D. requires students to earn 51 credits. The classes will be online. It will take about three years to complete the program on a part-time basis and eventually costs each student about $50,000.
“We believe this loan program will be very attractive to our students to help them afford their degree,” she says. “The fact that we were awarded the federal grant is an indication of the quality of the program.”
Student who participate in the loan program and teach for one year after earning their doctorate will have 20 percent of their loan forgiven. That proportion rises to 40 percent after two years of teaching, 60 percent after three years and 85 percent after four years.
Patricia Zibluk, director of Southern’s Sponsored Programs and Research, points out that if 20 students earn their degree in three years, that could translate in up to 80 additional sections (classes) of nursing being taught. “That can have a significant impact on the nursing teaching shortage,” she says.
Zibluk also thanks the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for awarding SCSU and WCSU the grant.
Southern also was recently selected for an $80,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will enable eight individuals accepted into the university’s Accelerated Career Entry nursing program to receive $10,000 scholarships. The university was among 55 institutions across the country – and one of only two in Connecticut – chosen for the grant. It marks the fourth consecutive year that the foundation has tapped Southern for a grant. It will be awarded to students entering the program during the 2013-14 academic year.
ACE is geared to people looking to make a career change into nursing and who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. The intensive program enables students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in 12 months, about the half the time it generally takes to earn such a degree at Southern.