Getting an undergraduate nursing degree is a great option for many young people. Unless that young person also wants to be a Trojan, of course. USC should offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a previously offered program, because it is a desirable, necessary trade for the U.S. economy.
There is currently a shortage of nurses in the U.S., making nursing an incredibly appealing career since employment is almost guaranteed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being a nurse is a great gig: A nurse’s median annual pay in 2017 was $70,000, and the typical entry-level education required is a bachelor’s degree. What’s more, employment between 2016 and 2026 is expected to increase by 15 percent — a rate faster than that of the average occupation. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University also found the U.S. economy will create 1.6 times as many jobs for nurses through 2020.
While there is no nursing program for undergraduates, the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences does offer advising for those who intend to pursue nursing. It acknowledges that the common path to a nursing career is a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but puts in bold that those without a BSN can pursue either an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing or entry-level nursing master’s degree programs. They then list the courses they recommend pre-nursing students take in accordance with common nursing school prerequisites.
While this information is helpful, it would be much more efficient for students to earn a BSN rather than go through four years of undergraduate studies and an additional year or two of schooling to become an actual nurse. USC is doing aspiring nurses a disservice by burdening them with extra time and money required for their career path of choice.
USC began phasing out the bachelor of science in nursing in 2001. The University instead now offers a program called Nursing@USC, an online master’s degree program designed for registered nurses to become family nurse practitioners. Students participate in live classes, work on self-paced coursework designed by USC faculty and are placed in clinical experiences within their community.
There is also the option to come to USC’s campus to do one-on-one intensive training. Interestingly, the program is housed under the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, lending the curriculum access to the Dworak-Peck’s resources. This program is commendable, but it would be much more beneficial to offer students an undergraduate degree in nursing rather than a program to advance one’s existing nursing degree.
Many BSN alumni who attribute their career success to USC are baffled by the University’s decision to cut the program.
“Nursing is a great career for anyone, especially a young woman who is not sure what to do with her life,” Carmen Montalvan, a USC nursing alumna, told the Daily Trojan. “Though I chose to be a full-time mom, I am now going back to the career that gave me stability and fulfillment before having children. When I went back to USC to receive my transcripts in order to enter an accelerated nursing program [to renew my license], I was surprised to find out that USC got rid of its undergraduate program. I think it’s a mistake.”
USC released a statement in 2001 defending its decision.
“The annual graduating class of USC’s undergraduate program currently represents less than 100 students or less than 2 percent of California’s 5,000 annual nursing graduates,” the statement said.
It’s a shame that USC viewed its impact from the persepctive of the nursing shortage rather than the prosperity of its graduates. Nursing is hard work, but it is a valuable career. In a time when unspecialized college degrees are becoming more and more obsolete, it’s important for universities to offer trade-like academic training that still demands critical thinking skills like any other field of study would.
At the time of the decision to phase out the program, USC’s statement referred to the decision of other major research universities, such as Stanford University, to remove the undergraduate nursing degree. But plenty of prestigious universities still offer nursing degrees to undergraduates, including Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA and N.Y.U.
That’s a list of schools that USC could comfortably sit with. These schools see the value in a nursing degree — USC should too.