One of the more highly publicized talking points throughout this election cycle has been the ever-growing cost of higher education and the burden of massive debt facing young people who take out college loans. Not nearly as highly publicized but also important is a potential nursing shortage we could face in coming years, according to a report from the National Academy of Medicine.

So it's welcome news that Carroll Community College has partnered with three Maryland universities in a memorandum of understanding that should make it easier, quicker and less expensive for students to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees, a particular goal of the National Academy of Medicine.

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Once a student applies for Carroll Community's nursing program, that student can apply to Towson, Stevenson or Frostburg universities, according to Jennifer Fritzges, interim nursing program director at Carroll Community. The program works so that students can get an associate degree, get a job and continue to work on a bachelor's degree. Within about a year of completing a degree at Carroll Community, they should be able to come out with a BSN, she said.

Theoretically, this program should be able to accelerate the process of getting well-qualified nurses into the field by about a year. And those nurses would come out of school down about one year's worth of debt. Fritzges called it cost-effective, and it seems to be just that. Fifteen of the 79 students who have been accepted into the Carroll nursing program for the upcoming fall have been admitted to study concurrently at Towson, she said.

Carroll Community College partners with universities for nursing program

A partnership between three Maryland universities and Carroll County's community college are making it easier for nurses to keep up with industry standards.

This is new for Carroll, but it's not a new program. Dan Saunders, coordinator of the RN to BSN Associate to Bachelor's program at Frostburg University, said that at his school they've been trying to think creatively and have already been working to partner with community colleges throughout the state. Stevenson University Associate Dean Judith Feustle said her school has also been working to get more BSN graduates out in the Maryland medical field, and in a way that's easier and more accessible. "This is really kind of exciting," Feustle told us this week.

The cited National Academy of Medicine report, "The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education," says that an aging population — by 2030, one-fifth of the United States will be citizens ages 65 and older — could lead to a lack of nurses. Additionally, the report asserts that, "The ways in which nurses were educated during the 20th century are no longer adequate for dealing with the realities of health care in the 21st century." So because of the potential shortage and to keep up with the changing demands of nurses, the report finds more BSN nurses are needed, setting a goal that "the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees be increased to 80 percent by 2020."

That won't be easy. Even the report says that's a bold goal. But programs like this should help make that goal achievable while making the goal of becoming a working, degree-carrying nurse more achievable, and less expensive, for prospective nurses.

Those interested in the program can visit www.carrollcc.edu for more information.

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