Arizona nursing school one step closer to shutdown

After more than a year of investigation into the quality and integrity of Phoenix-based Aspen University's nursing program, it is one vote away from being shut down by the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

On Feb. 23, the Board of Nursing issued a preliminary decision to close the program entirely, according to a statement shared with Becker's by Emma Lehner Mamaluy, chief counsel of the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

"This is a very unusual situation in Arizona, with no nursing programs historically being closed during a teach out or at least in the last 40 years, and only two prior teach outs in the past approximately 10 years," Ms. Lehner Mamaluy said. 

Several questions remain about what Aspen University nursing students will do if the program were to close. Some states, like Connecticut, that have recently closed nursing schools delegate matters such as reallocation of loans or implementing refunds to the state office of higher education.

Ms. Lehner Mamaluy said the Arizona State Board of Nursing is already looking at putting measures in place to help students navigate the complexities should the program's closure become finalized.

"After the Board's preliminary decision last Thursday, we share everyone's concerns for the current students in Aspen's bachelor of science nursing program. Board staff are talking with other state and federal agencies to identify ways to help Aspen students should the Board confirm its preliminary vote and close this program," she said. "Everyone in the Arizona nursing community has come together in an effort to work on solutions should the Aspen students need to find new nursing programs or other options, both from the financial and educational standpoints." 

The nursing program was previously investigated by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and cited "ongoing problems including the quality and integrity of the program" among others. A DEAC spokesperson told Becker's that despite its previous involvement, the Arizona State Board of Nursing is continuing this process and the DEAC "is not in a position to comment on that agency's decision-making process." 

The Arizona State Board of Nursing has not set a final date to reconvene on the matter, but told Becker's the meeting to decide Aspen University's fate will occur between March 9 and March 23.

Becker's reached out to Aspen University for comment and did not receive a response. We will update this article should more information become available.

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