BSN program enrollment fell last year, ending 20-year growth streak

Enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs fell 1.4 percent last year, ending a 20-year period of enrollment growth, new data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows. 

The AACN conducts a national survey of nursing schools with baccalaureate and higher degrees on an annual basis. The latest data was published May 2 and is based on findings from a survey conducted in the fall, which 974 nursing schools provided responses for. 

From 2021 to 2022, BSN program enrollment fell 1.4 percent, or by 3,518 students. This marked the first time since 2000 that enrollment in these programs fell, according to the data. 

"Though a one-year decline may not signal a trend, any decrease in these critical programs raises concerns and deserves further investigation," the AACN said in a news release. 

Three more takeaways from the survey data: 

  • Enrollment in master's and PhD programs also fell by 9.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively. PhD program enrollment has been on a downward trend for nine years, stirring concern among the academic nursing community. 


  • The number of students in RN to BSN degree-completion programs fell nearly 17 percent — the fourth consecutive year of decline. 


  • Meanwhile, four-year colleges and universities turned down more than 78,000 qualified applications — not applicants, as people may apply to more than one program. Still, this resulted in thousands of qualified applicants being turned away "due largely to a shortage of faculty and clinical training sites," according to the AACN. 

"With enrollments trending downward, academic and practice leaders should work together to ensure that schools are able to accommodate all qualified applicants to meet the growing demand for nurses to provide care and serve as faculty, researchers, and leaders," said Deborah Trautman, PhD, RN, president and CEO of the AACN. 

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