For-profit nursing programs linked to lower licensing exam pass rates

Graduates of for-profit nursing programs are more likely to fail their licensing examinations on the first attempt, according to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation.

Researchers from George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C., conducted the study. They analyzed 2007-16 data on more than 13,000 nursing school programs across 41 states, including programs for bachelor's degrees, programs for associate's degrees, and practical nurse programs. Researchers also examined 2011-15 data from state nursing boards on first-time pass rates for the National Council Licensure Examination.

Three study findings to know:

1. Researchers identified a fivefold increase in the total number of for-profit nursing programs between 2007 and 2016. Over the same time period, the number of graduates of for-profit programs also increased fourteenfold.

2. Nursing graduates from for-profit programs were more likely to fail their NCLEX exam on the first try compared to graduates from public or nonprofit programs. For-profit graduates had an average first-time pass rate of 68 percent across all degree types, compared to 84 percent for nonprofit graduates and 88 percent for public graduates.

3. First-time pass rates for for-profit nursing programs also fell from 83 percent in 2011 to 67 percent in 2015 for graduates with a bachelor's degree. Researchers found similar decreases for associate students and practical nurse graduates.

"Additional research is needed to understand why ownership status affects performance, but it is incumbent upon nursing leaders to review federal, state and accreditation oversight to ensure minimum performance standards for all nursing programs," researchers concluded.

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