Share this article

Illinois College Gets $4 Million Gift to Address Regional Nursing Shortage

Ayla Roberts, MSN, RN
Updated July 13, 2023
    Illinois College has received $4 million from Memorial Health. Learn how these funds will address the nursing shortage in Central Illinois.
    Nursing students walking together in a hospitalCredit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

    Memorial Health and Illinois College have announced a partnership intended to alleviate the regional nursing shortage by expanding access to the college’s nursing program.

    Partnership Details

    Memorial Health has agreed to donate $4 million to assist Illinois College with expanding the enrollment capacity of its bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program and provide tutoring and coaching support for students enrolled in nursing prerequisite courses.

    Approximately 20 nurses graduate each year from Illinois College’s BSN program. The partnership with Memorial Health is expected to raise that number to 100 students over the next five years.

    Half of the funds will go toward scholarships, making nursing education more attainable for students. The scholarships will reportedly cover four years of tuition and will be available to both high school seniors and transfer students.

    “Nationwide research shows that more than 80,000 students interested in nursing were turned away from nursing programs in 2019 alone due to lack of capacity,” said Marsha Prater, Memorial Health’s senior vice president and chief nursing officer. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased those pressures. Our goal in partnering with Illinois College and other local schools of nursing is to provide the resources they need to educate more nurses and ensure we have a thriving health care workforce in central Illinois.”

    Illinois College is not the first school to partner with Memorial Health. In fact, the healthcare organization is affiliated with several other colleges and universities across Central Illinois, including the University of Illinois at Chicago-Springfield, Illinois State University, Lincoln Land Community College, and Richland Community College.

    Benefits for the BSN Program

    A portion of the funds donated by Memorial Health will go toward hiring nurse faculty to accommodate the higher student enrollment.

    [the Parker Science Building] to support state-of-the-art facilities for clinical simulation experiences. We will be bringing in talented faculty and staff to support supplemental instruction, and tutoring, and to be academic coaches. We could not do this without the input that Memorial Health will offer us as to the critical needs in Nursing Education. We will offer a contemporary, forward-looking education for our students,” said Barbara Farley, Ph.D., president of Illinois College.

    Illinois’ Nursing Shortage

    It’s no secret that the nation’s already deep nursing shortage was exacerbated by the pandemic. Every state continues to feel the effects to some degree, with some states desperately trying to incentivize bringing nurses back to the bedside.

    According to the American Nurses Association-Illinois (ANA-Illinois):

    • Illinois is expected to face a shortage of nearly 15,000 RNs by 2025.
    • Over 100,000 RNs in Illinois are over the age of 55, and 27% of those RNs plan to retire in the next five years.
    • Less than 8,000 nurses graduate each year.

    “There is no easy fix to the nursing shortage, and we have an urgent need for workforce planning to meet future healthcare needs,” said Susan Swart, executive director of ANA-Illinois.Illinois’s nursing shortage has been caused by more than just nurse burnout. The lack of nursing instructors is a critical factor, requiring nursing schools to turn away many qualified applicants each year.

    Illinois College’s BSN program is no exception. The acceptance rate is around 20%, forcing many prospective nursing students to look elsewhere or even abandon their nursing goals altogether.

    Memorial Health President and CEO Ed Curtis believes that partnerships like this are key to addressing the nursing shortage and strengthening the local healthcare workforce.

    “Partnerships like this one benefit not only Memorial Health and Illinois College, but the entire region,” Curtis said. “The steps we are taking now will ensure Memorial and other health care organizations can continue caring for local residents in the decades to come. We’re pleased to have Illinois College as a partner in that work.”