Southwestern Michigan College, Andrews University Team Up for Affordable Nursing Program

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated January 19, 2024
Edited by
    A $2 million grant supports two Michigan schools' goals to improve nursing education affordability and increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses.
    Nursing students talking in classroomCredit: Getty Images
    • Two Michigan nursing programs were granted $2 million to help transition ADN students to a BSN program.
    • The program hopes to increase nursing student recruitment and raise the number of BSN-prepared nurses in the state.

    Two Michigan colleges recently received a $2 million grant from the Sixty by 30 office established by the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). As a result, Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) in Dowagiac and Andrews University in nearby Berrien Springs will partner to develop affordable nursing education programs that support nursing students at Southwestern Michigan College.

    The ultimate objective is to smooth the pipeline between schools and programs, offering more cost-effective training to more nurses more quickly in response to Michigan’s ongoing nurse shortage, program officials said,

    “This grant opportunity allows SMC to extend our vision of ‘Knowledge For All’ in a new way by offering our nursing graduates the ability to further their educational and professional careers at a more affordable cost through a local university partner,” said Melissa Kennedy, DNP, dean of the SMC School of Nursing, in a statement.

    The Sixty by 30 program also has an initiative that helps pay the cost of training and tuition for those seeking an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or skills certificate.

    Specifically, the funding will prepare students to move from SMC’s ADN program to Andrews University’s bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. The funds will support recruitment efforts, staffing and faculty increases, and financial infusions for tutoring services. Officials noted that many healthcare institutions are seeking nurses with higher levels of education — a trend in line with the new joint program.

    MiLEAP’s stated mission is to improve life in Michigan by helping to bridge skills gaps between potential employees and businesses that require skilled individuals with more than a high school diploma.

    According to its website, MiLEAP provides funding to increase access to education and skills-building while making Michigan more competitive for “inclusive economic growth.”

    The Michigan Nurse Shortage: Increasing the Pipeline, Increasing the Pool

    Program officials hope the higher number of BSN-trained nurses can help stem the state’s nursing shortage, which is worsening. According to a study from the University of Michigan, 39% of nurses currently employed in Michigan intend to leave their jobs within the next year.

    The study’s most troublesome numbers may have come from younger nurses who reported plans to leave their jobs in droves. According to the researchers, the COVID-19 pandemic was not the primary cause for these nurses leaving.

    “Many health care leaders think that the COVID pandemic will ease and the workforce burden will ease also,” said study lead author Christopher Friese. “But nurses are telling us that they’re leaving because of the unsafe working conditions and chronic understaffing that predated the pandemic. It made an already bad and unsafe situation even worse.”

    In addition to helping address the shortage, the collaboration between an ADN and BSN program is expected to raise the number of BSN-prepared nurses in the workforce.

    In 2010, a growing body of evidence suggested that BSN-prepared nurses were associated with better patient outcomes, which prompted the National Academy of Medicine to recommend that by 2020, 80% of the nursing workforce should have a BSN degree or higher.

    Data continues to show that, as technology and patient care become more complex, BSN-prepared nurses are associated with significantly fewer deaths, hospital readmissions, and shorter hospital stays. New collaborations between ADN and BSN programs can help increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses to meet the goal of better patient outcomes while providing more affordable nursing schools.

    New Program Slated to Begin This Fall

    SMC plans to have new options and enhancements for the student cohort starting in the fall of 2024. Technology upgrades, a tutoring program, and advisors will be available. The school of nursing also hopes to bolster recruitment with the promise of a collaborative effort to easily transition students from an ADN to a BSN program.

    Additional support and education also meet MiLEAP goals, which include increasing the number of working-age adults with a college degree or certificate from 50.5% to 60% by 2030.

    Incoming or current students who wish to apply will find the application process is free and does not require essays or letters of recommendation. Admission eligibility requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate and a criminal background check. While these are the minimum admission criteria for SMC, they do not guarantee admission into the ADN program.

    The nursing staffing crisis delineates the myriad concerns nurses cite as reasons for dissatisfaction with the profession — or leaving it altogether. Programs that remove impediments from the training pipeline offer powerful new opportunities for recruitment, retention, and training.

    “The state of Michigan asked community colleges to find an appropriate partner to help build these bridges between the RN programs and the BSN programs,” SMC Provost Dave Fleming told local news outlet Moody on the Market. “Andrews has been a good partner for a number of other things, but this specific program will start because of this grant.”