As applicants line up to get into Kansas University’s School of Nursing, they’ll be facing an increasingly tough road, thanks to state budget cuts.
Of 591 applicants to the school this year, only 104 will be admitted. That’s down from 120 a year ago and 128 the year before that, said Cynthia Schudel, an adviser for pre-nursing students.
The number of students has been scaled back because of accreditation rules regulating student-to-faculty ratios. As state budget cuts reduce the number of faculty members on campus, KU Medical Center must adjust its student population accordingly.
Schudel said the entrance requirements are getting more stringent — the average grade point average of an admitted student this year was 3.7. Students must also demonstrate experience in the health care field and leadership skills. The requirements leave many qualified students on the outside looking in, Schudel said.
“They may be people who maybe struggled a little bit their first couple of semesters,” Schudel said. “You can be a very solid student who struggled early.”
In this more difficult environment, those students are more likely to find themselves with a rejection letter. Schudel stressed that she still encourages students with lower GPAs to apply, because they can make up for it with high achievement in other areas. Still, stress is high, and Schudel said she’s had to calm students who call her after receiving their first B in college.
One person who was well aware of the fewer slots available for new students was KU junior Katie Summers, from Tulsa, Okla. She’ll be one of the 104 new students attending KU’s nursing school next year, but she said it was no guarantee.
Even while earning a GPA above the average for new admissions, being the vice president of the KU Pre-Nursing Club and spending more than 150 hours volunteering in the emergency room at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Summers said she still was anxious about getting in.
“I didn’t know how everything weighed,” Summers said. “Leadership, grades, extracurriculars. I didn’t know if I overlooked one area.”
Rita Clifford, KU associate nursing dean for student affairs, watches state and national trends on the current nursing shortage. As baby boomers prepare to retire, the shortage will grow, she said.
“I think there’s no question that the nursing shortage is going to continue at a very high rate in the future,” she said.
And, she said, one area that’s often overlooked is a lack of trained nursing faculty to help teach the nurses not only at KU, but at the other nursing schools around the region. KU’s graduate enrollments are suffering too, Clifford said.
It all adds up to a lot of stress for applicants, as those Cs and Ds in science courses begin to stick out a little more than they used to.
“I would love to see everybody who wants to become a nurse become a nurse, because we really need nurses,” Schudel said. “But for some, maybe now’s not the right time for them to be a nurse.”