AD most cost-effective in Colorado state review
A draft review of nursing education programs in Colorado has concluded that the most cost-effective way for the state to produce registered nurses is through two-year associate degree programs rather than baccalaureate programs. Prepared by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education as part of its master plan, the report said, “RNs with BS degrees were not shown to be significantly more successful in their profession, as indicated by level of responsibility and level of compensation, than were RNs trained at the two-year or diploma level.” Since producing RNs in four-year programs is more costly, the review concluded that state resources supporting four-year generic programs “are not being as effectively utilized as they might be. If the goal of the state is to produce a basic RN, the most cost-effective way to do so is through the two-year associate degree programs.” In an analysis of costs, the report said that in 1976, the average full-time equivalent cost for a nursing student was $1,739, whereas for a future teacher it was $1,I 75. Also, the costs vary greatly among nursing programs. Total direct costs of RN graduates from associate degree programs are about $3,190, whereas for BSN graduates, the costs are about $7,940.
Because 76.1% of Colorado’s population is concentrated along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in outlying areas there are problems of access to nursing education and of an undersupply of nurses. The report points out that only three generic programs are located outside the Front Range area. All of these are associate degree programs. There is only one baccalaureate program outside the
Front Range area, and that program enrolls only 1% of the state’s nursing students. Although the overall supply of RNs presently appears to meet demands, the report said, again there are problems in rural areas. For example, 15% of the state’s RNs are employed in areas west of the ContinentalDivide, but that region has only one basic program, which produces less than 7% of the RNs licensed each year. The review also discussed the quality of generic programs and whether the type of program has any impact on nursing practice in the state. Regarding quality, the report pointed to accreditation by the Colorado Board of Nursing and standards of the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education as evidence programs had met quality control criteria. NLN accreditation was also cited as evidence of quality. Licensing examination scores for Colorado rank among the top ten in the nation, the report added. There are “only small differences” between nurses prepared at two-year and four-year levels in level of responsibilityand compensation, the report said. A greater proportionof two year nurses were employed in nursing than four-year nurses, and four-year graduates are “somewhat more likely” to take positions in other fields or to be unemployed. From this evidence, the Commission concluded that “RNs with BS degrees are not shown to be significantly more successful in their profession” than RNs trained at the two-year or diploma level, and the higher costs of their programs are not cost-effective.
AORN Journal. June 1979,Vol29, No 7