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Number of Nursing School Graduates — including Ethnic and Racial Minorities — on the Rise



NLN Releases Its Annual Nursing Data Review, Documenting Application, Admission, Enrollment, and Graduation Rates for 2005-06


New York, NY — March 3, 2008 — The National League for Nursing's much anticipated annual Nursing Data Review Academic Year 2005-06 has been released, and this year's is a decidedly good news/bad news report. It casts a wide lens on all types of pre-licensure nursing programs, including those offering diploma, associate and baccalaureate degrees, to determine rates of application, enrollment and graduation. The review also provides a comprehensive demographic profile of the current student population, documenting ethnic-racial identity, gender, and age.

On the positive front, the survey shows a marked increase in the percentage of graduating pre-licensure students who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups, with the increase distributed across all racial and ethnic categories: Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians. "Because research increasingly links minority health disparities to a lack of cultural competence on the part of health care providers, who often differ from their patients with respect to racial-ethnic background, this is a promising finding," observed NLN CEO Beverly Malone, RN, PhD, FAAN.

In addition, more men are finally electing to join the profession, according to the research. After falling off during the boom of the 1990s, the percentage of men graduating from basic RN programs has shown a small but steady growth trend for the past three years. In 2006, men represented just over 12.1 percent of nursing graduates.

"The NLN must remain vigilant about diversity," Dr. Malone continued, "looking for ways to add members of minority groups to nursing and helping many of them join our profession as teachers. We must encourage our students and mentor them as colleagues, promoting the leadership that is desperately needed to provide safe and quality health care for all." In keeping with this organizational priority, the NLN recently convened a Diversity Task Force at the behest of the NLN Board of Governors.

In another long-term trend, fully 59 percent of all new graduates eligible to enter the nursing workforce this year in the United States were prepared in two-year associate degree programs; slightly over one-third (38 percent) graduated from baccalaureate nursing programs; and eight percent graduated from diploma programs.

The survey also documented a 5 percent rise in admissions across all RN programs, with the highest rate (20 percent) in baccalaureate degree programs, reflecting an increase in capacity with the launch of 150 new pre-licensure programs at American colleges and universities. More good news is that once students enroll in nursing programs, they tend to remain there and graduate to enter the workforce. Overall graduation rates grew by 8.5 percent during 2005-06; at the same time, nine out of every 10 bachelor's degree candidates enrolled in 2005 remained enrolled or completed her/his degree by 2006, compared with a retention rate of 72 percent at four-year undergraduate institutions nationwide.

Despite these encouraging signs, applications to RN programs fell a notable 8.7 percent in 2005-06, down from a peak in applications a year earlier. The drop is suspected to be the result of widespread awareness of the difficulty of gaining entry to nursing school, fueled by the continuing crippling shortage of nurse educators. By all indications, unmet demand for placement persists, with 88,000 qualified applications — one in three of all applications submitted — denied. Baccalaureate degree programs turned away 20 percent of its applications, while associate degree programs turned away 32.7 percent.

The NLN will launch its next survey this month; it will gather statistics and examine data for the 2006-07 academic term.

Reporters/Editors: For interview opportunities, please contact Karen R. Klestzick, chief communications officer, at 212-812-0376 or email

A PDF of the Executive Summary of Nursing Data Review Academic Year 2005-06, is available at:


Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education offering faculty development, networking opportunities, testing and assessment, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its 25,000 individual and 1,200 institutional members.