Of course, Michigan university administrators don’t want lawmakers to allow community colleges to offer nursing license programs.
These large institutions have enjoyed a state-sanctioned monopoly on most four-year study programs for decades, and they have made substantial lobbying efforts to keep this corner in the market. And any attempt to sneak into university strongholds, especially through low cost per credit hour community colleges, threatens a sacred cash cow they depend on.
But what happens when allowing this singular path to a college degree contributes to the severe shortage of nurses in our state? Shouldn’t all options be on the table to ensure the flow of nurses to community hospitals in our state?
That’s why – at least for just about everyone who doesn’t make a salary from administrative staff at a state university – a proposal to pave the way for community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing seems make sense. This three-bill package, sponsored by Representative John Roth, R-Traverse City, would allow colleges to join the pipeline, moving nurses into the workforce.
To be clear, we are talking about opening up more educational capacity at a time when there is a serious shortage of undergraduate nurses nationwide. This shortage manifests itself in around 200 unfilled nursing jobs locally in the Munson health system – Munson will hire nurses with associate degrees, but require them to earn a BSN within the first five years of work.
This shortage is part of a broad drought, the American Nurses Association projects to reach 1.1 million unfilled nursing jobs in the United States by 2022 and is expected to continue to worsen until 2030.
Given these numbers, the continued lobbying against allowing competition in the four-year nursing degree market defies logic. So are the claims of university administrators that the existing arrangement (the one that benefits them financially) is working well. They argue that more competition to serve nursing students seeking a bachelor’s degree would somehow cost taxpayers and exacerbate the shortage.
It’s a transparent and self-interested argument that is much easier to understand in an area of the state where nurses have few options to continue their education while working full time, unless they are willing to enroll in online or relocate programs. Far from home.
How would allowing a nursing student to continue living in Traverse City while taking in-person classes at Northwestern Michigan College exacerbate the nursing shortage? How could providing nurses with a cheaper, more home-based option to earn a bachelor’s degree exacerbate the nursing shortage? If the status quo works so well, why is the shortage getting worse?
How could driving out active nurses from the workforce to continue their education help close the gap?
No, the university administrators who lobby against such common sense capacity building clearly have little in mind beyond protecting the monopoly that hangs over their results.
Their repression is the instinctive reaction of an institutional structure that falls woefully short of meeting the needs of taxpayers or students.
It is time to open the door to other institutions that may be better placed to fill the systemic gaps.
Monopolies rarely serve anyone except the people and institutions that exercise them.
The one that allows universities to rule over four-year nursing education programs is no different.