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Southern has online Registered Nurse to BSN degree program

7/10/2012

 Southern University will add a new wrinkle to its highly regarded nursing program this year with the addition of an accelerated online version of the program slated to begin in August.

The online Bachelor of Science Nursing degree will be a year-long alternative to what is typically a four-year program. Nurses who have previously earned a two-year associate’s degree, have a year experience in nursing and a 2.6 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale are eligible for the new online program, provided their nursing license is in good standing with the state.

Chancellor James Llorens said the program would fill the dual purpose of responding to a market need, while also generating revenue for the Baton Rouge campus.

Repeated state budget cuts have taken a toll on Southern’s financial outlook, especially when coupled with the school’s declining enrollment, Llorens said. Enrollment at Southern University has dipped from nearly 9,500 students to about 6,700 students during the past several years.

Jacqueline Hill, chairwoman of Southern’s undergraduate nursing program, said the new degree program would be an intensive, 12-month initiative that would incorporate elements such as research, community service and leadership, plus a hands-on clinical component.

“There is a need for more nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree,” Hill said. “The Institute of Medicine is saying 80 percent of nurses need to have a BSN by 2020.”

Hill said the university has been fielding calls for years from students hoping the university would start the program.

About 30 students will be admitted to Southern’s inaugural class, she said. The online degree program will carry with it the same prestige as the traditional program, Hill said, as both versions are covered by the same accrediting process.

The basic structure of the program calls for instructors to post lessons online. Students will submit completed assignments electronically within a predetermined time limit, Hill said. Students additionally have opportunities to interact with other students and instructors on discussion boards, she said.

Southern will contract with different agencies in each student’s area to facilitate the clinical component of the program, during which students are required to work in clinics, schools or in home health settings.

The university has partnered with Florida-based Education Online Services Corp., a for-profit organization that helps historically black colleges and universities develop online curricula.

Ben Chavis, a former executive director and chief executive officer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is the company’s president.

Chavis said the arrangement with Southern calls for EOS Corporation to market and promote the online nursing program, recruit students and help retain them once they’ve enrolled.

Social media will play a large role in promoting the program around the country, Chavis said.

“The benefit of online distance education is that we’re not bound by state boundaries. It’s open to anyone who meets the admissions criteria,” he said.

“Our role is just to assist the university. They make all the academic decisions.”

Lynette Haynes, 27, graduated from Southern’s traditional, in-person BSN program in the spring in just over three years.

That program generally requires a full slate of courses each semester, including the clinical components carried out at hospitals and nursing homes.

“It takes a lot of dedication,” Haynes said. “It’s rigorous, but it’s doable.”

Haynes said she doesn’t think the lack of classroom interaction will negatively affect students who choose to enroll in the online program.

“I don’t think there will be any hindrance, because they already will have an associate’s degree.” Haynes said. “I don’t think it will be detrimental.”