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Public or Private: Which is the Best Nursing Program?

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Should I attend a private or public Nursing program?

This article is opinion based on personal experiences of public and private education as a pre-nursing student. These may differ from student to student and school to school.

Public or Private:  Which is the Best Nursing Program?

So you know you want to get a nursing education. You’ve looked at several public and private schools and thought, “I don’t know what to pick!” I was in your shoes once too, but thankfully for you, I have attended both! So, I will be going through each option and you can decide for yourself what works for you!

Community / Public

This type is for my peeps that are looking at community college, junior college, etc. I attended a local community college for about one year to finish up some last prerequisites for nursing school.

PROS

1- Low cost

Many community colleges, especially in CA, will provide what is called the “governors waiver”. I pretty much got paid to attend community college. Of course the money was used toward books and I used it to pay for my nursing application (which adds up fast, trust me). This is the biggest reason why people go to community college which is understandable since college education can cost an arm and a leg.

CONS

1- Time-consuming

Depending on the college you might find yourself on a waitlist especially trying to get into those science courses as the nursing field is highly impacted.

2- Academic support

While I do see colleges trying to provide support to their students with so many students it can be difficult to provide personalized support to each student. I found that the academic support was quite mainstream and each counselor would print the plan, highlight the courses and sent you on your merry way and because you were so nervous in the first place you forgot to ask questions.

3- Parking

Okay, you may think this is not a con but when you are running late, have a strict teacher and you can’t find parking it becomes a high stress situation. I would leave an hour before class started to find parking especially the first few weeks.

4- Nursing program

The education is great and cost is low; what’s the con? Not really a con, but another thing that may add stress is because of the high numbers of applications sometimes colleges will add “rules” before you apply. For example, for the one I attended you had to be completely done with all your courses before you wanted to apply also, because it was so impacted, you pretty much should only have A's to apply. Again, this is just my experience; it may be different for your local college.

Private

This type of college is for my peepsters that are willing to take out a loan here and there to help pay for education. I know you may be thinking, no way too expensive bye! But, some colleges will help by providing extra grants and scholarships to help cushion cost.

Pros

1- Academic support

By far the most amazing support I have had. I have tutors, mentors and professors all working together to tell me what I need to do to succeed! Yes, you may be thinking “well yeah, it cost an eye,” which there may be some truth to it but I have found I am getting what I paid for and some.

2- Small class sizes

This really gives the opportunity to network with professors and preceptors that may just help you land that awesome job at the end of your education! Also, because they are smaller, you get the chance to ask questions without being rushed.

3- Preparation

I have found that private schools really do help with the networking portion by providing opportunities because most times they have connections and partners from the community. 

Cons

1- Cost

I am not going to lie here. It costs money. But I will say this, never turn down something because you don’t know. Look it into it, don’t be scared. You never know until you try. For me, I thought, "how am I going to pay for my current school, I should not even apply, I can’t afford it", but either way I went for a tour and came prepared with plenty of questions!

At the end of the day remember this ...

... it’s your education. The only person that will fight for it and work for it is you. Just like there are plenty of good community colleges there are also bad ones and same goes for private. I would highly suggest visiting each school and come prepared with questions like:

  • what does your academic support look like?
  • what are your class sizes?
  • what is your cost?, etc etc.

This will help you pick the right one based on YOUR needs. I hoped this helped you or at least gave you a good starting point and may your college choice be the best!

Like always, much love.

Hi there! A little bit about myself is I am a current nursing student and my dream is to one day become a NICU nurse. My goal for this page is simple: help everyone. So if you are a pre-nursing student looking for some guidance or a current nursing student looking for a spot in the community, this is your place!

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12 Comment(s)

I think the most important things to consider are:

  • Accreditation - Regional and National accreditation is important! 
  • Cost - Common advice is to keep Costs to no more than one years expected salary, obviously Cali and NYC are outliers as far as salaries. 
  • Retention Rate - What percentage of accepted students fail or drop out?
  • Graduation Rate - After accounting for retention, what percentage of remaining students graduate?
  • 1st time NCLEX pass rate 
  • Clinical Hours - Gaining experience is best hands on compared to virtual learning.
  • Physical campus or online/distance? - Making connections with Professors  clinical instructors is crucial to networking. 

I personally chose a private ADN programs that cost 3x much as the wait-list community college. The opportunity cost of delaying future earnings as a RN was significantly more costly than paying 3x as much in tuition. My program has a better retention, graduation and NCLEX rate than the community college.  There's certainly a push for BSNs but that's typically location based. Here in Texas ADNs are more accepted. I had a classmate during my prerequisites set on getting a BSN at any cost, he chose an online distance program. He felt his BSN would give him a leg up in applying for critical care positions as a new grad. He graduated before me and was only offered a position in psych or ltac. I on the other hand have been offered multiple ICU and PCU positions because of the connections I made with my local professors and during my clinicals. 

Dear future nurse, make the decision that works best for you, and please avoid the for profit schools charging 80-100k for a BSN. Ch_mb_rl_in and similar rip-offs. 

NICU Guy, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 6 years experience.

4 hours ago, nurse2b marty said:

Cons

1- Cost

I am not going to lie here. It costs money. But I will say this, never turn down something because you don’t know. Look it into it, don’t be scared. You never know until you try. For me, I thought, "how am I going to pay for my current school, I should not even apply, I can’t afford it", but either way I went for a tour and came prepared with plenty of questions!

This is a big factor when deciding on a school. Taking out a huge student loan to pay for nursing school has huge long term consequences. Having large student loan payments post-graduation can drastically effect your ability to save for a down payment on a house, purchase a newer car, children, saving for your child's education. Being $50-100k in debt as a new grad can put you in a hole that will be difficult to climb out of, especially if new debt is acquired due to inability to afford a larger down payment for house or car causing you to slip deeper into debt.  

Tacocat, ADN, RN

Specializes in Community/Public Health. Has 1 years experience.

I feel like nursing students greatly overestimate the "nurse money" they're going to make as a new graduate in terms of paying off their student loans. 

Tacocat, ADN, RN

Specializes in Community/Public Health. Has 1 years experience.

You also left out "NCLEX pass rate." It's a good indicator as to the quality of the education you will be receiving. Your odds of finishing and passing your boards are just as important as all of those other factors. 

And before it's suggested that "school is what you make of it" let me point out that you're paying to learn how to be a nurse and that includes passing your licensing exam. If a school has a low pass rate, there's likely a reason for it. 

londonflo

Specializes in oncology. Has 44 years experience.

On 3/19/2021 at 1:34 PM, Tacocat said:

 I feel like nursing students greatly overestimate the "nurse money" they're going to make as a new graduate in terms of paying off their student loans. 

Recruiters for for-profit schools are quick to point out "if you come to our program and pay $$$$ you will make it up by getting into the workforce early." Some may benefit, some who experience difficulty with NCLEX will not and they still will have to pay the exorbitant tuitition and fees.

If you have test anxiety or any difficulty with reading:  look for a program that has a strong student success area where there are professionals trained in helping people learn and successfully test.

Admitting up front that you need this skill will not have any impact on  your admission to a non-profit program. Hiding your testing problems until your test % is in the toilet will  not have a good  impact on your success. Did you need extra time in high school, do you have ADHD etc, you CAN become a nurse but you need to seek out appropriate resources at the beginning of your education. When you are dancing so hard and still cannot keep up, it is not the best time to reveal previous educational challenges.

I have taught in private schools that did not have structure or services for this. Students failed and they shouldn't have but we did not have the expertise in this area. However in the last 10 years, not-for-profits have continued their mission to help students with this area. Public schools have a tremendous  funding emphasis on the needs of students with learning difficulties. Face the music  and you will find there is a whole department in place to help!

Tacocat, ADN, RN

Specializes in Community/Public Health. Has 1 years experience.

1 hour ago, londonflo said:

recruiters for for-profit schools are quick to point out "if you come to our program and pay $$$$ you will make it up by getting into the workforce early." Some may benefit, some who experience difficulty with NCLEX will not and they still will have to pay the exorbitant tuitition and fees .

Or even if you fail a class, or a clinical, or anything else that might set back your graduation date and add on extra cost and fees. A failing grade in nursing school isn't the same as a failing grade in most other college programs, and every tenth of a point matters. A 78 in my program was passing, which is a C+ by normal standards. You can pass, but still fail 😰

Everyone thinks in can't or won't happen to them but sometimes...it does. 

MD married to RN

Specializes in EM. Has 28 years experience.

NCLEX PASS RATE...can be deceptive.

Example: A school (2 year ADN) advertises a 88% NCLEX pass rate. Sounds great right. Well, let's say 40 students were accepted at the start. After year one, 30 are left. Then after year two (clinicals), 26 make it to graduation. Then, 23 out of these 26 pass the NCLEX for an 88% pass rate.  REALITY 23 out 40 actually made it from start to passing the NCLEX for a practical pass rate of (drum roll please) 58%.

Psychnursehopeful had some good advice. To reiterate: 

Not accredited; don't bother.

Clinical opportunities; ideally these will happen at places that are likely to hire you as a new grad. Your clinical rotations are often performance interviews. If your school of interest struggles to place students clinical, like having them drive far to remote places or SNFs, reconsider.

londonflo

Specializes in oncology. Has 44 years experience.

25 minutes ago, MD married to RN said:

NCLEX PASS RATE...can be deceptive.

Retention rate should go hand in hand with NCLEX scores. Also on the state's program results for NCLEX they school must say how many took the test. Compare that with the number admitted. These are all measures of quality that 'you the future' student can investigate.

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 44 years experience.

Another consideration:  Is the nursing program " Regionally accredited" or NLNCNEA OR CCNE national nursing organization accredited?

Higher education programs -masters level and above along with some employers require that nurses graduate from a regionally accredited college as accreditation approval helps ensure academic quality and quality improvement, while practical and diploma nursing programs along with some colleges have accreditation provided by  National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation   or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

 

Regional Accrediting Organizations  include:

image.thumb.png.6b37cfcb421e60eeec05e87f47f07143.png

 

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

londonflo

Specializes in oncology. Has 44 years experience.

14 minutes ago, NRSKarenRN said:

NLNCNEA OR CCNE national nursing organization accredited?

ACEN and CCNE or programmatic accreditation.

Quote

Institutional accreditation reviews academic and organizational structures of a college or university as a whole, compared to Programmatic accreditation that conducts an in-depth assessment of specialized or professional programs at a college, university or independent institution. ...

National accreditation is used for for-profit institutions to foundational established needs of a college such as financial stability, qualifications of faculty etc.

Thank you for the list of regional associations. I still keep saying 'North Central' when it changes to 'Higher learning Commission' years ago! But then again I have to correct myself from saying 'sliding scale' when 'correctional insulin' is the new label. 

vampiregirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in Hospice. Has 11 years experience.

Regarding cost...

When I was completing my RN to BSN several years ago I was very surprised to find a local private college for which tuition was competitive with the public/ community colleges. I'm sure this isn't the norm but it's worth it to conduct research to determine which program is best for you. I also considered many of the other factors recommended by previous posters. I ended up with a great experience and education. 

Go where you get admission if you have the money to afford private school. Usually, state funded programs are the best programs and some of the most economical. They pick up the best students. The second cut can go to expensive private schools with high standards. Those unable to make first and second cut may try expensive private schools without stellar reviews.

You should always watch your back at a private school that is less than 20 year old. Most are there to make money not educate.