Published Dec 10, 2023
Samuel Merritt University ABSN program 2022-2023
To whom it may concern -
As a recent graduate of the SMU Accelerated Bachelor's of Science Nursing program 2022-2023, I'm writing this to provide an insight on the program so future students can make a more educated decision regarding their choice in ABSN.
1) Opportunity Cost
The total tuition for the 12-month ABSN program as of 2022-2023 is: $84,885.00 + $2,085.00 fees
Other ABSN school tuition:
- Drexel University ABSN (11-month): $58,288.00 (out-of-california)
- San Francisco State ABSN (15-month): ~$37,800.00
- CSU LA ABSN (15-month): ~$31,535.00
- CSU San Marcos (24-month): ~$44,890.00
- CSU Stanislaus (17-month): ~$40,000.00
- CSU Northridge (15-month): $46,400.00
As you can see, the SMU tuition far outpaces other schools. From what I've been told by other students in other ABSN programs, the curriculum is practically the same and the quality of education is relatively equal in terms of instruction, clinicals, and skill labs. The biggest difference that I've observed is the number of available seats per application cycle. For example, SF state only offers 32 spaces per year compared to SMU which has 3 application cycles that offer roughly ~100 seats per cycle for their 3 main campuses (SF Peninsula, Oakland, and Sacramento). In other words, the SMU cohort sizes are bigger (~50 students). We were also told that SMU is planning to increase tuition by an additional 5% per year starting in 2023.
2) Curriculum (52-units)
A) Semester 1 (~4-months)
- Section 1 (1-month)
N138 Intro to Nursing
N125 Health Assessment I + Skills Lab
**Break** (1-2 weeks)
- Section 2 (1-month)
N120 Managing Care of Adults I (MCA I) + Skills Lab + Clinicals
N126 Health Assessment II + Skills Lab
- Section 3 (1-month)
N136 MCA II + Skills Lab + Clinicals
N128 Healthy Aging
B) Semester 2 (3-months)
N164 MCA III + Skills Lab + Clinicals
N158 Pediatric Nursing + Skills Lab + Clinicals
- Section 3 (1- month)
N144 Care of Childbearing + Skills Lab + Clinicals
N108 Nursing Research
C) Semester 3 (5-months)
- Section 1 (1.5-month)
N129 Psychiatric Mental Nursing + Skills Lab + Clinicals
- Section 2 (1.5-month)
N170 Community Health + Skills Lab + Clinicals
- Section 3 (2-month)
N181 Senior Synthesis + Skills Lab + Clinicals
The clinicals start at two days per week (weekdays or weekends) and can range between 4-8 hr shift depending on your clinical instructor and how busy your clinical site is. The school tries to pair you a clinical site based on your geographical location and preference, but there have been many instances of students being placed in sites like San Jose when they live in San Francisco even though there are sites in San Francisco. As the program progresses, your clinicals can be 1-day per week but longer hours (I.e. 10 hr/day)
The skills and simulation labs start off as a large part of the program in the first couple months, but drop off towards the middle-end of the program. You might have labs cancelled but are still charged for them when you pay your tuition (no refunds).
You will have medication calculation exams for your MCA I-III series and you will need at least a 90% to pass the exam and be cleared to pass medications during clinicals. You get up to four tries and then you speak to the professor or clinical instructor to figure out ways for tutoring.
You need more than 73% cumulative grade average to pass the course. Grade breakdown:
You have a HESI exit exam at the end of each course that is worth 10% of your overall grade. You get 1-2 points back by doing remediation (2-4 hours coursework). HESI score breakdown:
>=900 - 10 pts
850-899 - 9 pts
800-849 - 8 pts
750-799 - 7pts
** 2pt remediation **
700-749 - 6pts
650-699 - 5pts
600-649 - 4pts
550-599 - 3pts
500-549 - 2pts
<500 - 0pts
There is tutoring at SMU and a large part of it was run by students going through the program. The cohort ahead would tutor students in cohorts behind. The recruitment process was very lax, so anyone could be tutor despite not having a strong grasp on the subject material. Also, while the program did pay tutors a salary (~$20/hr), the schedule was determined by the student tutor's set availability. I believe the school is starting to transition away from relying on students and is choosing this new program called BrainFuse. Not sure how much of a difference this program is as it was implemented towards the end of our cohort program. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of good student tutors that made a positive impact in my education, but there were some that I felt didn't understand the material well enough to teach others.
There are very few professors that will make a positive impact on your educational experience at SMU. It's the sad truth and a problem faced by many ABSN programs. Out of the 10 professors I had, only 3 had an organized, well-constructed curriculum. The other professors were a disorganized, unprofessional mess that made learning significantly more stressful than it needed to be. Some of the issues included: outdated powerpoint lectures, lecture recordings that were hard to listen due to background noise or were missing entirely because the professor forgot to record, and conflicting information on canvas that made time management a nightmare because your didn't know when certain assignments were due or how to complete them. To me, it seemed like SMU lacked standards in terms of how classes should be run and allowed the professors free reign to teach it based on their personal standards, however low that may be. However, I later understood why some professors were doing more poorly than others. Most professors not only teach but also are clinical instructors and/or concurrently attending school for their Ph.D or Master's. Therefore, they just manage the course and don't bother updating it for the students. The students are left to mostly figuring out the material on their own, which is a shame given the amount of time and money invested into the program.
3) The Preceptorship
The topic of preceptorship is probably the most disappointing part of this program. SMU sadly has dropped preceptorships from the curriculum and replaced it with senior synthesis. For those who don't know, the preceptorship was a program that paired you with a department of your choice (I.e. ED, ICU, Med-Surg, etc.) with a preceptor who would shadow you as you performed all the nursing duties on a patient. You would essentially be working as a full-fledged nurse and put all the nurse knowledge you learned during the year into practice. This was also a great opportunity to network and have a sort of probationary period with the hospital during which time the hospital could offer you a position once you got your license.
The reason SMU got rid of the preceptorship program was because not all of the affiliated SMU hospitals had a preceptorship program. Many hospitals were phasing out of preceptorships starting around COVID and have opted to focus more on new-grad programs instead. SO even though some hospitals still had their preceptorship programs intact, SMU could'nt guarantee placement for all SMU students and therefore decided to cancel preceptorships entirely.
We've tried everything to get preceptorships back. Here's a list of what has been tried so far:
- Some cohorts have attempted to sue the school to refund some of the tuition
- Presentations have been done to try and convince the school leadership to bring them back
- Townhall meetings have been held to directly talk to SMU leadership about preceptorships
- Talked to hospital educators to talk to the SMU leadership about expanding preceptorships
- Seeking alternatives to preceptorships (I.e. more SIM labs, clinicals, etc.)
The result of the meetings was the Senior Synthesis. The Senior Synthesis extended clinicals for another 2-weeks. You were not guaranteed to get a clinical assignment that matched your department of interest. We did a bunch of busy work for useless certifications and online simulations that were pointless. The one highlight was the ACLS/PALS certification, but we had to fight to get the school to fund the certification (~$600/person). The entire process was frustrating and disappointing, but at least we got something that would've otherwise have been nothing.
I was very disappointed with my experience at SMU given the large time and money investment. I did a little research into the program's taxes and the professors/clinical instructors make roughly $200,000/year. The CEO makes at least $5 million/year based on 501(c)3. Source overview: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/942992642
The school also recently established a new flagship campus in 2023 using $120 million of it's own reserves in addition to a $139 million bond financing for construction. There was a student-led protest at the site this year. Source: https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/news/samuel-merritt-university-breaks-ground-new-campus-downtown-oakland
With that level of income and profit, I expect more professionalism and better customer service to the students than what I observed and experienced during this 12-month program.
But it's over. I'm done with nursing school and getting ready to take the NCLEX. I will surely not be recommending SMU to anyone and strongly advise to try applying elsewhere before going here. However, if you have no other choice, then hopefully this post can help mentally prepare you and get you through the program. Good luck!
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