Michigan community colleges vying for 4-year nursing programs amid shortages

The debate comes at a time when healthcare facilities across the country are facing staffing shortages. But this isn’t the first time lawmakers have debated what kinds of degrees community colleges can offer.


Michigan House Bills 5556 and 5557 would allow community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate nursing programs. Funders argue the measures would bring more highly trained nurses into the field at a time when Michigan, like other states, needs more of them to fight a brutal pandemic.

But other lawmakers are pushing back with bills that would take tax revenue away from community colleges that offer four-year nursing degrees. Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant, and Rep. Samantha Steckloff, D-Farmington, move House Bills 5361 and 5362. They say they are champions of community colleges, but move that if community colleges increase the number of licensing programs they offer, they should not be allowed to collect local property tax revenue.

VanSingel said the proposal is intended to ensure that the state‘s community colleges do not turn into new universities as demographic trends in the state show declining birth rates. He said that while it might seem like getting a four-year degree from a community college is cheaper, there would be higher costs associated with such programs, and that could include taxpayers if his bill is not adopted.

The House Tax Policy Committee heard arguments for and against the tax policies on Wednesday morning.

How Nursing Programs Work

Students who earn a two-year associate nursing degree or a four-year bachelor of science degree in nursing can become registered nurses if they pass their nursing exams. But data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing suggests that employers prefer nursing applicants with a four-year degree.

About 40.6% of hospitals and other health care facilities require new hires to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, while 77.4% of employers expressed a strong preference for graduates of the BSN program, according to responses from 645 nursing schools that participated in an AACN survey. .

The national median annual salary for a registered nurse as of May 2020 is $75,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is a profession that is becoming increasingly in demand, as hospitals across the country report worsening nursing shortages as COVID-19 has seen a flood of nurses and other healthcare workers leave the profession. – exhausted, traumatized and often angry at the way they were treated by administrators or patients amid deadly outbreaks of the virus.

The BLS projects that there will be 194,500 openings in the United States for registered nurses each year on average through 2030.

Fewer healthcare workers means hospitals often have fewer beds to offer patients.

Comparing November 2021 to November 2020, there was a drop in the average number of 875 daily staffed inpatient beds in Michigan, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, an industry group. MHA spokesman John Karasinski said the organization also hears from its members that many healthcare facilities have vacancy rates of 20% or more due to understaffing.

The MHA supports allowing community colleges to offer baccalaureate nursing programs. Karasinski said the bills would “increase access to high-quality nurses in areas served by small rural Michigan hospitals where a four-year school does not currently exist.”

Rep. John Roth, R-Traverse City, is sponsoring the bill that would allow community colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing. He said the proposal would allow rural areas to retain their young people for high-demand jobs.

Roth’s wife is a registered nurse at a hospital.

“The nursing shortage obviously probably started before the pandemic, but it was (exacerbated) by the pandemic,” Roth said in Bridge Michigan. “Nurses come out of the field. We have to do everything. We have to open the floodgates to let them in. Not only because hospitals need it, but also our care establishments, our assisted living facilities. We need more on the pitch and we have to push for it.

Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, which represents the state’s 15 public universities, said the way forward is for community colleges and four-year universities to work together. He said if the state is serious about increasing its pool of qualified nurses, then it should focus its attention on the Michigan Reconnect program, which allows people 25 and older to receive a scholarship to complete a nursing degree. associate or certification program.

Michigan Community College Association President Brandy Johnson countered that allowing community colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing saves students money and transit time by allowing them to stay closer to home, including the opportunity to train at a local healthcare facility while working to complete their Baccalaureate. Community colleges are simply more affordable, she said.

The prices of each college and university differ.

Michigan State University, for example, costs about $14,914 in tuition and fees for one year of college for an in-state student, a figure that doesn’t include room and board. At nearby Lansing Community College, tuition and fees are estimated at $7,800 for in-state students or $4,300 per year if the student lives in an area that pays property tax to support the college .

“Yeah, I’m sure it would be more affordable than going to a four-year college,” Johnson said.

In 2012, the state legislature authorized community colleges to begin offering four-year bachelor’s degrees, but only in specific fields: cement technology, marine technology, power generation technology, and culinary arts. Nursing has been discussed before but never approved by the Legislative Assembly.

Six community colleges currently offer bachelor’s degree programs, according to the Legislative Analysis of Tax Bills.

Hurley told BridgeMichigan it doesn’t make sense to offer these programs at community colleges when someone will have to foot the bill for more expensive degrees. This could lead to an increase in community college tuition, an increase in the need for state ownership, or an increase in local taxes that the community college collects.

Michigan’s Independent Colleges and Universities, which represent the state’s 25 private, nonprofit colleges and universities, have joined public universities in opposing four-year nursing programs at community colleges. The group says offering these programs will not immediately solve the nursing shortage, but will create a duplication of services.