Why nursing schools turned down 65,766 qualified applications last year

Nursing schools continue to struggle with student enrollment, according to new data. Even so, they turned down 65,766 qualified applications during the 2022-23 school year — much to the concern of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“Despite facing enrollment challenges, nursing schools are committed to expanding their programs in response to the growing demand for nurses in all settings where health care is delivered,” Dr. Deborah Trautman, AACN president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.

“As we consider the needs of the nursing workforce over the next 10 years, more federal and local support is needed to expand pathways into nursing to ensure an adequate supply of clinicians needed to provide primary, preventative, and specialty care to an increasingly diverse patient population,” she added.

The association conducts a national survey each year, compiling data on student enrollment at nursing schools. The survey, which featured 975 institutions, revealed that fewer nursing students are entering RN-to-BSN degree completion, master’s programs and PhD programs.

It also found that thousands of qualified applications were denied from numerous colleges.

“Within this total, applications turned away included 55,111 from entry-level baccalaureate, 703 from RN-to-BSN, 5,491 from master’s, 4,225 from DNP, and 236 from PhD nursing programs,” the AACN reported in a news release. “Given the persistent shortage of nurse faculty, AACN remains concerned that nearly 10,000 applications were turned away from graduate programs, which may further limit the pool of potential nurse educators.

“The primary barriers to accepting all qualified students at nursing schools continue to be insufficient clinical placement sites, faculty, preceptors, and classroom space, as well as budget cuts.”

BSN programs, on the other hand, saw a minor uptick (0.3%) in enrollments. Nationwide, there were 255,455 enrollments in BSN programs during the 2022-2023 school year. That’s just short of the record set in 2021, with 256,578 enrollments.