A partnership of Michigan higher education and health care leaders is seeking $56 million from the FY 2023 state budget to increase access to Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) education at community colleges.
The Michigan Community College Association (MCCA), Michigan Association of State Universities, Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA), Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, and others, are teaming up to create a “3 + 1” program for BSN students, which would make it easier for prospective nurses to receive their education at community colleges.
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Michigan health care leaders and legislators have been hard at work on improving and expanding the workforce pipeline. Brandy Johnson, President of MCCA and a leading supporter of this budget request, said the state of Michigan projects there are 6,620 nurse openings every year and expects a 9.8% increase in nursing demand over the next 10 years.
Johnson said hospitals and health systems are continuing to seek more nurses with BSN training as well as registered nurse (RN) training due to the higher level of education that comes from it. This makes it challenging for students who cannot access 4-year universities—either due to financial or geographic barriers—to enter the nursing workforce, shortening the list of interested nurses.
This program would increase access to community college programs due to the greater affordability of a community college education, and flexible class schedule to meet the needs of working people, and would act as a better cultural fit for many wanting to become nurses, Johnson said.
This budget allocation would allow for students who have barriers to accessing 4-year schools to 3 years of education at community colleges and 1 year at a 4-year university. Universities and community colleges will enter into a partnership to make sure that all the requirements are met at the community college and to ease the transition from the university to the workforce.
“A nurse would be able to complete their Bachelor’s degree efficiently and affordably and quickly get into the labor market with their degree that is conferred by a 4-year public or private institution in Michigan,” Johnson said. “It really leverages all of the assets of both partners, while giving the local employers, that rely on the BSN educated workforce, access to these nurses.”
The $56 million allocation in the budget would give each of the 28 Michigan community colleges $2 million to administer the program. Johnson said these funds will be flexible for the colleges to build these new 3 + 1 programs at their institutions. Rural community colleges will especially need this funding for faculty recruitment, lab equipment, and nursing education infrastructure.
Johnson said she hopes this one-time allocation will show hospitals and health systems the value this adds to Michigan’s nursing workforce. She said she hopes to see health systems invest in financial aid for students in this program to continue funding the program and supplement the workforce pipeline.
“This one-time funding is the kind of concept that is certainly innovative and we need to demonstrate that the program works so the funds can be invested in student financial aid, especially to pay for that third and fourth year, to promote an incentive for completion of the program,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the legislature is “warm and supportive” to the idea. Legislators have worked to address this issue before and have joined two different camps, which are not necessarily on party lines. Some think community colleges should have the power to give BSNs directly, and some do not. A bill package of House Bill 5556 and 5557, would allow community colleges to distribute BSNs. The package has been waiting for a vote on the House floor since December 2021.
Johnson said this budget proposal acts as a perfect compromise to address the issue and has the support of both camps.
The House and Senate budget proposals are currently in Conference Committee where they are working through the allocations of the FY 2023 budget.