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For-Profit Nursing Program Grads Perform Worse on Licensure Test

TUESDAY, Jan. 22, 2019 -- For-profit nursing school programs are associated with significantly lower performance on a national nursing licensure exam compared with public and nonprofit programs, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Nursing Regulation.

Patricia Pittman, Ph.D., from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues used 10 years of data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (2007 to 2016) to track the number of programs and nursing graduates by ownership type. The authors also analyzed five years of data from state boards of nursing (2011 to 2015) on first-time National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rates by degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Associate Degree in Nursing, and Practical Nurse).

The researchers found that during the study period, there was a fivefold increase in the total number of for-profit nursing programs and a 14-fold increase in the number of graduates from for-profit nursing programs. As a percentage of total graduates, the number of graduates from public nursing programs declined, while the for-profit programs' share grew from 1.7 to 14.2 percent. For-profit ownership was a significant predictor of lower NCLEX pass rates for all three degree programs after adjustment for demographic and socioeconomic factors.

"Many states and accreditation agencies consider an NCLEX pass rate of at least 80 percent as a minimum quality threshold for nursing programs," Pittman said in a statement. "Our study found that for-profit nursing programs were nearly twice as likely to have failed to meet that 80 percent threshold as compared to public programs."

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Posted: January 2019

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