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AACN Applauds Representatives Latham and Baldwin for Introducing the Nurses’ Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act of 2008

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Press Release
For Immediate Release

AACN Applauds Representatives Latham and Baldwin for Introducing
the Nurses’ Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act of 2008

New Legislation Offers a Viable Solution to the Nursing Faculty Shortage

WASHINGTON, DC, July 30 , 2008 - Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) applauds Representatives Tom Latham (R-IA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) for introducing the Nurses’ Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act of 2008 (H.R. 6652). At a time when our national healthcare system is facing an acute nursing shortage, this type of support is essential to increasing the number of educators who will prepare the next generation of registered nurses.

“Our schools of nursing are struggling to increase student capacity in the face of a severe nurse faculty shortage. This program would enable more nurses to pursue the advanced degrees needed to teach without the burden of additional student loan debt,” said AACN President Fay Raines.

According to AACN’s 2007-2008 annual survey, U.S. nursing schools turned away 40,285 qualified applicants to baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. Almost three quarters of the schools responding to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as the top reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs. AACN members reported a national nurse faculty vacancy rate of 8.8%, which roughly equates to 1,600 faculty vacancies across the country. The majority of vacancies (86.2%) were faculty positions requiring or preferring a doctoral degree. As experienced educators reach retirement age in great numbers, a wave of faculty retirements is projected for the near future.

The loan repayment program proposed in H.R. 6652 offers a straightforward solution to help address the nursing faculty shortage. The legislation would provide current students and graduates of nursing master’s and doctoral programs with reimbursement for student loans. If selected to participate in this program, these nurses would be required to teach for four years in an accredited school of nursing. AACN is particularly pleased to see that the legislation will fully reimburse the educational loans of nurses who are pursuing or have completed a doctoral degree. Since the greatest need is for faculty with doctoral preparation, this legislation is timely and on point.

“The significant difference between the earning power of nurses in practice versus academia often creates a significant disincentive to pursuing a career in education,” said AACN Executive Director Geraldine Bednash. “However, by eliminating the financial barriers associated with obtaining a graduate nursing degree, the pipeline of future nurse faculty can be strengthened substantially.”

AACN joins 44 other nursing and healthcare organizations that have supported H.R. 6652. AACN has been working with Congress to highlight the need to address the nursing faculty shortage and find solutions such as this legislation. We are grateful to Representatives Latham and Baldwin for championing this issue, which is so critical to expanding the nursing workforce. For more information on AACN's efforts to alleviate the nursing and nurse faculty shortages, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs.

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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 670 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice. www.aacn.nche.edu.

CONTACT:

Robert Rosseter, 202-463-6930, ext. 231
rrosseter@aacn.nche.edu