Stimulus money will fuel nurse-faculty loan program

New funding for the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program will allow some schools to broaden the loan program to master’s students. The program forgives loans for students who continue to teach. There is an average of two open faculty positions at every nursing school.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Nursing schools throughout the country will use stimulus money to expand efforts this academic year to cut the nurse-educator shortage and broaden a loan program often reserved only for doctoral students.

Case Western Reserve University has more than $900,000 from the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program — more than double its usual amount. More than $500,000 of that is through the regular federal loan process, while more than $300,000 is through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

CWRU received the second-highest number of stimulus dollars for the loan program behind Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Ohio State University and Ursuline College are other Ohio schools that received new federal dollars, while large loan disbursements went to Barry University, Indiana University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Regis College and University of San Diego, among others.

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Schools must use the money this academic year.

A key to solving the nursing shortage isn’t applicants, but getting enough faculty to teach them. There are almost two open faculty positions at every nursing school, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. As a result, schools turned away nearly 50,000 students in 2009, according to the association.

Nursing students going through doctoral programs — like the research-oriented PhD program or the clinically focused Doctorate of Nursing Practice — typically receive the repayment loans. The government forgives 85 percent of the loan if recipients for four consecutive years hold a faculty position at an American nursing school.

CWRU will now offer the loan program to some of its master’s degree students, said Dr. Jaclene Zauszniewski, associate dean at the School of Nursing. The money will cover anywhere from 36 to 50  nursing students, depending on whether they are part-time or full-time students, Zauszniewski said. Even after the stimulus funds end, CWRU will incorporate loans for master’s degree students along with doctoral program requests, she said.

It’s likely master’s students who receive these loans will go on to get doctoral degrees before teaching. They also could land instructor positions immediately after graduation.

But it’s unclear how many more master’s candidates will be attracted to pursue faculty positions because of the loans. Doctoral programs offer teaching components, so joining a nursing faculty isn’t as much of a leap.

Stimulus dollars are being used in other areas of nursing. The stimulus added $8.1 million to the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program, which pays 60 percent of school loans to nurses who work at hospitals that have a nursing shortage. As a result, four nurses at MetroHealth Medical Center, among other institutions, were added to that program.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user otisarchives4]