Trustees approve new school of nursing


NIU President Doug Baker (left) and Provost Lisa Freeman speak at the Board of Trustees special meeting Thursday at Altgeld Hall. The trustees approved the potential school of nursing, which now has to be approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

By Alexander Chettiath

NIU has approved the creation of a separate academic school of nursing planned to be set up for fall 2016.

Currently, NIU has a School of Nursing and Health Studies, in the College of Health and Human Sciences, which combines nursing, public health and health education programs into one school. NIU offers a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

The school was approved at the Board of Trustees special meeting Thursday. The approval was only for the academic department and not for any new buildings. The potential school of nursing now has to be approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

“The administrative placement of nursing as its own school is a very common structure in many universities,” said Derryl Block, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, at the meeting Thursday. “Our numbers… in this stringently accredited program really point towards having its own school.”

Schools such as Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University have designated schools of nursing while schools such as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois at Chicago have separate colleges.

NIU’s current nursing program’s annual cost for instructional salaries is approximately $2.75 million and another $305,000 in supportive personnel and student employees. The potential school of nursing will require a chair and two office support positions, with an estimated cost of $177,000, according to Thursday’s Board of Trustees Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Personnel Committee report.

The nursing program currently receives around $40,000 per year in private donations through the NIU Foundation. Among public institutions, NIU is consistently in the top two for nursing student enrollment and in the top five among all 37 nursing programs, public and private, in the state, according to the report.

During the past six years, NIU enrolled approximately 20 percent of the nursing students enrolled in all Illinois public universities, with an average annual enrollment of 653 undergraduate students. The demand for the program is high with 3 to 4 qualified applicants for every seat, Block said.

“In the course of discussions, this component of the reorganization… not only would it be helpful with service to students but also that it would be helpful in terms of faculty recruitment and advertisement and marketing to nursing professionals in various stages of their careers,” said Provost Lisa Freeman.

Job outlook for registered nurses is expected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Block said NIU will be developing a new Doctor of Nursing practice program.

“[This is] part of a larger view of reorganization of the college that will give attention to the many, many pre-majors,” Block said. “This is the first step.”