Joint Statement on The Baccalaureate Degree as Entry-level Preparation for Professional Nursing Practice

December 14, 2017

On behalf of the nation’s 1,108 community colleges and the more than 6,500 elected and appointed governing board trustees, we write to express our strong opposition to the position statement entitled, “The Baccalaureate Degree as Entry-level Preparation for Professional Nursing Practice.”


The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) have been strong proponents of academic progression, and joined the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the National League for Nursing (NLN) and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (N-OADN) in 2012 to jointly agree to a shared goal of academic progression to fulfill and prepare a robust nursing workforce.

While the Academic Progression Task Force’s position statement includes good rationale that supports the value of the baccalaureate degree in nursing, we have seen no evidence that the associate degree as the credential for entry into the nursing profession is not preparing students to successfully handle the responsibilities of the job, and that the baccalaureate degree, with its focus on general education courses, will better prepare a nurse.
Further, the work of the Task Force does not appear to have taken into account the importance of the role that the associate degree of nursing (ADN) plays in health care across the country, including in rural areas and places like doctor’s offices, urgent and acute care facilities, and nursing homes. Nor does it address how ADN programs diversify the workforce, and that in many cases, the degree is the first step in career mobility.
Lastly, while we cannot speak to the internal deliberations of the Task Force, we note that the group’s composition included only one community college representative, and that representative hails from a community college that offers a BSN degree. To arrive at a position statement that devalues the associate degree of nursing credential, which has played a vital role in preparing a skilled nursing workforce, without adequate representation from an associate-degree granting institution from the 2-year sector is disappointing.

Below, please find the specific reasons that our two associations strongly disagree with the position statement of the Academic Progression Task Force.

  • The ADN addresses critical nursing shortages. Associate degree nursing programs since their inceptionhave addressed the critical shortage of nurses in all areas of health care. These associate degreeprograms are currently offered in 814 community colleges. These programs have educated 39%1 of the2.6 million registered nurses practicing in rural and urban health care settings across the nation. TheBureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 1.2 million additional RNs will be needed to work inacute care settings, community health centers, and other health facilities. In order to meet this need,community college associate degree programs will play a vital role.
  • State policy implications. The Academic Progression Task Force’s position statement encouragescommunity colleges to either offer baccalaureate degrees or to partner with 4-year institutions to makethe BSN available to students. This is a simplistic view of a complex issue, and in no way addressesgeographic limitations. For instance, a number of community colleges are not located in close proximityto universities, which would preclude the 2+1 agreement referenced in the position statement.Although in some states, legislation has provided the opportunity for community colleges to confer thebaccalaureate degree, this is not widespread and faces many challenges, most notably, legislation in anumber of states that prohibits community colleges from offering baccalaureate degrees in areas wherethe same program may already be offered by a 4-year university, even though those baccalaureateprograms are not in proximity of the community college campuses.

    AACC and ACCT would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns with the Task Force. In addition, we would welcome the opportunity to engage in the development of a solution that will not have an adverse effect on the health care of communities that are served by graduates of the ADN programs. The health care of our country is in crisis, and this change will only serve further limit access to high-quality care.

    J.Noah Brown

    President and CEO, ACCT

    Walter G. Bumphus, Ph.D.

    President and CEO, AACC



    1 Data from the 2015 National Nursing Workforce Survey published in the April 2016 special edition of Journal of Nursing Regulation.