Last Updated: February 1, 2017

Nurses play an important and sometimes thankless role in the health of every nation.

Not surprisingly, nursing is one of the fastest growing fields for job growth in the United States into the near future. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 16% jobs increase between 2014 and 2024 for registered nurses alone.

The growth has been so rapid that a number of American colleges and universities have actually temporarily suspended their Nurse Educator graduate-level degree programs and are turning students away, due to lack of available faculty. There are also initiatives to raise the level of college education of American nurses. This includes the Institute of Medicine’s goal to reach an 80 per cent level of registered nurses (RNs) who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Given the short-term importance of this latter goal in particular, we’re kicking off a series on the most affordable bachelor’s of nursing programs by state, to help students seeking suitable programs in a particular state. Schools are ranked in each state by increasing value of the sum of the published in-state tuition and mandatory fees.

The first state in the series is Pennsylvania. According to BLS data, the state of Pennsylvania is #5 in the number of employed Registered Nurses, with 136,090 compared to #1 California’s 255,010 such nurses. However, Pennsylvania employs more nurses per thousand jobs than the top four states for employed RNs (CA, TX, NY, FL). (Data is valid as of May 2015.)

A query of NCES CollegeNavigator shows that the state has 57 colleges/ universities listed as offering a bachelor’s degree in nursing. In actual fact, some programs may be temporarily or permanently closed. Others had their host institution merged with another college. Finally, if a nursing program was only available at a branch campus significantly far away from the main campus, it was also excluded. The 10 most affordable such bachelor’s programs are listed below (both traditional an online).

1

Bloomsburg University

In-State Tuition: $9,326

Out-Of-State Tuition: $20,144

Net Price: $16,031

Website

bloomsburg_university

Bloomsburg University (BU) is home to the Department of Nursing, which is part of the College of Science and Technology (COST). BU is one of 14 member institutions of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Institutional accreditation is provided by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Nursing programs are also additionally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

BU has a reputation of catering to adult students, which is suitable for nursing programs in which students continue to work while studying. The Department of Nursing offers a bachelor’s of nursing program with three paths to completion. All three lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) but have different entry and completion requirements. This includes (1) new undergrad nursing students, (2) students who have an associate’s degree (or acceptable equivalent) in nursing and are currently licensed (in Pennsylvania), and (3) students who hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and seek a BSN as a second degree.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • RN-BSN Program
  • Accelerated Second Degree Program

The highly-competitive bachelor’s of nursing programs have a success agenda for students that includes a goal of at least “80 percent of nurses to be baccalaureate prepared for magnet designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).” A partnership with Geisinger Medical Center (GMC) also increases the potential enrollment. (Still, student spots are limited, so apply early.) Finally, students have access to the SSL, a skills simulation lab, which includes laptops, adult and pediatric mannequins (some computerized), hospital beds and other resources, to provide what students need for practice sessions and clinical simulations.

The BSN requires 120 credits in total for all three paths (with up to 63 granted upon admission for the RN-BSN degree completion program for qualified students). Courses are 100% online and taught by faculty experienced in online delivery of nursing education.

Sample courses include:

  • Role Development for the Professional Nurse
  • Introduction to Nursing Research
  • Transcultural Health
  • Family Nursing
  • Nursing Care of Older Adults

Graduates of the BSN programs at Bloomsburg can go on to advanced studies, as well as find careers in the following areas: Case management; Critical care; Home care; Informatics; Obstetrics; Pediatrics; Rehabilitation; Trauma; various other clinical specialties

Campus or HQ: Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

2

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

In-State Tuition: $9,462

Out-Of-State Tuition: $20,280

Net Price: $19,191

Website

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

The Department of Nursing at West Chester University (WCUPA) is part of the College of Health Sciences. WCUPA is a member institution of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), with institutional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and additional program accreditation from Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

The College of Health Sciences has a focus on creating health leaders in a variety of related disciplines, including nursing. The Nursing department offers a BSN program with three completion paths: one for entirely new bachelor’s nursing students; another for students who are currently licensed registered nurses seeking to upgrade their ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or equivalent; and an accelerated path for non-nursing students seeking a BSN as a second bachelor’s degree.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Advance-2-BSN (Accelerated Second-Degree Nursing Program)
  • BSN for the RN Fast Track (for currently licensed Registered Nurses)

The BSN program focuses on the concept that we are biopsychosocial beings and that health care is a basic right, the needs of which can be satisfied by a professional nurse. Towards that end, the program has a dozen-plus expected outcomes, including that 80% of graduating students will “pass NCLEX on their first attempt.” Other expected outcomes cover RN exam scores for different test units.

The BSN requires 120 credits for all three paths. For students taking the second-degree or RN-BSN paths, total credits to complete will be less than 120, depending on acceptable transfer/ prior credits. Some are courses are available online, some in a hybrid format, and others on-campus only. Note: On-campus/ hybrid nursing courses take place at branch campus roughly seven miles away, to which a shuttle bus is available from the main campus.

Sample courses include:

  • Nursing Theories and Concepts
  • Care of Childbearing Family and Community Based Care
  • Care of Older Adult and Care of Child
  • Nursing Implications of Drug Interaction
  • Care of Individual in Acute Care and Behavioral Health Setting

The program focuses on high-need areas of nursing, including gerontology and preventive care. Graduates of the program are qualified for career roles in community, acute and chronic healthcare settings. Students who continue on to a grad program such as an MSN can also become nurse leaders and nurse educators.

Campus or HQ: West Chester, Pennsylvania.

3

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

In-State Tuition: $9,536

Out-Of-State Tuition: $10,176

Net Price: $14,089

Website

Edinboro_University_of_Pennsylvania

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania’s (EUP) College of Science and Health Professions (CSHP) hosts departments covering fields from both science and health, including the Nursing department. The university is a member institution of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Institutional accreditation is from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, with additional program accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The campus has a 5-acre lake, as well as open fields and woods — all of which can be handy when you need some contemplation time after intense study sessions. When focused on studies, there are state-of-the-art classrooms, labs and other resources.

The Nursing department aligns their program goals with PASSHE, and have been approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. They offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for four types of students, which includes first-time undergraduates (two categories; 4-years), currently registered nurses (2-year degree completion), and students seeking a BSN as a second bachelor’s degree (15-months).

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with four completion paths:

  • BS Nursing – Innovative (15-month program)
  • BS Nursing for First-Time Students
  • BS Nursing for First-Time Students (currently enrolled)
  • Nursing RN to BSN (for currently licensed RNs).

The BSN program focuses on domain-specific knowledge and the roles of professional and advance practice nurses, amongst other skills and education. Students gain experience from both courses and clinical learning experiences, including ethical decision-making, critical thinking and more. With the exception of the path for currently registered nurses, this program prepares students for the NCLEX exam. EUP’s exam pass rate for a recent academic year (taken May 2015) was over 97% of graduates.

EUP’s BSN programs require a total of 120 credits for all paths, less any credits granted for holding other degrees — in this case, either an associate’s degree in nursing or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, depending on the path selected. Courses are taught by well-qualified faculty members primarily holding terminal degrees and with professional nursing experience.

Sample courses include:

  • Intro to Nursing
  • Pharmacology in Nursing
  • Nursing Leadership
  • Pathophysiology Processes in Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Nursing – Innovation
  • Adult Health Nursing

Students graduating from the EUP BS Nursing program are prepared for careers in healthcare for communities, families, groups and individual. Those graduating from the RN to BSN track are also qualified for nursing leadership and management careers.

Campus or HQ: Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

4

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

In-State Tuition: $9,645

Out-Of-State Tuition: $13,403

Net Price: $16,021

Website

slippery_rock_university

The College of Health, Environment and Science (CHES) at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (SRU) houses the Department of Nursing. SRU is a member institution of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), with institutional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Additional program accreditation for nursing is provided by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The university itself puts a special emphasis on “intellectual development, leadership and civic responsibility.”

The Nursing department has designed their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) particularly for currently licensed registered nurses who hold an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or diploma in nursing. This BSN program’s Major requirements are 100% online (8-week courses). However, for anyone choosing to be on or near campus, it is less than an hour north of Pittsburgh and enjoys the charm of a safe, small town.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • RN to BSN degree completion program (for current RNs)

SRU states that this RN to BSN program “was one of the first regionally accredited nursing programs to transition to the online format.” The program prepares students for various health care careers (see list below), as well as subsequent graduate studies in nursing. While students can choose a part-time option (with no time limit), full-time students can complete their BSN in less than two years. Qualifying students may be eligible for available nursing scholarships from SRU and other institutions. (See department site for details.)

SRU’s BSN program requires 120 credits in total, with roughly half completed previously as an associate’s degree, or diploma, in nursing. The 7.5-week course sessions – accessible 24/7 online – are intended to accommodate working students — which is often typical of RN-to-BSN program students. The major portion of the curriculum consists of 33 upper-division nursing credits (including 6cr of nursing electives). As part of the 120 credits, students must complete 45cr in Liberal Studies overall. Areas of skill covered include: evidence-based decision-making; info systems in clinical decision-making; teaching-learning theory (for patient education); partnered decision-making (patients, families, other providers) and more.

Sample courses include:

  • Introduction to Health Care Informatics
  • Nursing in Transition
  • The Teaching-Learning Process in Nursing
  • Group Process for Nursing
  • Evidence Based Health Assessment and Promotion

Students graduating from this BSN program are qualified for any of the following types of careers: Acute Care; Behavioral Health; Clinical Resource Nursing; Community Health Nursing; Critical Care; Long-term Care; Nurse Management; Rehabilitation Nursing; Travel Nursing

Campus or HQ: Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

5

California University of Pennsylvania

In-State Tuition: $9,936

Out-Of-State Tuition: $14,069

Net Price: $17,233

Website

California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania (CALU) offers nursing programs through the Department of Nursing, which is part of the Eberly College of Science and Technology. The university is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Institutional accreditation comes from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, with the nursing programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The location offers small-town benefits but is close to Pittsburgh (35 miles).

The Nursing department offers an online RN-BSN degree completion program for currently licensed RNs (registered nurse) holding either an ADN (associate’s degree in nursing) or diploma in nursing. For those not currently RNs, the Department of Nursing accepts graduates of an ADN program taken from select colleges/ universities in the region through CALU’s educational partnership programs.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science (online RN-BSN)

Due to the competitive nature of this program, CALU suggests that interested students apply as soon as possible, for seat availability reasons. As well, any prerequisite courses should be taken in the semester prior to entry into this RN-BSN program.

The total credit requirement for receiving the bachelor’s degree in nursing is 120. When obtained credits from an ADN or diploma are applied, students need only complete 33 credits of Nursing Major courses to obtain their BSN. Courses are 16 and eight weeks in length. Students three courses each semester (one 16-week and two 8-week courses). Accepted students can start either in the Fall or Spring of each year.

Sample courses include:

  • Nutrition for Nurses
  • Philosophy of Professional Nursing
  • Health Assessment
  • Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Leadership and Change in Nursing

Campus or HQ: California, Pennsylvania.

6

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

In-State Tuition: $9,936

Out-Of-State Tuition: $21,835

Net Price: $16,469

Website

indiana_university_penn

Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) offers nursing programs through the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions (NAHP), which is part of the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS). IUP is one of the largest member institutions of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Institutional accreditation is provided by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, with undergrad nursing programs additionally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The NAHP emphasizes leadership, partnerships and teamwork, amongst other qualities. The university itself has ranked on the Princeton Review’s “Best in the Northeast” listing every year since 2004.

The NAHP offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program with two track options. One is for new undergrad students (4-year plan), while the other is for those who are currently licensed LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse). Note that the freshman track might allow qualified students who are undergrads in another program, or who are transferring from another institution.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science – Nursing (BSN)
  • Bachelor of Science – Nursing/ Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Track

IUP’s nursing curriculum is based on the concept that RNs function as advocates for patients. Their role includes promotion and prevention, and helping patients and families through education and other means. Students start taking clinicals in sophomore year, to supplement nursing courses, in preparation for the NCLEX licensing exam after graduation (for Pennsylvania or other states). Graduates of the program collectively had a 92% pass rate (first-time test takers) of the NCLEX-RN exam during the period Oct 2014 to Sept 2015. This exceeded the Pennsylvania statewide average of 87%, and the national average of 84%. In earlier years, the pass rate was as high as 96%.

IUP’s BSN program has a total credits requirement of 120, regardless of track. Students in the LPN track will have some credits applied towards their BSN degree. As well, the curriculum for them will differ slightly from the BSN track for new undergrad students. For example, the LPN track requires 49-52 credits for the Nursing Major, compared to 52-55 for the freshmen track. Students in the freshman track can choose a Psychology Minor if they wish.

Sample courses include:

  • Fundamentals I-II Theory
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing
  • Care of the Child and Family
  • Maternal-Neonatal Health
  • Nursing Management

Graduates of either track might find careers as a: care coordinator; designer; provider; staff manager; systems expert. Those who take graduate studies may also be qualified for advanced practice nursing roles: clinical nurse specialist (CNS); nurse practitioner (NP); certified registered anesthetist (CRNA); certified nurse midwife (CNM)

Campus or HQ: Indiana, Pennsylvania.

7

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

In-State Tuition: $10,190

Out-Of-State Tuition: $14,660

Net Price: $16,530

Website

Clarion University

Clarion University of Pennsylvania (CUP) offers nursing programs through the Department of Nursing, which is part of the School of Health, which in turn is within CUP’s Venango College. CUP is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Institutional accreditation is granted by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. CUP’s nursing programs are further accredited by Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The university was recently (2014-15) ranked as a “best buy college” by Money magazine, based on 18 factors in three categories (education quality, affordability, outcomes). Students get to enjoy a small town Pennsylvania atmosphere on a campus with scenic surroundings.

CUP offers two paths leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). One is for new undergrad nursing students (4-year plan), and the other for currently licensed Registered Nurses (RN) holding an Associate’s degree in Nursing (such as CUP’s ASN degree) or acceptable equivalent. The latter path is an online degree-completion program requiring fewer credits to be completed to obtain the BSN.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN Nursing) – on campus
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) – online

The BSN track for new students differs from many similar programs elsewhere in that research and critical thinking are part of the educational experience from the first semester of the program. The upper-division port — which covers the RN to BSN track — expands upon this and promotes scientific inquiry, clinical thinking, personal development and other skills. CUP’s NCLEX-RN exam pass rate for 2016 was 100%, which is also the percentage of grads for 2016 who sought RN jobs and are employed. Graduates of either BSN track wishing to pursue advanced studies may be interested in the two online grad programs – the MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) and the DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). The latter is offered in consortium with Edinboro University, which appears elsewhere in this Pennsylvania list.

CUP’s BSN program requires 120 credits for either track, with students in the RN to BSN track receiving transfer credits for their status and associate’s degree/ diploma in nursing. The upper-division portion of nursing courses for either track is 33 credits. All courses are taught by experienced nurse educators.

Sample courses include:

  • Health Promotion – Adult
  • Health Promotion in the Community
  • Leadership in Nursing
  • Psychosocial Health
  • Introduction to Healthcare Environment

Campus or HQ: Clarion, Pennsylvania.

8

Lincoln University

In-State Tuition: $10,878

Out-Of-State Tuition: $16,398

Net Price: $14,057

Website

lincoln_university_penn

Lincoln University Pennsylvania (LU), a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), offers nursing programs through the Nursing Department, which is part of the College of Science and Technology. LU is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Bachelor’s-level nursing programs are accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). LU lays claim to being the first degree-granting HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in the U.S., but with a multiracial and multicultural student body since it’s founding. Like many of the colleges listed here for the state of Pennsylvania, the campus is surrounded by farmland and treed hilltops. It is 45 miles from Philadelphia, for those who need to be in the city on occasion.

LU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which is a full 4-year BSN (minus applicable credits) for students new to nursing, whether they’re first-time undergrads, currently registered students, or transfers from another institution. The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing has approved this BSN (full-time day program).

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Pre-licensure BSN (new nursing students)

LU’s BSN program follows a values-based curriculum, offers smaller class sizes for (valuable in clinical settings), Web-assisted courses and integrated digital e-learning, peer-mentoring, evidence-based practice knowledge, and other features. The outcome is the development of nurse leaders who can participate in furthering the nursing profession. Graduates of the 4-year track can sit for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam, in order to become a registered nurse.

Students of this BSN program must earn a total of 120 credits, minus transfer credits. The lower division courses amount to 64 credits, with 59 of that for General Education. ADN or diploma holders receive 30 transfer credits. After pre-nursing requirements are complete, the remaining credits can be completed in under two years.

Sample courses include:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Health Assessment and Promotion
  • Nursing Pathophysiology
  • Adult Health
  • Nursing Research

Campus or HQ: Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.

9

Penn State Shenango

In-State Tuition: $13,354

Out-Of-State Tuition: $19,910

Net Price: $13,034

Website

penn_state_university_shenango

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Shenango (PSS) is part of the Penn State System and is its only urban campus. Institutional accreditation is provided by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Additionally, nursing programs are accredited by both the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The safe, well-landscaped campus provides Internet service (Wi-Fi and wired) for all students, computer labs, campus modems and other tech amenities. Housing is available off-campus but within walking distance.

PSS offers one Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree completion program, intended for currently licensed registered nurses holding an associate’s degree (ADN) or diploma, in nursing. Students who want to earn a BSN but have no nursing background have two options, both of which require first earning an ADN before taking the BSN completion program. They can take pre-nursing courses at PSS, then complete an associate’s degree at a partner institution. Or they can complete the latter entirely at such an institution. Partner institutions include, but are not limited to, other Penn State campuses.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • RN to BS in Nursing

PSS is part of Pennsylvania State University (a Big Ten sports conference school) and shares in PSU’s reputation, as well as offers the latest technologies, small class sizes, individual attention, and access to one of the largest academic libraries in the U.S.

Total credit requirements for the BSN degree is 120, of which 33-60 will be awarded based on nursing license and previously completed coursework. Students can choose full- or part-time. Nursing courses are offered in hybrid format, combining a once-per-week class with online course activities and assignments. General Education courses mostly once-per-week on-campus, with some twice-per-week and others entirely online. Students can choose either the main campus or the Beaver campus at which to attend on-campus sessions.

Sample courses include:

  • Introduction to Nursing Informatics
  • Family and Community Health Concepts
  • Understanding and Applying Nursing Research
  • Health Concepts for Adults with Complex Health Care Needs

Campus or HQ: Sharon, Pennsylvania.

10

University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

In-State Tuition: $13,372

Out-Of-State Tuition: $24,188

Net Price: $16,544

Website

university_pittsburgh_bradford

University of Pittsburgh-Bradford (UPB) is a member of the University of Pittsburgh System. Nursing programs are offered through the Division of Biological and Health Sciences. Institutional accreditation is provided by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, while nursing programs are additionally accredited by Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The university itself has received top rankings in both US News & World Report and Princeton Review magazine – amongst others – including being designated a top satellite campus.

UPB offers one Bachelor of Science program, requiring an ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing) degree or a diploma in nursing, and current licensing as a registered nurse. Students can take either the ASN offered by UPB, or complete it at another suitable institution. (NCLEX-RN exam (3-year average) pass rates have ranged from 88.3 to 98 percent and have consistently exceeded the national average four years in a row.)

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • RN-BSN (for licensed RNs).

Nursing students learn not only concepts but practical skills that will be applied for a number of healthcare-related responsibilities. This includes assessing patient problems and needs; educating patients on health issues; developing and implementing nursing care plans; maintaining medical records and more. The Nursing department has partnerships with local and nearby hospitals, health departments and medical centers where students can gain practical experience and clinical instruction to supplement standard course material. For the years 2011-2014, RN-BSN graduates experienced 100% employment either at time of graduation or within one year from that date.

UPB’s nursing program requires a total of 120 credits. Students receive some credits for their licensing and associate’s degree or diploma. The curriculum includes an advanced clinical practicum, as well as a capstone. Graduating students can pursue advanced nursing roles, or may choose to pursue a master’s or other advanced degree in nursing.

Sample courses include:

  • Professional Nursing Concepts
  • Nursing Research
  • Health Assessment/ Promotion
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Ethical Dimensions of Professional Nursing

Graduates of this program have found careers in the following roles (although several dozen more specialities are possible): registered nurse; cardiac nurse; maternity RN; neonatal intensive care nurse; nursing supervisor; cardiovascular unit nurse; clinical case manager; psychiatric nurse; nursing care manager and more.

Campus or HQ: Bradford, Pennsylvania.

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