Nurses play an important and sometimes thankless role in the health of every nation.
Recently, due to the increase in demand for nurses, there have been 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.
What kind of Nursing Degree in Pennsylvania should you get?
In short, you should earn an affordable nursing degree! Given the short-term importance of the Institute of Medicine's goal in particular, we're kicking off a series on the most affordable bachelor's of nursing programs by state (and have ranking the Most Affordable Online Schools as well), 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. We're starting with Pennsylvania!
How much money can you make with a Nursing Degree in Pennsylvania?
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 a 16 percent job increase between 2014 and 2024 for registered nurses alone.
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). Even more, Registered Nurses in Pennsylvania make on average $34.44/hour, which is 6 percent higher than the national average.
What are the Most Affordable Nursing degrees in Pennsylvania?
A query of NCES CollegeNavigator shows that Pennsylvania 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. Our data comes from online sites, the National Center for Education Statistics' IPEDS database, U.S. News and World Report, and PayScale. So look no further. Here are the Most Affordable Nursing Bachelor's Programs in Pennsylvania!
Top 10 Most Affordable Nursing Degrees in Pennsylvania
See our rankings methodology page.
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
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).
Bloomsburg University offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an RN-BSN Program, and an Accelerated Second Degree Program. 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
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. 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.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
West Chester, PA
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. 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
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. 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.
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). 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). Sample courses include:
- Pharmacology in Nursing
- Nursing Leadership
- Pathophysiology Processes in Nursing
- Adult Health Nursing
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.
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
Silppery Rock, PA
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). 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. Sample courses include:
- Nursing in Transition
- The Teaching-Learning Process in Nursing
- Group Process for Nursing
- Evidence Based Health Assessment and Promotion
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. The major portion of the curriculum consists of 33 upper-division nursing credits (including 6 credits of nursing electives). As part of the 120 credits, students must complete 45 credits in Liberal Studies overall.
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). 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. Sample courses include:
- Nutrition for Nurses
- Philosophy of Professional Nursing
- Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice
- Leadership and Change in Nursing
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.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
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). 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. Sample courses include:
- Fundamentals I-II Theory
- Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing
- Care of the Child and Family
- Maternal-Neonatal Health
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.
Clarion University of Pennsylvania
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. 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. Sample courses include:
- Health Promotion in the Community
- Leadership in Nursing
- Psychosocial Health
- Introduction to Healthcare Environment
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.
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 nation, but with a multiracial and multicultural student body since its founding.
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). Students of this BSN program must earn a total of 120 credits, minus transfer credits. Sample courses include:
- Fundamentals of Nursing
- Health Assessment and Promotion
- Nursing Pathophysiology
- Adult Health
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.
Pennsylvania State University-Shenango
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Shenango (PSS) is part of the Penn State System and is its only urban campus. 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. 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
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.
University of 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 U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review.
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. UPB’s nursing program requires a total of 120 credits. Students receive some credits for their licensing and associate’s degree or diploma. Sample courses include:
- Professional Nursing Concepts
- Health Assessment/ Promotion
- Community Health Nursing
- Ethical Dimensions of Professional Nursing
Nursing students learn not only concepts but practical skills that will be applied for a number of healthcare-related responsibilities. 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.