Opportunities are growing for registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The Institute of Medicine (now known as the National Academy of Medicine) put forth a goal of having 80% of RNs hold a BSN by 2020. Though the goal has not been met, an increasing number of employers are seeking out nurses with higher education.
However, for many, the thought of going back to school — and having to pay for it — is a barrier to those opportunities. Registered nurses working in Tennessee are also somewhat at a disadvantage in this regard, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average yearly salary of $61,320 for the state’s RNs, which is 18% below the national average of $75,510 (May 2018).
How Much Is the BSN Degree, Really?
Most RN to BSN programs break down their tuition structure by credits or credit hours. Depending on the school, the curriculum requirements may vary. Some institutions raise tuition for out-of-state students.
For example, East Tennessee State University charges $422 per credit hour for in-state students in the RN to BSN program and $573 per credit hour for out-of-state students. The program requires 32 credit hours to graduate, meaning in-state students end up paying $13,504, and out-of-state students rack up $18,336 just in tuition.
Union University, which is based in Tennessee, doesn’t penalize out-of-state students enrolling in its RN to BSN program, but the per-credit-hour price is still significant at $470. Thirty-one credit hours are needed to complete the program, for a total tuition of $14,570.
Another Tennessee-based school, Baptist College of Health Sciences, lists tuition at $453 per credit hour, but also charges a $45 per credit hour technology fee and an additional $10 per credit hour student activity fee for a total of $508. At 30 credit hours to graduate, that’s $15,240 for the program.
In some cases, the tuition is based on a sliding scale of credits being taken per semester or quarter. The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga (UTC) adjusts the per credit hour rate depending on how many credits are taken. Each quarter of the program is pre-defined in terms of course requirements, so the average credit hour cost for in-state comes out to approximately $366, and the out-of-state cost is about $392. An additional fee of $100 per credit hour for nursing students brings those figures to $466 per credit hour for in-state students and $492 per credit hour for out-of-state students. With 27 credit hours required, approximate cost is $12,580 for in-state and $13,285 for out-of-state.
While the UTC program is considered “100% online,” they do hold an on-campus orientation prior to the start of the program — which makes it difficult for students who don’t live near the university.
One could look at a widely advertised, for-profit 100% online option, like the University of Phoenix, but it’s actually not significantly less than the above options. At $350 per credit hour for 33 credit hours required, you’re still looking at $11,550.
The costs above were sourced from university websites (February 2020).
An Online Program That Makes Financial Sense
An alternative for RNs who understand the benefits of earning a BSN — but who don’t want to go into debilitating debt doing so — is a school like Arkansas State University (A-State). The online RN to BSN program at A-State can be completed in as few as 12 months. Thirty-three credit hours are required, but the per-credit-hour price is very reasonable at $269, regardless of where students reside.
With such an affordable program, it could be surmised that cost offsets quality. Not so. The school has been recognized for excellence, earning the rank of “one of the best regional universities in the South” in 2018 by U.S. News & World Report.
Meeting the Demands of an Ever-Evolving Healthcare Industry
The healthcare industry will continue to evolve, becoming more complex and requiring nurses to be better equipped to elevate levels of care. Furthering your education — and your career — shouldn’t be cost prohibitive. With the right online RN to BSN program, you can emerge with the knowledge and expertise to keep up with those demands.
Learn more about A-State’s online RN to BSN program.