In this article, we examine colleges and universities with well-rounded, comprehensive, high-performing departments of nursing. Instead of focusing on a particular degree or even level of study, we sought to identify those universities who make nursing and healthcare an overall priority within their larger network of academic programs.
To begin our search for these standout nursing schools, we turned to College Navigator, an online database and division of the National Center for Education Statistics. We used this resource to populate a list of full 4-year, public and private non-profit postsecondary schools that offer degrees in nursing (both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in registered nursing, nursing administration, nursing practice, and various related programs were eligible). As a first line of filtering, we also limited this search to universities that accept at most 50% of applicants. This measure of selectivity ensured that even our original list of contenders included only popular, reputable universities. From this list, we applied an additional filter in order to eliminate any schools that are not accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). From here, we assessed each contender on six factors:
NCLEX Pass Rates: Although this doesn’t apply to graduate students, performance on the NCLEX is nonetheless an important indicator of the strength of a school’s nursing curriculum. For each school, we used the YTD total pass rate for the most recent year data was available. Note that this information was available for most schools, but not all. We weighted this category 20% of the total score.
Acceptance Rate: Beyond limiting our selection to schools with an acceptance rate of 50% or less, we also considered this data in our individual assessment of each college, giving preference to more selective colleges. However, we limited its overall impact on the outcome of the ranking by weighting this category as just 10% of the total score.
Popularity of the Major: One of the aspects of each university that we really wanted to capture was how much academic focus they put on nursing and health professions as a whole. We used data from U.S. News to look for the schools that count health-related programs among their five most popular majors. For these universities, we scored them according to the percentage of the total student body seeking nursing and other health-related degrees. This counted for 25% of the total score.
Total Health Professions Enrollment: In addition to the above category, we also considered the flat number of students at each university who earned health-related degrees in 2015 (data taken from College Navigator). While this category may favor large schools, the “popularity” factor gave a slight preference to smaller colleges, given the lesser likelihood that large universities (which have more and different programs) to concentrate any significant portion of their students in a single field. Taken together, these two categories emphasize large health programs, regardless of the size of the school as a whole. This category was weighted 20% of the total.
Graduation Rate: As a final indicator of overall quality, we assessed each school on the percentage of students who graduate within 150% of normal time. After all, top programs of any kind need a strong track record of student success! But given that it is not specific to nursing or health, we tempered the impact of this category by weighting it just 10% of the total.
Net Price: Lastly, we placed a minor emphasis on affordability. Although it’s not a direct indicator of quality, we understand that cost is an important factor for many students. But instead of ranking schools on their tuition rates, we looked at “net price” (data from College Navigator), which provides a comprehensive assessment of tuition and fees minus the average financial aid package. This category accounted for 15% of the total score.
Ultimately, this combination of factors allowed use to identify the schools that are most attractive to nursing majors and have strong academic programs overall. We gave each university a final score out of 200, normalizing the results so that the #1 school earned a full 200 points. We hope you enjoy – and are informed along the way!
50. University of San Diego
San Diego, California
Although it doesn’t offer undergraduate nursing degrees, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science is undoubtedly one of the best nursing schools in the state, if not the country. With a 77% graduation rate, 90% NCLEX pass rate, and the top ranking from U.S. News for Catholic graduate nursing programs, Hahn’s accolades and credentials are unquestionable. Numbers aside, students at Hahn have many unique opportunities to develop their careers skills and expand their goals. They can choose from specializations in Health Informatics and Psychiatric Mental Health and enjoy access to the Simulation and Standardized Patient Nursing Laboratory, and take advantage of the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing.
Net Price: $32,482/yr
49. University of New Mexico
Albuquerque New, Mexico
Just last year, the University of New Mexico’s College of Nursing celebrated their 60th anniversary. Launched in Bernalillo County Indian Hospital before the university even had a medical school, the UNM nursing program has been providing vital resources to medical professionals and organizations since 1955, and has matured into a fully accredited constituent of the university’s health sciences center. Today, for just $12,000 annually (significantly less than most other schools on our list), even students in rural parts of the state can take advantage of a host of 100% online degree programs in their home state, including BSN, MSN in nursing education and advanced nursing practitioner specialties, PhD, and DNP degrees.
Net Price: $12,840/yr
48. The University of West Florida
With just a 50% acceptance rate, the Department of Nursing at the University of West Florida is among the most selective schools on this list. This is partially owing to the fact that the department only admits 50 undergraduate students every year, compared to, say, the thousands at Nova Southeastern University. But it’s also a question of supply and demand—fewer students means greater individual resources, smaller class sizes, and more faculty access. Graduates of this intimate nursing program are therefore particularly well equipped to launch their professional careers, or to continue their education with UWF’s robust graduate nursing programs, which include MSN, PhD, and DNP options.
Net Price: $10,759/yr
47. Saint Xavier University
Saint Xavier made a name for itself as the first school to offer an integrated baccalaureate nursing program in the state of Illinois, and it continues to feature one of the most diverse undergraduate student bodies in Chicago—arguably the most segregated city in the country. Owing to its commitment to high ethical and curricular standards, Saint Xavier’s graduate school of nursing has been ranked the third best nursing school online in the country by U.S. News, and is one of only nine programs to be recognized as a “Center of Excellence” by the National League for Nursing.
Net Price: $16,736/yr
46. George Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
Over a century ago—in 1903—the already established George Washington University opened the doors to one of the first dedicated, comprehensive nursing schools in the country, only to shutter them due to financial strain induced by the Great Depression. Founded nearly 70 years later, GW’s current School of Nursing bears little resemblance to that original institution, except insofar as it has established a reputation as one of the 50 best nursing schools today that are really making a difference. Consistently ranked in the top 10% of nursing schools in the country by U.S. News due to its competitive graduation rate, it’s not hard to see why GW’s School of Nursing comprises nearly 10% of the student body.
Net Price: $32,826/yr
45. Texas A & M University-Texarkana
Since transitioning from a two-year associates college to a comprehensive university in 2010, Texas A & M University at Texarkana has grown by leaps and bounds—especially in its STEM programs. An integral component of the school’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the nursing program has drawn on the tremendous resources it leveraged in the transition to develop multiple top nursing degrees, including an accelerated online RN to BSN completion program and a Master of Science in Nursing. The latter option in particular is ideal for practicing nurses who want to move into leadership roles in nursing administration. Nursing students can also take advantage of the recently constructed STEMO College Innovation Lab, which was launched in 2015 to catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration in research as well as curriculum.
Net Price: $8,221/yr
44. Finlandia University
Located in Michigan’s scenic upper peninsula, the College of Health Sciences at Finlandia University prepares students for the uniquely rewarding and challenging experience of rural healthcare. Nursing students at Finlandia can opt for a traditional BSN or an online RN to BSN program depending on their needs, and are even invited to apply and begin their program—part- or full-time—at any point throughout the year. That flexibility should not be taken to mean the education at this top nursing school is easy—in fact, with 1,100 required clinical hours, it’s just the opposite! Even so, you can’t deny that Finlandia offers exceptional support for student success in the way of free tutoring, scholarships and financial aid, and even state-wide student nursing networks.
Net Price: $19,732/yr
43. California State University-Dominguez Hills
In a university already nationally distinguished for value, affordability, and diversity, the California State University-Dominguez Hills School of Nursing is a standout in its own right. In 2015, NurseJournal.org claimed CSUDH had the best nursing school in the Western Region, and the Association of Clinical Nursing Specialists named Terri Ares, a lecturer and adviser in the department, as their Educator of the Year. And at less than $2,000 a year in estimated net costs, you would be hard-pressed to find a better value for a nursing degree at either the graduate or undergraduate level.
Net Price: $1,640/yr
42. Clayton State University
With a price tag just shy of $11,000 a year, it’s no surprise that Clayton State University’s nursing programs have earned plenty of accolades for their affordability. In fact, according to TopRNtoBSN.com, CSU’s program of the same name comes in at 26th in the nation in terms of net price. For many schools, affordability comes at a price: poor education standards, large class sizes, and little to show for the degree. Not so for Clayton; besides offering a range of undergraduate and graduate programs and specializations in nursing at a competitive rate, Clayton’s nursing school boasts an 85% graduate pass rate on the NCLEX-RN—well above the state and national averages.
Net Price: $10,898/yr
41. University of Memphis
Thanks to a combination of expert faculty, unparalleled student resources, and a range of specializations and degree programs, the Loewenberg College of Nursing (LCON) is able to consistently provide not only Memphis, Tennessee, but also the wider regional – and even national – communities with high quality healthcare practitioners. This reputation has earned UM over 300 regional clinical partnerships, including a Nurse Residency program at St. Jude’s hospital, to help graduates transition into a professional environment. Whether via LCON’s unique Accelerated BSN or a graduate specialization in Nursing Education or Administration, the University of Memphis is able to offer nursing students a wide experiences to ensure they are well prepared for their future careers.
Net Price: $12,369/yr
40. Graceland University-Lamoni
At first glance, online nursing programs may seem a bit counterintuitive; after all, you can’t treat patients through the internet, can you? But Graceland University at Lamoni didn’t earn its spot on this ranking, or other rankings, for that matter (TheBestSchools.com names it one of the top 25 online nursing schools) by producing incompetent nurses. All of Graceland’s online programs—including traditional and accelerated BSN programs, MSN, Nursing Ed, and even Doctor of Nursing Practitioner programs—combine flexible online coursework with simulation lab courses and local clinical practicums to help working students develop the skills they need to succeed in the challenging field of nursing.
Net Price: $17,969/yr
39. Western Connecticut State University
Not many schools on the country, much less this list, can claim a 94% graduate pass rate on the NCLEX-RN—that honor goes to Western Connecticut State University and a select few others. With a low acceptance rate of just 40%, WCSU’s selectivity implies that its students are well-rounded top performers who would likely do well on any test they took. But while there is surely something to be said for the innate intelligence of WCSU’s nursing students, the truth is that small class sizes, experienced faculty, and hands-on experience are what actually make this a top nursing school.
Net Price: $16,625/yr
38. University of Rochester
Rochester New, York
With several nationally recognized specialization areas—including pediatric nursing, adult nurse practice, and family nurse practice— and plus dozens of other exciting and challenging options for future and current health professionals, the University of Rochester Medical Center’s nursing school draws students from around the state and country who are excited to become better healthcare practitioners. Rochester has also earned recognition for pioneering the “Unification Model,” a didactic approach that synthesizes education, research, and practice to create well-rounded, capable graduates. Since its implementation some 40 years ago, Rochester’s model has become the gold standard in nursing education today, influencing the development of many of the country’s other top programs.
Net Price: $32,996/yr
37. Prairie View A & M University
Prairie View, Texas
Prairie View A & M University is a HBCU that has been offering black and African American students unparalleled opportunities for career and community development for nearly a century. Since its founding, healthcare education has been at the center of Prairie View’s curriculum, and it continues to play an integral role in undergraduate and graduate studies alike. The fact that nursing students at Prairie View can pursue bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in an array of specializations for less than $9,000 a year is a testament to the school’s commitment to providing equal opportunity education for those who need it the most.
Net Price: $8,628/yr
36. Barry University
With a student body of nearly 10,000 and a student to faculty ratio of 14:1, Barry University offers all the pedagogical advantages of a small liberal arts college with the career promise and reputation of a much larger institution. In fact just last year, Barry’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences was ranked among Florida’s 20 top nursing schools by College Atlas, placing it near the top 10% in the state based on price, graduation rate, and NCLEX-RN graduate pass rate. Whether you are looking to start a new career with a BSN, advance in the ranks with an MSN, or contribute meaningful research with a PhD, Barry should be on your radar.
Net Price: $24,610/yr
35. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
As a major within the umbrella of the College of Arts and Sciences, the nursing program at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff combines practical skills and job training with a comprehensive liberal arts program. Unlike other narrowly focused programs, the nursing school at Pine Bluff encourages students to develop interdisciplinary critical thinking, writing and communication skills, and challenge their reinforced biases and dispositions. Combined with a clinical and theoretical approach to the latest developments in nursing practice, Pine Bluff nursing graduates are uniquely suited to grapple with the challenges of modern nursing.
Net Price: $7,452/yr
34. Case Western Reserve University
Nursing education is a cornerstone of the academics at Case Western Reserve University. Otherwise known for its rigorous research and development in STEM fields like engineering and biology, Case Western has nevertheless made a name for itself in pioneering nursing education programs, including the nation’s first practice doctorate in nursing, acute care nurse practitioner program, gerontological nursing program, and more. The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing also hosts 15 endowed professorships—more than any other program in the country—in order to provide the highest standard of education available and maintain its reputation as one of the best nursing schools in the U.S.
Net Price: $29,140/yr
33. Berea College
There may not be such a thing as free lunch, but is there such a thing as free college? At Berea College—ranked 11th in the country for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News in 2014—all students receive full-tuition scholarships. There’s just one catch: they have to work for it. Since students apply for jobs on campus based on their skills, interests, and goals, earning valuable work experience while also earning their keep. This approach doubly benefits nursing students, who can apply to work in the student and community clinics to simultaneously pay their tuition and pad their resumes. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
Net Price: $1,990/yr
32. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Founded in 1891, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s School of Nursing has lead the charge in progressive nursing education for 125 years—longer than most universities in this country have even existed. Like many research institutions, UMich and its nursing school’s research programs are funded through the NIH, but it has also distinguished itself as a designated PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Clinical Training in Health Promotion Nursing—one of only ten in the U.S., and 42 worldwide. This public ivy also boasts a 91% graduation rate at the undergraduate level, offering a world-class education for top performing students for a fraction of the price.
Net Price: $15,850/yr
31. New York University
New York New, York
New York University’s College of Nursing is one of the oldest and most cherished healthcare institutions in the country. Ranked 8th in the nation in terms of research funding from the NIH and recognized as one of nine “Centers of Excellence in Nursing Education” by the National League of Nurses, NYU’s nursing school offers a lot for nursing students to be excited about at both the graduate and undergraduate level. As a result, students also enjoy an 83% graduation rate and an 86% NCLEX-RN pass rate—both well above the national average.
Net Price: $35,543/yr
30. Bethel College-North Newton
North Newton, Kansas
Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas fuses faith and learning to develop spiritual and intellectual leaders who consider nursing as much of a career as a moral duty. Harnessing the service-oriented philosophy of its Mennonite affiliates, Bethel’s nursing school cultivates a sense of duty in students through hands-on clinical work and outreach in Wichita and beyond. Whether through interning at the Mayo Clinic or volunteering at a local tertiary care facility or community center, Bethel nursing students make this kind of experiential learning a priority for their growth as professionals as well as humans of faith.
Net Price: $18,745/yr
29. University of West Georgia
At the University of West Georgia’s Tanner Health System School of Nursing – one of the best nursing schools in the country by a good measure – students at all levels enjoy the resources they need to succeed in their personal and professional goals. In addition to enjoying an impressive 90% NCLEX-RN pass rate for BSN graduates, UWG also provides both BSN and MSN candidates alike with virtual distance learning programs to accommodate their commute and work schedules. And though most universities would stop there, UWG truly meets its commitment to students at all levels, courtesy of the Advanced Academy of Georgia. This ambitious initiative is one of the only residential educational programs in the country that caters to high-performing high school juniors and seniors.
Net Price: $13,988/yr
28. University of Miami
Coral Gables, Florida
In accordance with its status as an internationally recognized research institution, the University of Miami offers a comprehensive top nursing school that excels in education, research, and outreach. Like the University of Michigan, UMiami is a designated PAHO/WHO Center for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety. This global outreach program leverages university resources (including graduate and undergraduate manpower) to bring modern nursing practices and technology to underdeveloped communities in the Americas and Africa. Through this same initiative, UMiami even offers a series of free virtual courses online to share with global users in need.
Net Price: $33,284/yr
27. University of California-Irvine
Founded a mere decade ago (in 2006), the University of California-Irvine’s Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing has quickly proven to be a cutting-edge facility for nursing education and research. At just $12,000 a year, UC Irvine’s undergraduate nursing science program ranks as the 4th best nursing school in the nation for value, and 10th for overall quality (according to NurseJournal.org). Nursing research at Irvine is just as notable, with PhD specializations in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Disease and Symptom Management; Health Disparities and Diversity; and Health Services and Health Policy.
Net Price: $12,072/yr
26. Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
As a Jesuit Catholic university, Boston College is a bastion of intellectualism and service in a major metropolitan area. At the undergraduate level, nursing students must work hard to prove their skills in the humanities as well as sciences in order to satisfy BC’s rigorous liberal arts requirements. Students at this top nursing school also find close connections within the greater Boston community through clinical practicums and other outreach and service programs. The Connell School of Nursing’s clinical partnerships extend to both graduate and undergraduate support and include world-class healthcare facilities like the Children’s Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the Lahey Clinic.
Net Price: $26,335/yr
25. Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
With over 1,300 registered nursing students online and in various locations around the state of Florida, the folks at the Nova Southeastern University College of Allied Health and Nursing must be doing something right. And it’s easy to see what. Take, for instance, their high-tech simulation lab, which provides hands-on clinical experience in a classroom setting. Or consider their wide range of Master of Science in Nursing specializations, including Health System Leadership and Nursing Informatics. And don’t forget their flexible scheduling, which offers coursework through online and multi-location classroom formats. All in all, Nova Southeastern University accomplishes an impressive goal: the ability to cater to a wide variety of student needs while still providing a quality of education on par with many of the best nursing schools in the country.
Net Price: $24,833/yr
24. Pfeiffer University
Misenheimer North, Carolina
Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Pfeiffer University offers dozens of degree programs that help students take the next step towards becoming fully-fledged faith leaders. For the nearly 20% of the student body that is enrolled in the Division of Applied Health Sciences, the promise of providing compassionate and direct service to the injured and infirm is a highly spiritual calling. Through a combination of biology and anatomy prerequisites and 55 hours of upper level nursing coursework, Pfeiffer’s pre-licensure bachelor of nursing program prepares students to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination and become licensed, practicing nurses almost immediately after graduation.
Net Price: $17,611/yr
23. Liberty University
At this devoutly Christian university, residential students in every department are required to attend university-wide convocations at least three times a week to uphold their commitment to the higher values of the community. But in terms of enrollment, Liberty University’s online students dwarf residential students by a factor of almost ten to one. And yet at Liberty’s top nursing school, distance and on-campus students alike learn to approach their health practice hands-on. Liberty emphasizes nursing as a “ministry of caring,” a term first popularized by Patricia Benner, a Living Legend of the American Academy of Nursing. Combining biblical studies, liberal arts, and a practical nursing education, this program guarantees that all students have the opportunity to mature spiritually as well as academically.
Net Price: $23,367/yr
22. California State University-Fullerton
With a total enrollment of 39,000 students, California State University at Fullerton makes the otherwise sizeable population of its College of Health and Human Development—which hovers somewhere around a thousand—seem puny by comparison. Yet the enormous resources of such a comprehensive public university allow this top nursing school to provide education of unparalleled quality and quantity. In fact, Fullerton is the only campus in the state to offer a master’s-level concentration in School Nursing. What’s more, Fullerton’s graduate nurse anesthesia program has earned recognition from U.S. News as one of the best in the country.
Net Price: $5,542/yr
21. University of Connecticut
In 2012, the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing unveiled a 15,000 square foot addition to their building that contains not only new classrooms and laboratories, but also state of the art simulation technology. This development is just one of many steps the flagship school of the University of Connecticut school system has taken to bring their nursing programs into modern times. In addition to conventional BSN, MSN, and DNP tracks for aspiring and advancing nursing students, UConn is now offering an Urban Service track, which combines nursing, medicine, dental medicine, pharmacology and social services coursework to target endemic urban health problems.
Net Price: $19,049/yr
20. Western Carolina University
Cullowhee North, Carolina
In 1969, Western Carolina University launched its School of Nursing under the direction of Dr. Mary K. Kneedler. At the time, Dr. Kneedler was well known throughout the country for her role in developing then-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s progressive Head Start program. Half a century later, WCU’s top nursing program continues to embody the charitable, compassionate traits that Kneedler promoted. This is nowhere more evident than in WCU’s Nursing Network-Careers and Technology Mentoring Program (NN-CATM), which connects mentors with high performing rural and minority students at local community colleges. The university even offers tuition and other financial assistance to support their futures in nursing.
Net Price: $12,916/yr
19. The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is consistently ranked among the best public research universities in the country. And although it may be better known for its groundbreaking research in engineering and computer science, Austin is also home to the 13th best nursing school in the nation, as reported by U.S. News. In addition to providing a comprehensive nursing program across undergraduate and graduate divisions, UT Austin is particularly well regarded for its stellar outreach initiatives. This includes the Wellness Center and Disaster Relief program, which the school launched in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.
Net Price: $16,832/yr
18. Northeastern University
Boston has one of the highest concentrations of hospitals and medical centers in any metropolitan area, which means there is a very high demand for a wide variety of nursing specialists. If you are looking to find your niche in the Boston healthcare area, look no further than Northeastern University: with over 10 graduate specializations in nursing, including adult acute and/or primary care, neonatal and/or pediatric nursing, nurse anesthesia, and even a dual MS/MBA program, there’s no limit to what an ambitious student can each achieve at this nationally acclaimed university.
Net Price: $30,546/yr
17. Rowan University
Glassboro New, Jersey
Rowan University has designed a nursing program that optimizes student and faculty time and resources to deliver the most productive education at the lowest possible cost. Combining online coursework in a hybridized class format with local clinical practicums, Rowan allows students and professors to build their own schedules instead of wasting time commuting or sitting in crowded lecture halls. Unlike a completely online delivery format, however, this hybrid format still allows nursing students to get the hands-on experience they need to become qualified healthcare professionals. Whether you are a registered nurse looking to earn your bachelor’s degree or are seeking specialized practitioner certification, Rowan will offer a clear path to a satisfying career in healthcare.
Net Price: $15,413/yr
16. Georgetown University
Washington District of, Columbia
Founded in 1789, Georgetown in the oldest Catholic university in the United States with a reputation for progressive and impactful scholarship. Although the school didn’t establish a nursing program until 1903 (more than a century into its tenure) Georgetown’s School of Nursing now features some of the most exciting resources available to nursing students anywhere in the world. At the undergraduate level, BSN students make regular use of the O’Neill Family Foundation Clinical Simulation Center’s robotic mannequin, which actually replicates physiological symptoms and responses in a controlled environment. For more experienced and research-oriented graduate students, Georgetown’s Discovery Center encourages interdisciplinary collaboration with a Health Science Lab and Molecular and Cell Biology research facilities.
Net Price: $25,786/yr
15. Stony Brook University
Stony Brook New, York
With a nearly 90% graduate pass rate on the NCLEX-RN, Stony Brook University is clearly in the business of creating competent nursing professionals. For working nurses who have already earned their professional licensure, Stony Brook also provides a comprehensive range of advanced specializations in administration and practice. From nursing education and leadership to pediatric care, neonatal nursing, and even midwifery, master’s students at Stony Brook can find a way to narrow and hone their nursing focus to advance both their skills and careers. What’s more, Stony Brook’s chapter of Kappa Gamma, the International Honor Society of Nursing, provides students with valuable networking opportunities that will serve them well long after graduation.
Net Price: $13,352/yr
14. Emory University
The nursing program at Emory is probably best known for its graduate divisions, which regularly appear in the top 50 of many a publication’s top healthcare rankings. Emory’s Center for Neurocognitive Studies (CSN), for example, is a national leader in chronic and affective illnesses and focuses on ways to improve care for long-term patients. But what may be most exciting to both undergraduates and graduate students are the global outreach programs that Emory offers through the Lillian Carter Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility. Many of the university’s prestigious faculty are involved in research in sub-Saharan African countries, and students can take advantage of these connections to facilitate international service learning experiences of their own.
Net Price: $28,203/yr
13. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins’ School of Nursing is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country by the likes of U.S. News, >Princeton Review, Forbes, and more. It also tops the list of funding recipients of the National Institute of Health (among nursing schools, that is). This reputation naturally allows Johns Hopkins to attract the best and the brightest in terms of both faculty and students, making it a highly competitive environment with very high stakes. All told, Johns Hopkins is also home to some of the most innovative research ventures in the field and features some of the most extensive nursing outreach programs in the world. In fact, its network of clinics spans more than 40 clinics throughout Baltimore.
Net Price: $25,207/yr
12. San Diego State University
San Diego, California
Drawing over $1.5 billion dollars in annual grants and research funding annually, it’s no wonder that San Diego State University has consistently been named among the most productive research institutions in the country (as reported by the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index). And SDSU has put this money to good use; thanks to its sizeable investments in academia and research, SDSU has earned a singular distinction as the only California State University in the system with a “National” rather than “Regional” designation on the U.S. News website. This bodes well for the nursing program too, which enjoys a healthy budget that funds state of the art educational facilities – including a Nursing Fundamental Skills Lab, Health Assessment Lab, and Human Patient Simulator.
Net Price: $10,085/yr
11. Duke University
Durham North, Carolina
For heavy hitters in the research arena of academia, bigger is always better. Few would deny that Duke is one of these “heavy hitters,” and its School of Nursing can attest to that fact. Indeed, the school recently welcomed a 45,000 square foot addition to its Christine Siegler Pearson Building. While the architects made room for classrooms, too, most of this state-of-the-art building is devoted to research. Duke briefly eliminated its BSN program in the 1980s, only to resurrect it in 2002. This new version of the nursing program features an accelerated 16-month format is designed specifically for students who already have a bachelor’s degree. But perhaps Duke’s biggest selling point is its extensive graduate program, which offers a gamut of nursing specializations and provides convenient distance learning options to accommodate military service members, busy parents, and working professionals.
Net Price: $21,764/yr
10. Columbia University in the City of New York
New York New, York
Founded in 1754 as King’s College—well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence—Columbia University in the City of New York has been home to a lot of firsts, especially in the field of nursing education. In 1956, Columbia awarded its first master’s degree in a clinical specialty in nursing; fifty years later, that same nursing department introduced the first PDA-based system to replace nurse practitioners’ paper-based clinical logs. Columbia’s School of Nursing was also the first to earn a designation as a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Advanced Practice Nursing. Through a combination of bold scholarship and innovative practice methods, Columbia continues to set the standard for excellence in nursing education in the 21st century.
Net Price: $20,838/yr
9. University of Florida
As the flagship institution of the State University System of Florida, the University of Florida is a not just a statewide leader, but also a national frontrunner in nursing education and advocacy. Since launching the state’s first master’s and doctoral programs in nursing, UF has continued to produce healthcare leaders at hospitals, universities, and healthcare organizations around the globe. UF is equally proud of its reputation for producing the largest crop of BSN graduates in the state every year. But prospective applicants shouldn’t worry too much about getting lost in the fray; exceptional students are eligible for UF’s Honors in Nursing, which pairs them with a specific faculty member to develop a capstone thesis or project.
Net Price: $14,786/yr
8. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
As the oldest continuously-operated, university-based nursing department in the country, the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has plenty of reasons to boast. This top nursing program has produced more than half of the advanced practice nurses in the state, as well as many of Minnesota’s nursing faculty and healthcare administrators. As a result of its stature, UMN operates a staggering nursing research budget in the neighborhood of $6 million a year. Its deep coffers also fund a generous financial aid budget; the university gave away $1.4 million in nursing scholarships just last year. And students applying now should count themselves extra lucky; UM-Twin Cities is about to debut a brand new, 11,000 square foot clinical simulation center with HD room-to-room video conferencing capabilities!
Net Price: $15,589/yr
7. California State University-Long Beach
Long Beach, California
How can you identify a truly progressive healthcare institution? One way is to consider its approach to medicine. Advanced health practitioners are increasingly adopting a “wellness-based” attitude over an “illness-based” one. At California State University-Long Beach’s nursing school, baccalaureate and graduate nursing students learn to implement this perspective of wellness, evaluating the quality of life and experience of their patients on equal footing with immediate health concerns. CSU-Long Beach’s graduate curriculum is also unique in that is tailored towards the needs of working students. A hybrid format combines bi-weekly on campus classes (mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays) with distance courses, giving students confidence that their studies won’t interfere with their careers.
Net Price: $7,672/yr
6. Brigham Young University-Provo
Owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young University is actually the largest of all religious institutions of higher education, and certainly among the finest. In accord with the university’s Honor Code, which emphasizes service and integrity, this top nursing school endeavors to provide all students with scholarships to attend school. The Nursing School has also made it a priority to increase fundraising and provide even more financial aid for program members. This spirit of charity carries all the way through to the nursing curriculum itself, which is largely predicated on experiential service learning. Through BYU’s Global Health and Human Diversity initiative, the university has sponsored faculty and student service learning in countries such as Ghana, India, and Ecuador.
Net Price: $12,335/yr
5. University of California-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
The University of California-Los Angeles has a tough acceptance rate in general, but this figure pales in comparison to the exclusivity of its nursing program! With 2.3% and 3.9% acceptance rates for its undergraduate and graduate nursing programs, respectively, it’s almost as hard to get into UCLA as it is to graduate. Considering its affiliation with the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (the best hospital on the West Coast, as rated by U.S. News) it is no wonder this nursing school attracts so many ambitious students who are willing to work hard to make the cut. Plus, with groundbreaking research in fields as diverse as gene therapy, ulcers, and pediatric palliative care, UCLA would appeal to anyone who wants to take part in the vanguard of healthcare.
Net Price: $12,510/yr
4. University of Central Florida
Size isn’t everything, but when nursing is the second-largest major at the second-largest university in the country, it might be time to start paying attention. So what is it that draws thousands of students to the University of Central Florida’s nursing school (aside from national ranking and accreditation, the highest NCLEX-RN pass rate in the state, and recognition as a “best value” university by The Princeton Review)? According to the university itself, Orlando is the “epicenter of modeling, simulation and training,” granting UCF’s nursing department access to the greatest range of digital and manual clinical simulators available anywhere.
Net Price: $14,745/yr
3. University of Virginia-Main Campus
Every school on this list has a particular set of strengths, even if it’s something as simple as providing a good education at a great price. At the University of Virginia, that strength is rural healthcare. To date, UVA is the first and only nursing school funded by the NIH to create a center devoted to rural mental health research. This institute, dubbed the Southeastern Rural Mental Health Research Center, is also home to a specialized Rural Health Center that is also NIH-funded. Graduates of this top nursing school easily find work – both within the state and in the nearby Appalachia region – and fill much-needed positions providing healthcare to underserved populations.
Net Price: $14,069/yr
2. University of Pennsylvania
If you’ve always dreamed of attending an Ivy League University, but you also want a nursing degree, the University of Pennsylvania may be your best shot. Although the school’s many top accolades and rankings tend to focus on the graduate nursing department (likely something to do with the $480 million it receives annually from the NIH), UPenn is also the only Ivy League institution with an undergraduate nursing program. With strengths at both levels, UPenn is undoubtedly one of the best nursing schools in the country. MSN students can choose from a whopping 18 specialization options, while undergraduates can look forward to an education that will more than prepare them to conquer the NCLEX. Last year’s graduating class sported a pass rate of 93%!
Net Price: $22,694/yr
1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill North, Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—the oldest public university in the U.S.—is constantly on the lookout for great nurses who will be influential in shaping the coming generation of healthcare. Through its Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation, UNC faculty select six top performing BSN students each year, each of whom will commit to a rigorous six-year PhD program. At the end of their journey, these high-achieving students will walk away with a highly marketable degree that combines groundbreaking research with progressive healthcare policy. UNC’s Careers Beyond the Bedside program is another impressive feature of this top nursing program. This searchlight initiative seeks to attract underrepresented demographics to nursing in order to increase the diversity of the field.
Net Price: $10,936/yr
Posted April 2017