[Source: Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic] – Arizona State University plans to cut enrollment at its nursing school because of an anticipated drop in state funding this year, even as the state grapples with a shortage of nurses.
Officials say enrollment will be cut from 80 to 40 students at ASU’s Polytechnic campus this spring and by the same amount at the West campus in fall 2009. Enrollment at the downtown Phoenix campus will remain the same.
The cuts apply to students coming into the program and not those currently enrolled.
ASU has about 1,800 students in its nursing program, which officials say is the largest in the nation.
The planned cuts come as ASU officials anticipate the state may slice $25 million or more this year from the university’s budget. That would be on top of $30 million in cuts the university already has made. State revenues are down again this year because of a sluggish economy, and the university relies on state funding for about a quarter of its budget.
Cutting back on nursing enrollment is one of several steps university officials are considering.
They also plan to cut 200 or more faculty associates, increase some class sizes, and encourage departments and schools to look for ways to bring in more revenue.
Cuts to the ASU nursing program would run counter to Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano’s stated goal to boost the number of nursing and health-care professionals in Arizona.
Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer cautioned that “the budget process is ongoing” and said no specific cuts have been finalized, but she acknowledged that some “hard, hard” decisions await. State agencies are mulling cuts of their own. The state is facing a shortfall as large as $1 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
ASU is planning now so the school can avoid eleventh-hour cuts. If university officials were to wait until spring, they would be unable to make the cuts in time to help the budget, said Virgil Renzulli, ASU’s vice president of public affairs.
The nursing cuts would come at a time when Arizona is struggling with a nursing shortage. Last year, the state had 681 registered nurses per 100,000 people, below the national average of 825 registered nurses per 100,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
ASU officials on Monday said that the nursing program’s total enrollment would stay the same, but on Tuesday, they said that total enrollment is expected to decrease by 80 students. Nursing was chosen because its programs are more expensive to run than those of many other majors.
ASU Provost Elizabeth Capaldi said she hopes it would be a temporary decrease in enrollment that can be reversed when the budget situation improves.
Also on Tuesday, ASU officials backed away from considering expanding lecture-style, general-education classes from 300 to 1,000 students. They said a review of existing classroom space now shows there is not enough room to accommodate that many students in one place. However, increases in size for some smaller classes are likely, they said.