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Students Flock To Nursing Programs

Students Flock To Nursing Programs

Karla Schuster / Newsday

Noopa Kurian already had a degree in travel management and a job in her field when she applied to the nursing program at Stony Brook University. What she says she didn’t have was job security.

“I wanted to know that wherever I go, I’ll be able to find a job,” said Kurian, 28, of Lake Grove, who expects to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing this May.

While enrollment in nursing programs nationwide has increased every year for nearly a decade, the deepening economic crisis is making such programs even more popular – and competitive – than ever.

Nassau Community College, for example, is nearly doubling the size of this spring’s new nursing class: 92 students compared with the 54 it usually takes in January. The school gets more than 1,000 applications for the 225 slots it has in the nursing program each year.

At Stony Brook, officials say the number of people requesting fall 2009 applications for two of the school’s undergraduate nursing programs more than doubled compared to last year. Combined, about 800 people eventually applied for a total of about 120 slots in both registered nursing programs by the Jan. 10 deadline, up by more than a third from 2008.

Meanwhile, interest in Farmingdale State College’s nursing programs is so intense that the admissions office often dedicates three of its 10 counselors to handling inquiries about them, although nursing students are just 400 students out of the total enrollment of 7,000.

“As much as any profession is recession-proof, this one is and will be,” said Lucia Cepriano, Farmingdale’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. The nursing application deadline was Jan. 15, and a few years ago the school might have accepted students through August. By early January, the school had received 1,200 applications, up 13 percent.

Nursing educators say the impact of the economy on the profession poses some challenges. On the one hand, the demand for more nurses is real. On the other, it is a challenging job that requires unflagging dedication.

“Yes, it’s a route to some form of job security, but you really have to want to be a nurse,” said Frances LaFauci, associate dean of nursing for Suffolk County Community College, which runs the largest nursing program in the state, with 900 students enrolled in three associate degree tracks. “You have to be tough, physically and mentally.”

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