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Kansas City-area universities see increase in undergraduate applications for nursing amid pandemic

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Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 15, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nursing schools nationwide are seeing an increase in applications despite many already in the industry leaving their jobs.

According to new data by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, student enrollment in entry-level programs increased by 5.6 percent in 2020.

Universities in the Kansas City area are seeing a similar trend in their nursing programs. The UMKC School of Nursing and Health Sciences saw undergraduate applications jump by 10% since the pandemic.

“They were seeing agony in their communities, in cities, and they wanted to help,” Interim Dean Joy Roberts said.

Roberts is seeing more highly-qualified applicants as well as first-time college students.

“Not only have I decided to go to college, but I want to go into nursing,” Roberts said.

But more applications do not necessarily mean higher enrollment. The state’s Board of Nursing puts a cap on the number of admitted students, which is in part beneficial due to the declining number of faculty. Many registered nurses left their jobs during the pandemic.

“It leaves us without clinical faculty at times, and so we really have to scramble,” Roberts said.

In fact in 2020, more than 80,000 qualified applicants were not accepted into schools of nursing nationwide due to shortage in clinical sites, faculty and resources. But despite the obstacles, students are showing up and meeting the moment.

“I know there's a lot of people in need right now because of the pandemic, so I'm really excited for the future and to be a nurse,” said UMKC second-year student Hajra Asif. “I think some people really like the fact that they can come and make an impact on a patient or on a family.”

Micaela Lenhart, director of Rockhurst University’s undergraduate admissions, said its nursing program this year has doubled in ‘committed students’ compared to this time last year.

“Our nursing faculty are calling this the ‘Fauci Effect.’ They’re seeing the information and want to understand what that means and really see how they can make a difference,” Lenhart said.

According to the admissions office, pre-medicine has also grown in popularity since the pandemic. Lenhart said she believes it says a lot about the current generation.

“These students, that's their generation's value. They want to see the world a better place,” Lenhart said.

Metropolitan Community College also said it already has more applicants for spring 2022 than it did for spring 2021, and it has over a dozen more applicants for the coming semester than it did this fall.