OK..... Unaccredited programs? Of course, nothing about Chicago surprises me anymore. http://www.suntimes.com/news/educati...s31web.article

Amid a nationwide nursing shortage, nursing programs at two Chicago City Colleges are being phased out to focus limited resources and guarantee that students graduate from the nationally accredited programs they need to qualify for the "best jobs."

The surprise decision by newly appointed Chancellor Cheryl Hyman has forced nursing students attending an unaccredited program at Olive Harvey College to transfer to Daley or Malcolm X colleges for the fall semester. The nursing program at unaccredited Kennedy-King will end Dec. 11, with the close of fall classes.

Daley College is sanctioned by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. Malcolm X is in the "early stages" of accreditation needed to confirm that a nursing program operates at a "nationally recognized quality level."

"When students graduate from unaccredited programs, a lot of places won't hire them as nurses," Hyman said Monday.

"The state will allow you to teach. But there's a lot of benefits you don't get. It's unfair to students to dedicate their time and money to a program a lot of them did not even know was unaccredited. This allows us to focus on building quality programs that give our students the best shot at employment."

Eric Pandy was forced to transfer from Olive Harvey to Daley College, but he said he would gladly add the 15 minutes to his daily commute if it means going to a nationally-accredited program.

"Sometimes, I have to drive two hours to get to work. If this is something you want to do, then an extra few minutes of commuting is not that big of an issue," said Pandy, who has the same teacher he had at Olive Harvey.

"I would rather go to a school that's nationally-accredited than a school that's not -- hands down. Every little bit helps. The accreditation might help as far as us getting into different clinicals. It'll also help when you try and transfer to a four-year university."

Pandy, 29, said he chose nursing after being laid off from his job as a union painter.

"I knew I wasn't gonna paint for the rest of my life. I knew that wasn't a career for me. I was put on this earth to help people," he said.

"I would really like to become a doctor, but I'm a little too old for that. I don't have enough time or money" to go to medical school.

Hyman stressed that she is "acutely aware" of the nationwide nursing shortage and is not reducing the "overall capacity" of the City Colleges' program. She said she plans to "grow" the nursing program over time and upgrade nursing facilities.

"Do we need more simulated hospital rooms and simulated technologies? What sorts of things do we need to help our student be prepared on the day they walk out the door? Those are things employers will let me know," Hyman said. "Our facilities have great potential, but they need upgrading."

The consolidation from six nursing schools to four will coincide with a "centralized admissions process" for the nursing program with a "guaranteed minimum number of slots per college" for qualified applicants.

The chancellor noted that she personally overruled the decision not to let 200 Malcolm X nursing students graduate with associate degrees because of inconsistent policies across the system.

Some, but not all of the City Colleges, allowed nursing students to graduate, though only after scoring at least 870 on an assessment exam. After surveying 25 colleges that use the exam, Hyman found that the average minimum passing score was 850.

"I asked why we use a higher score than best practices, and nobody had an answer," Hyman said. "I said, 'Did you explain to these students they wouldn't graduate without 870?' Some did. Some didn't. That's unfair.

"These were students who had come to school every day and gotten good grades, some trying to be role models for their children. Most had scores in the 840-to-850 range. Why hold these students back? We need to be consistent in how we implement policies across the district."

Colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment to meet a nationwide nursing shortage that's expected to get worse as Baby Boomers age and live longer, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

More than 581,500 new RN jobs are expected to be created by 2018, according to a December 2009 analysis by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the shortage has eased somewhat during the prolonged recession, it's expected to reach 260,000 nurses by 2025.