Mississippi State University is exploring the option of starting a nursing program. If approved, this will be the first time MSU has offered a degree in nursing.

For locals, the best part of the announcement is that the plans are to offer the program in Meridian.

<!-- $cms.websiteSection.disableStory -->"You've got a great healthcare community here in Meridian," said MSU president, Dr. Mark Keenum.

"There's a strong need for nurses to have at least a bachelor's in education."

A bachelor'sdegree in nursing is what MSU would offer here, if plans are approved by the board of trustees for Mississippi's Institutions for Higher Learning.

According to Dr. Keenum the nursing program will be housed in the Kress Building in downtown Meridian. Donated by the city to Mississippi State, the building sits adjacent to the Newberry Building which is currently undergoing renovations to house MSU Meridian's Business School.

If the nursing program is given the green light, Dr. Keenum says its enrollment is expected to be very high.

"We offered, for example, a new healthcare administration program last year and already the enrollment in that program is up 200%.

I've had a chance to meet with the CEOs from Anderson Hospital and Rush Hospital, and received nothing but positive feedback and encouragement explaining their dire need for more higher educated nurses to work with their healthcaresystem," said Keenum.

The proposal for MSU's nursing program is now still in the developing stage. Dr. Keenum says the plan is to present it the IHL board next month and find out its decision very soon after that.

If things go as planned, Keenum says renovations on the Kress Building will start within a year's time, and the new program will start being offered at the site in the year 2013.

Keenum says the initial goal is to enroll 45 students annually. He says more than 150 qualified students are turned away yearly from such programs in Mississippi, due to a teacher shortage of nursing instructors.