Western Kentucky University is working toward offering a bachelor's degree in nursing at its Owensboro campus.

Gene Tice, head of WKU's Owensboro campus, told The Messenger-Inquirer that the move was recommended by an advisory council. He said he hopes to have the program up and running by next spring.

He said the advisory committee thought it was very important to offer since Owensboro has one of the largest hospitals in the state.

Before the program can get off the ground, though, Tice said it needs a full-time instructor and program coordinator.

"This person will advise students, recruit students, provide orientation and support students," he said.

He said the program would have room for about 30 students in the first class, but he doesn't expect it to remain small for long.

"It will help as we're growing our enrollment. We know that allied health and nursing is an important area here in Owensboro," Tice said. "If we can grow the program larger than that, there's a commitment to bring on more faculty."

It will be operated in conjuction with the nursing program at Owensboro Community & Technical College, which offers an associate's degree.

OCTC President Jim Klauber says he hopes the program will make it easier to keep educated nurses in the area. He says many students who received an associate's degree were going out-of-state to continue their education.

"We're graduating about 75 associate's degree nurses a year. The hospital wants to have baccalaureate-prepared nurses, and that's very admirable," Klauber said. "I would hope the community supports it. The advisory committee for WKU definitely supported it."

Tice said the campus would begin accepting applications to the new nursing program immediately.