Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

The Cost and Quality Agenda Comes to Higher Education

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

The Cost and Quality Agenda Comes to Higher Education

Article excerpt

IN MID-AUGUST, when most of us were taking that long last weekend before the busyness of the fall semester, the secretary of education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education released a new report, "A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education" (i). By many accounts, this report calls for a broad overhaul of the higher education system as we know it. Now, the cost reduction and quality enhancement efforts that have been implemented throughout the health care delivery system are at the door of nursing education.

Some nursing programs may be protected from the proposed reforms based on their specialized focus. And in nursing education, we are in the enviable position of having great demand for our courses from potential applicants. However, we are not totally immune from the reforms that this report recommends. In fact, we will strengthen our programs if we pay attention to this report, as it holds many implications for nursing education. I recommend that we reflect on it and engage in dialogue within our nursing education programs, voicing our thoughts at policy levels locally and nationally (at college/university and state levels and to our elected officials and to the commission itself).

While some are concerned that this report was too watered down, with compromises made based on the strong opposition of colleges and universities, it represents, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, an attempt to make higher education more affordable, more accountable, and more innovative (2). These are all worthy goals, but change could strike hard at nursing education. The way we do business is costly, and often we have not demonstrated the cost effectiveness of our teaching modalities.

The most vulnerable of those modalities is our traditional clinical teaching model, in which we have tried to maintain faculty-student ratios of 1:10. Even though the numbers of students per faculty member have increased in the past decade, this is still a costly model, one that is rarely used in other professional education programs. While preceptors are now more frequently used for clinical instruction, and at times are paid for their involvement, this practice is still not routine. …

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