EDUCATION
May 23, 2019

Top 10 Online RN to BSN Programs 2019

Top 10 Online RN to BSN Programs 2019

By: Kathleen Colduvell - Gaines RN, BSN, BA, CBC

The Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report has recommended that at least 80% of a hospital's nurses should have a BSN-level education. While a BSN is not required for all RN positions, the ability to gain employment at Magnet hospitals, major trauma centers and large academic hospitals increases exponentially.

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According to Payscale.com, BSN educated nurses have the ability to earn approximately 15% more than their counterparts without a BSN. This can be incentive enough for some to go back to earn their BSN. 

Online programs are a quick, easy solution for the working RN. 

  • They offer online scheduling, 
  • The ability to work on your degree from home 
  • The freedom to work at your own pace 

All of these benefits are important for some full-time working nurses. 

However, there is one relatively large catch with online programs. They must be accredited in order to be considered a legitimate program.

Get your RN to BSN online

With a big industry push for all nurses to have a BSN by 2020 and the growing number of online nursing programs, many RN’s are considering a BSN degree. Obtaining your BSN online has recently become more popular as major colleges and universities have seen a need in this area. 

According to recent studies, out of 187,000 nursing jobs posted within a three-month period, BSN educated nurses were eligible for 88% of openings, while non-BSN nurses only were eligible for 51% of the same positions.

After earning a BSN, nurses will benefit from: 

  • High salaries
  • More prepared for the hospital setting
  • Increased marketability
  • Increased advancement opportunities
  • Increased clinical skills
  • A step towards obtaining an MSN degree 

FAQs about online BSN programs

What is an online BSN program?

An online BSN program is designed for nurses who have already obtaining an RN most likely from a diploma or associate’s degree program. Classes are offered solely online and only classes required to earn a BSN are offered. There are no associated clinical or lab components. 

Most online programs can be completed between one and two years depending on the number of classes a student needs to complete and the speed at which they are able to take them. Start times and dates will vary depending on program. Some programs are based on the traditional college semester while others do shortened and condensed “semesters.” These could be 6 week to 10 week classes. It is important to discuss this with your academic counselor. Classes that are shorter tend to be more fast paced and have a higher turn-around. 

One of the benefits of online nursing programs is that nurses are required to work during them. They are designed for the working professional. Most programs require nurses work a minimum of 30 hours per week while completing the program. If this is not feasible, have a discussion with your academic counselor. 

What are the pros and cons of an online BSN program?

Pros:

  • Attend classes from home
  • Cheaper tuition costs
  • Online format 
  • Can work while attending classes
  • Flexibility to work with a busy schedule
  • Self-paced
  • Can be completed fairly quickly

Cons:

  • Staying organized
  • Fast paced
  • Making sure a program is accredited
  • Self-motivation is needed
  • Online format can present challenges
  • Ability to carve out study time
  • Less personal interaction with instructor
  • Must be tech-savvy and have computer requirements

How do you pay for online programs?

Online programs are a great way for RNs to obtain a BSN degree; however, the programs tend to be more expensive due to their convenience. There are a variety of ways to pay for an online BSN program but the most common is tuition-reimbursement from your employer.

Scholarships

A scholarship is an award of financial aid to a student to further their education. This money does not have to be repaid. There are a variety of different types of scholarships. Scholarships are rare for students obtaining an online BSN but they are a possibility. These include

  • Merit-based
  • Need-based
  • Student-specific (gender, race, religion, family, and/or medical history)
  • Career-specific
  • College-specific

Grants

Grants are determined by financial need. They can be used to cover the cost of tuition, books, clinical uniforms and supplies, housing and educational supplies. When applying for grants they will inform how they are to be applied towards your education. The amount of money you are eligible to receive depends strictly on your financial situation.

Typically grants do not have to be repaid as long as you graduate nursing school. If you were to drop out there can be incurred costs.

Student Loan

Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be repaid. Loans also incur interest, so you will ultimately repay more than the initial amount of the loan. The exact terms of the loan will depend on the lender and other factors. There are several types of student loans.

The most common loans are called Federal Student Loans. Federal student loans are a great option for most students for the following reasons:

  • They don’t have to be paid back while you’re in school.
  • They charge lower interest than loans from private lenders.
  • If you’re having trouble paying back your loan, there are programs you can qualify for to assist you.
  • You don’t need any credit history to get a federal student loan.

Two other fairly common loans are direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans. These loans are also referred to as Stafford loans. Let’s breakdown the difference:

Direct Subsidized Loans

  • U.S. Department of Education loan
  • Must meet certain income requirements
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Government pays interest rate on loan while in schools
  • Pay back once graduated

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

  • U.S. Department of Education loan
  • Don’t have to meet income requirements
  • Student is responsible for accrued interest
  • Pay back once graduated

Federal Perkins Loan 

  • Very low-income students
  • Lender is the education institution
  • Meet income requirements
  • School must have funds available, limited monetary amounts

Private Student Loans

  • From banks and credit unions
  • Very high interest rates
  • Payments required while in school

Loan repayment

Repayment will vary and is determined by the type of loans. Federal loans do not have to be paid pack until after graduation. Additionally, repayment can be deferred if you decide to continue your education by taking master’s level classes. 

For all private loans, repayment can occur while still in school. 

A standard rule, whether the loans are for undergraduate or graduate school, the loans must be repaid within ten years of completion of the program. 

There are two types of repayment plans.

  1. Standard Repayment Plan - the borrower repays a set amount each month. 
  2. Graduated Repayment Plan - payments start out low and increase every two years, but will not be more than three times greater than any other monthly payment.

If you cannot repay your loans, it is extremely important to immediately discuss this with the lender. Most will have repayment plans can be deferred in times of financial hardship such as a job loss.

Loan forgiveness for nurses

Some nurses may qualify for nursing loan forgiveness. This will only apply to federal loans. These programs apply to nurses with varying degrees but there are certain requirements that must be met. 

The most common Loan Forgiveness program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This program forgives the remaining balance of all federal loans after the borrowed has made a minimum of 120 qualifying monthly payments. You must not default on your loans, and you must be using a qualifying repayment plan while working for a qualifying employer.

  • A qualifying employer means that you work for:
    • Government organization at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal)
    • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
    • Other types of not-for-profit organizations that are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
    • AmeriCorps or Peace Corps serving as a full-time volunteer

It is very important to note for this loan forgiveness that the owner of the healthcare system must be a not-for-profit organization. At times, a hospital will be not-for-profit or serve an underprivileged population but will be owned by a larger for-profit corporation. 

Individual hospitals will also participate in loan forgiveness up to a certain amount for years of service. These hospitals are generally smaller community hospitals in rural areas of the country. 

Employer tuition reimbursement

This is the most common form of payment for online BSN programs. Healthcare systems benefit from BSN educated nurses so they generally will assist their staff in obtaining their degree. So how does this work? Most major healthcare systems have partnerships with a handful of accredited online programs. These partnerships will allow for quick acceptance and a dedicated admissions counselor. Furthermore, because of this partnership employees will be able to obtain a higher percentage of funds towards their degree. 

If an employee doesn’t wish to attend one of the partnered programs, they will still receive funds towards their BSN but it will be less overall money which could mean some out of pocket costs.

Specifics regarding BSN tuition reimbursement should be discussed with your employer and Human Resources department as this will vary between healthcare systems. 

What individuals are online programs best for?

Online BSN programs are great for nurses who:

  • Have young children 
  • Caring for loved ones
  • Single parents
  • Who needs to be employed and do not have the option to take time off work for school
  • Nurses with busy schedules and not a lot of flexibility to attend classes in person

What are the requirements to getting into an online BSN program?

The requirements for each program will vary by school. These will be based off of if the program is supported by a major university or college or is solely an online school. Most programs that are associated with a traditional brick-and-mortar school will also have requirements for admissions to the school itself regardless of the online aspect. Ultimately, all programs share the same basic requirements.  

  • Registered Nurse license in good standing 
  • Possess an associate’s degree from an accredited program
  • Minimum 2.0 GPA in associate’s program
  • Criminal background checks 
  • Working a minimum of 30 hours per week or completion of equivalency exam

Other common requirements include,

  • Child abuse clearance
  • Drug test
  • Proof of vaccinations
  • Physical examination
  • Letters of recommendations

What prerequisite courses are required for admission acceptance?

Due to the fact that all nursing programs are slightly different, the following core courses are required for all students. In order to be considered for admission these courses must have been completed. These classes may include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology with lab component
  • Biology with lab component
  • Microbiology with lab component
  • Human Genetics
  • Statistics
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Professional Ethics
  • Introduction to Research Methods and Designs
  • Chemistry with lab component
  • Introduction to Sociology

What courses are offered in an online BSN program?

Courses in online BSN programs are higher-level courses that require a higher level of thinking and knowledge. They do not include basic core nursing courses, as students have already taken these for their associate’s degree. There are roughly 10 courses required for approximately 30 credit courses to obtain an online BSN degree. The number of courses each student is required to complete varies, and depends on the courses taken during the initial ADN program. 

Courses may include:

  • Informatics in Nursing
  • Trends in Professional Nursing
  • Innovations in Healthcare
  • Transitions in Professional Nursing 
  • Nursing Research/ Evidence-Based Practice
  • Collaborative Nursing
  • Nursing Management and Leadership
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Community Health
  • Capstone Course

Can you take an online BSN program in another state?

Yes! This is one of the beautiful aspects of online BSN programs. Nurses can take a program from anywhere in the country. With that being said, there may be some exceptions. Some programs, especially if associated with a brick-and-mortar university, may require nurses to obtain their RN license in that state. Even if the nurse will never practice there, this could be required. 

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Why is it important to choose an accredited and credentialed program? 

One major consideration that must be taken into account when applying to an online nursing program is accreditation. Non-accredited universities should be a HUGE red-flag for all nurses and students. If you are unsure if the program is accredited, please check either of the two accrediting websites below.

  • Not only will students who graduate from non-accredited programs have difficulty obtaining gainful employment but, they will not be able to sit for the NCLEX. 
  • Students that graduate from programs that are not accredited, whether an ADN or BSN program, will NOT be able to sit for the NCLEX. This means you will NOT become a Registered Nurse.

Look out for these 2 red-flags while you are researching nursing programs - they usually indicate that a program is not-accredited (and you should run!)

  1. If the program is extremely cheap or extremely expensive. 
  2. The program promises completion in less than a year - non-accredited programs will boast about obtaining an online BSN in less than a year. Due to the number of classes a nurse must take, this is virtually impossible. Be skeptical of these programs.  

There are two main accrediting bodies for nursing programs,

  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The purpose of accreditation is to focus on the same standards and criteria across all nursing programs. This ensures that there is some level of sameness within the programs. The accreditation process ultimately improves the quality of nursing education and keeps the curriculum up to date on current trends in advances in nursing and healthcare.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is an organization designed to support nursing education and ensure it is done in a safe, reliable, and consistent matter. According to the website, the purpose of the ACEN is as follows:

  • The ACEN is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as a specialized accrediting agency for nursing education programs located in the United States and its territories.
  • The ACEN is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for nursing education programs in the United States and its territories as well as for international nursing education programs.
  • The ACEN accredits all types of nursing education programs, including clinical doctorate/DNP specialist certificate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing programs.
  • The ACEN accredits nursing education programs in secondary, postsecondary, and hospital-based governing organizations that offer certificates, diplomas, or degrees.
  • The ACEN serves as a Title IV-HEA Gatekeeper for some practical nursing programs and hospital-based nursing education programs eligible to participate in financial aid programs administered by the USDE or other federal agencies.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is considered the voice of academic nursing in America and contributes to the overall safety of the public’s health. This accreditation committee supports the continuous self assessment of national programs to ensure quality education is delivered to all nursing students.  According to the website, the purpose of the CCNE is as follows:

  • To hold nursing programs accountable to the community of interest – the nursing profession, consumers, employers, higher education, students and their families, nurse residents – and to one another by ensuring that these programs have mission statements, goals, and outcomes that are appropriate to prepare individuals to fulfill their expected roles.
  • To evaluate the success of a nursing program in achieving its mission, goals, and expected outcomes.
  • To assess the extent to which a nursing program meets accreditation standards.
  • To inform the public of the purposes and values of accreditation and to identify nursing programs that meet accreditation standards.
  • To foster continuing improvement in nursing programs – and, thereby, in professional practice.

Top 10 Online BSN Programs

1. Capella University

Designed by nurses, this for-profit university program is designed in 10-week quarters. Capella University boasts an impressive graduation rate and generous transfer credit allowance. Students can also apply to to the Accelerated Master’s Pathway (AMP) option. This allows you to take master’s-level courses that apply to your BSN. Once applied and accepted to the MSN program, those master’s courses can be applied toward the degree, potentially saving time and money.

  • Tuition: $9,600–$22,400 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 

2. The University of Oklahoma

This online BSN program is ranked as best in the nation by Best College Reviews for 2018. This program is flexible for working nurses but does require two Saturday in-person orientation dates per year and also has optional monthly on campus sessions. Students can complete the program in as little as 9-months but can be completed on a part-time basis. 

  • Tuition: $22,185 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 

3. University of Central Florida 

The curriculum for this online program consists of 30 credit hours which can be completed in 3 semesters at a full-time pace. Students can also take up to nine-credit hours of graduate level work to apply towards an MSN degree. 

  • Tuition: $11,515 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 

4. Arizona State University

Students take ten classes in this program that are 7.5 weeks. Applicants can finish this program in approximately 15 to 18 months. The program is 38 credits, longer than other programs, but students take classes that are considered more innovative than other traditional BSN programs. In fact, ASU was recognized by the U.S. News & World Report as one of the Best Innovative Online BSN Programs of 2019. 

  • Tuition: $10,888 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

5. Herzing University

This program is unique in that it offers rolling admission which allows students to apply whenever is most convenient to the applicant. Furthermore, it allows students to start the program at their own pace. Classes are either 8-week or 16-weeks long. Students can take masters classes while completing the online BSN degree. This allows students to save time and money.

  • Tuition: $17,775 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

6. University of Cincinnati

Students in this program complete nine core courses as well as a capstone course. Full time online BSN students can complete this program in two semesters, while part-time students can complete the program in either three semester or five semesters. There are six start dates for students in this program and the program focuses on building nurse leaders through the BSN program. 

  • Tuition: $ 12,200 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

7. Chamberlain University

Courses at 100% online and this program boasts that this is no mandatory log-in for classes. Students can start and finish at their own pace and without much guidance. This program can be completed in as little as three semesters. 

  • Tuition: $ 28,960 total program cost 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

8. University of Phoenix

Students can graduate in approximately 14 months. This program allows students to take one course at a time or several courses. This program was designed for working nurses and includes courses designed by industry experts to develop career-related skills.

  • Tuition: $ 11,940 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

9. Western Governors University

This RN-BSN program builds on your previous nursing education and experience with a focus on the areas of research, theory, leadership, and current trends in healthcare. Most students complete this program within 24 months. 

  • Tuition: $7,090 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

10. Grand Canyon University

Applicants can transfer up to 90 credits towards their BSN at Grand Canyon University. Students can earn an online BSN degree within 12 months OR can continue to earn an MSN in approximately 30 months. 

  • Tuition: $16,500 per/year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

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