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    Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in New Mexico

    Anyone who aspires to be a registered nurse (RN), has two options: an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

    While both satisfy current needs for licensure, states are beginning to push for nurses to have at least a BSN. In New Mexico, earning a BSN over an ASN could also mean higher wages and access to better jobs.

    While not every nursing school in New Mexico offers a BSN, starting with an ASN and completing an RN-BSN program is an excellent way to affordably complete a bachelor's degree. If earning an ASN or BSN in New Mexico is your goal, then you'll want to study at one of the best schools.

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    Methodology

    This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,

    • Reputation
    • NCLEX pass rate
    • Tuition
    • Acceptance rate, when available
    • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible 

    Nurse Panel

    Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

    • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
    • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
    • Kathleen Gaines, BSN, RN, BA, CBC
    • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

    Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 New Mexico nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

    Top 10 Nursing Schools in New Mexico

    University of New Mexico

    Annual In-State Tuition: $7,556 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $23,292 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.53%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    As the flagship institution of the state, the University of New Mexico essentially sets NM's standards for higher education. Based in Albuquerque, the campus buildings mirror the buildings created by the local Pueblo Indians. When they aren't appreciating the beautiful campus, undergraduate nursing students complete on-campus courses while gaining experience at local hospitals or healthcare facilities. Undergraduate degree options include a traditional BSN, online RN-BSN, dual degree BSN, and direct-entry BSN for honors students. While the out-of-state tuition rate is high, non-resident students with a 3.0 GPA and strong test scores can apply before March 30 to secure in-state tuition and fees. 

    New Mexico State University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $7,810 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $24,918 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 79.57%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: Yes

    Bridge: No

    Based in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University is one of the top public research institutions in the region -- something that graduate-level nursing students may be interested in. Before starting a master's or doctoral degree in nursing, students first need to earn a BSN. NMSU offers three BSN options: a traditional BSN (which is also available in Grants and Alamogordo), an accelerated BSN, and a BSN completion program. While NMSU doesn't have the highest NCLEX pass rates, this degree offers plenty of flexibility for nurses who can't regularly commute to Las Cruces. 

    New Mexico Highlands University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $6,168 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $10,440 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    New Mexico Highlands University's goal is to make student success a focus. This means ensuring strong outcomes for graduates, one reason why tuition for NMHU is lower than other four-year schools in the region. Unfortunately, nursing students cannot complete a traditional BSN through NMHU. However, there is an RN-BSN option which is offered both on-campus and online. Online students are also welcome to enjoy the campus life at the Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Farmington, Roswell, and Las Vegas campuses. 

    Western New Mexico University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $7,094 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $15,231 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.7%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Western New Mexico University's Silver City location offers students a prime city location near the mountains. However, over 3,500 students choose to study online. Current registered nurses can enroll in the entirely online RN-BSN program, while unlicensed students choose the pre-licensure BSN. WNMU states that 91.7% of the 2018 graduating BSN class passed the NCLEX on their first try, and 100% of those students found a position. Nurses who already have a BSN can enroll in the master of science in nursing (MSN) program with a focus on community and rural health. 

    University of New Mexico - Taos

    Annual In-State Tuition: $1,902 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $4,782 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    The University of New Mexico-Taos is a branch of the University of New Mexico. However, as its own branch, UNM-Taos has a unique degree path for prospective nurses. Students interested in a BSN can do so through UNM-Taos, though the program is in partnership with the University of New Mexico. Through the program, students earn an associate degree in nursing through UNM-Taos and a BSN through UNM. While this program is slightly non-traditional, the outcomes are highly positive -- every student who took this program in 2018 passed the NCLEX on their first try. 

    Santa Fe Community College

    Annual In-State Tuition: $2,106 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $5,526 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.90%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: Yes

    Santa Fe Community College has provided the region with affordable education for nearly 30 years. As a community college, SFCC doesn't offer four-year degrees. Instead, nursing students complete an associate in nursing, sometimes after first earning a certificate as a nursing assistant. SFCC also partners with the University of New Mexico to offer students a BSN, though students must transfer into UNM to complete this degree. Before applying, prospective students should know that the in-state tuition rate only applies to students with the same tax district as SFCC. Those in New Mexico, but outside the district, pay an estimated annual tuition rate of $2,538. 

    Brookline College

    BSN Program Cost: $85,000 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 76%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: Yes

    Bridge: No

    Brookline College primarily offers degrees for adult learners who want to advance their careers through higher education. Nursing careers are high growth and pay well, so Brookline College offers five different nursing options. Three of the five nursing degrees offered by Brookline College are available entirely online, including an RN-BSN completion program. A traditional BSN and an accelerated second degree BSN are the two on-campus programs. The NCLEX pass rate and tuition represent the traditional BSN, while the accelerated second degree BSN costs less, takes 16 months to complete, and saw a perfect NCLEX pass rate for its 2018 graduating class. 

    Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell

    Annual In-State Tuition: $1,128 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $2,808 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.83%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell enrolls over 3,000 students en route to a certificate or associate degree. The cost of attending ENMU-Roswell is much lower than in other schools, but nursing students can only earn an ASN at the Roswell campus. The ASN is a three-year program, about a year longer than most other associate degrees. However, the high NCLEX pass rate for the recent graduating class speaks for itself. After completing the ASN and becoming an RN, ENMU-Roswell lets students smoothly transition into an RN-BSN offered by the main Eastern New Mexico University branch. 

    New Mexico State University - Dona Ana

    Annual In-State Tuition: $1,776 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $5,664 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.10%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: Yes

    Also known as Dona Ana Community College, New Mexico State University - Dona Ana provides another affordable way to become an RN. However, as a community college, the highest level of education a student can earn is an associate degree. DACC's three main nursing tracks are a licensed practical nurse (LNP) program, an associate degree that leads to RN registration, and an LPN-RN program. Graduates of the RN program perform very well on the NCLEX and can always complete an online RN-BSN elsewhere. As a nursing program, students should also budget for other one-time fees including books, transportation, and application fees. 

    Central New Mexico Community College

    Annual In-State Tuition: $4,556 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $13,508 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 86.83%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: Yes

    With over 22,000 students, Central New Mexico Community college is easily the largest community college in NM. Based primarily in Albuquerque, CNM has campuses around the area, and nursing students earn clinical hours at various hospitals nearby. The main nursing option is an associate of applied science in nursing, a holistic nursing program with positive outcomes. Also, as part of the greater UNM system, CNM students can earn a special dual degree from both CNM and the University of New Mexico, giving graduates an associate and bachelor's degree in nursing. 

    4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition

    Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each student depending on various factors including:

    • Transfer credits
    • Completed competency exams
    • Amount of credits taken per year
    • Financial aid awards

    Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.

    Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

    • RNs in New Mexico earn an annual mean wage of $71,730, which is lower than the national average.
    • New Mexico employs 16,730 registered nurses, slightly higher per capita than the national average.

    RNs in New Mexico earn a lower mean average salary than the national average of $75,510. However, New Mexico is much more affordable to live in than the rest of the nation, so a lower wage could still go further than a higher wage elsewhere. 

    In terms of employment, New Mexico is just above average. The 16,730 employed RNs means New Mexico employs more RNs per 1,000 workers than the national average. 

    While employment and salary data provided by the BLS doesn't mean a nurse will make a certain amount or find a specific job, the data does provide a positive outlook for nurses in New Mexico.

    Next Steps:

    Once you've taken a look at some of the top nursing schools in New Mexico, the next steps are to get in touch with the schools to learn more about the admissions process, check your eligibility, and prepare your applications.

    Here are the next steps broken down:

    Contact each school’s admissions offices. Every school sets its own requirements for admissions. The admissions office is there to help prospective applicants make sense of the admissions process. Get in touch with each school's admissions office -- they can answer any questions you might have.

    Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. In addition to the university or college's admission requirements, nursing students need to meet the nursing school's admissions requirements. These requirements are usually tougher than the university's admissions, so you may have to complete additional courses or application materials. 

    Submit your application(s). Once you've determined everything you need to do for both the university's and nursing school's applications, the final step is to prepare your materials and send them in! Expect to send in the following:

    • High school transcript (GPA)
    • ACT and/or SAT scores
    • College entrance essay(s)
    • Letter(s) of recommendation

    Important considerations when comparing schools: 

    A school may have the highest NCLEX pass rates in the state, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the best option for you! There are tons of factors to consider when comparing schools, so spend some time on these considerations.

    Factors to consider include:

    • In-state vs. out-of-state tuition cost
    • Cost of the nursing program (some have added fees)
    • Type of school (public or private)
    • Type of program (ASN or BSN)
    • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
    • Location of college or university
    • Cost of living on-campus or in the area
    • School and nursing program acceptance rate
    • Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
    • Accreditation (regional and programmatic)

    Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation  

    Accrediting bodies are nationally-recognized organizations that verify the academic quality of schools and programs. When applying to schools in New Mexico, make sure each school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. In addition, ensure the nursing program you're applying for has programmatic accreditation. 

    The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

    If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation. 

    Getting a License in New Mexico

    New Mexico is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), meaning an RN license earned in New Mexico easily applies to other states. It also means New Mexico has a relatively straightforward process for licensure. The steps include:

    • Taking and passing the NCLEX-RN
    • Passing a criminal background check 
    • Submitting fingerprints
    • Paying an application fee and applying through the New Mexico Board of Nursing

    Conclusion 

    New Mexico employs more nurses per capita than other states in the region and is projected to have significant nursing job growth. While not every school offers a BSN, plenty of quality ASN, BSN, and RN-BSN options are available across the state. After finishing a program, New Mexico nurses gain an eNLC license, meaning they can easily begin working as a nurse in another eNLC member state.

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    References:

    BLS

    Best Places

    New Mexico Board of Nursing

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