By Erin Morris
Staff reporter

Southwestern College recently announced that it would be shutting down its nursing program. The program has been highly regarded for many years, and it will end that way.

“Our program is in good standing, so as our students leave here, they can say that all that money they spent was worth it,” said president Dick Merriman.

One of the main reasons behind the ending of the program is a 2006-2007 decision by state legislators. It was clear the state of Kansas was in need of many more nurses, which led to approve a program of grants. Unfortunately, the grants were only for state universities and community colleges. Private colleges received no additional funding for their nursing programs.

The new grant program is in its second year, and the state supported schools have greatly increased students in their nursing departments. Due to this new competition, administrators at SC are unsure they will be able to continue attracting enough students.

The second factor is staffing requirements. “It’s incredible what a person with a doctorate in nursing can do in this country. And it’s amazing that two people with a doctorate came to teach at Southwestern. We were concerned about our ability going forward to attract people with those credentials to the college,” said Merriman.

Unfortunately, there were already some attracted to the program. Several of the current freshmen had already declared their intention to enter into the nursing program. Not only that, but three future students had also expressed an interest in the program.

Becca Bustraan, English freshmen, said, “I’m confused about the nursing program ending. Although I got the emails from the administration, I still don’t understand why freshmen aren’t allowed to finish the program along with the sophomores and juniors. But in the end, the closing of the program forced me to look into what I was interested in, and now I’m an English major with emphasis in secondary education.”

However, the current and incoming freshmen students are not the people who are going to have the largest impact on admissions. Marla Sexson, director of admissions, said, “We’re more concerned about transfer numbers.” Transfers account for 15-20 of the nursing students each year.

Sexson has received some phone calls from prospective students and their parents and has to deal with some of the frustration surrounding this issue. “Any time a program closes, there’s never a good time for anyone involved. There are those individuals who are invested in it, and they’re being told we don’t have it anymore,” she said.

However, she did give the school some credit. “It is being stated early enough that it’s not too late to apply to another nursing program. They (future students) understood that we weren’t admitting them on false pretenses. I think timing-wise, the college was sensitive enough for another decision to be made,” she said.

Current nursing students and those entering the program in the fall of 2011 will be able to complete their majors. Even though the decision doesn’t affect them as much, many of the students had mixed thoughts.

Elizabeth Macy, nursing junior, said, “I think it’s sad that the college has decided to close down the nursing program, but considering how hard it is to get qualified instructors, it probably is a good idea to do this while the program still has a good reputation.  Hopefully this doesn’t affect job opportunities after graduation for current nursing students.”

Katie Bipes is applying for the nursing program in the fall. “It was really surprising because the program is such a good program. I think it’s a good idea to have the program go out on top.”

Martha Butler, professor of nursing, knew about the deliberation concerning the program. She said, “The timing did surprise me, but the actual decision did not, and I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision. The timing is never good.”

Butler has been a part of the nursing program since its establishment in 1986 and is very proud of it. “Our program continues to provide quality educational experiences for our students and our graduates continue to be highly regarded by their employers. We’ve enjoyed a 25 year relationship with the Winfield community.”

Merriman concluded by saying, “It feels bad. I know that some of the students affected by this are very disappointed. This is causing some pain and no one likes causing pain, at least I don’t.”

Erin Morris is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at erin.morris@sckans.edu.

Edited by Alejandra Rojas

For campus perspectives visit http://scupdate.org/?p=7002 and http://scupdate.org/?p=6995.