Over the past year, there has been a recurring narrative unfairly demonizing private sector colleges and universities in the United States. It suggests that these schools operate only to benefit themselves and their bottom lines. Student success, according to this account, is irrelevant.
But I have a counter narrative that actually has a basis in reality: my personal experience as a nursing student at the private sector institution, Harrison College in Indiana.
As a parent and part-time working adult – I was 53 when I began classes – I needed to get the required training in an efficient and timely manner. Additionally, I needed a guarantee that, if accepted into the school, I would actually see the inside of a nursing classroom. The unfortunate truth is that too many public and private institutions admit more students than their specific career programs can absorb.
At Harrison, this was never a problem because the college only accepted the allotted number of nursing students to fit the program. There was a guaranteed track, and after 21 months, I would complete my course and clinical work prepared to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX).
In fact, when we arrived at the beginning of the course term, the nursing school dean informed us that the school had a rigorous screening process to ensure that only those capable of success would be admitted into the program. As long as we worked hard, kept up with our course work, and followed the guidance of our instructors and college administrators, we would succeed.
Harrison went above and beyond to prepare us for the NCLEX test, pushing us every step of the way to succeed. And succeed we did: As the first class where NCLEX training courses were mandatory, 100 percent of us passed. The result is illustrative of the school’s commitment to its students’ success.
Most importantly, the nursing faculty, from the dean on down, was always genuinely supportive. I knew every instructor was on my side, had my back, and did everything they could to ensure my success.
Career colleges and universities have been criticized for handing out large amounts of financial aid but failing in students’ employment rates upon graduation. But according to the school’s literature, 93 percent of students receive some form of financial assistance and nearly 92 percent of students gain employment within a year of graduation.
In my mind, this is a model for all other institutions. Students requiring financial assistance to advance their training and attain a college degree should have the option to pursue their goals, despite the cost. But it is incumbent on the student and the school to ensure the highest possible success rate.
Additionally, all institutions of higher learning – not just private sector colleges – must take responsibility for the training and the growth of its students. At Harrison, the nursing school and the college as a whole have achieved these admirable and necessary goals.
As I prepare to begin my new career in nursing, I am confident that my ability to think critically, to solve problems, and to always see the broader picture when treating a patient will prove invaluable. Now we must all see the broader picture when it comes to career colleges and universities, and realize the value they provide, especially to Americans like me.