Impact of ACA on Nursing Degree Volume

March 11, 2014 Digital Media Solutions

Nursing Program Volume Trending - Graduate DegreesLast week, I read an article and then heard a news report on the radio about online degrees with increasing demand – specifically advanced nursing programs. Being the numbers person I am, I wanted to take a look at our database and see if I could quantify this trend.

The increased demand for online nursing degrees is based on increased need for healthcare due to the Affordable Care Act and the growing propensity for nurse practitioners to take the lead on primary care. Because nurse practitioners are paid less than doctors, medical clinics are solving their balance sheet challenges by putting nurses in charge. According to Tine Hansen-Turton, CEO of the National Nursing Centers Consortium, we currently have 500 nurse-run clinics in the U.S., with expectations of many more.

So what does this mean for online education? I did a little digging to find out if we are beginning to see an increase in inquiry volume for masters and higher degree-level offerings of nursing programs and whether or not this trend is more pronounced for online schools. Based on what we saw in 2013, and especially at the beginning of 2104, it definitely looks like schools are beginning to realize this growing demand for healthcare as students respond to the need by returning to school. Moreover, the bulk of the increased demand seems to be occurring for online schools – likely driven by the fact that higher-level degrees require some level of current nursing training and thus are likely used as career ladders by nurses already working full time.

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • While average industry inquiry volume is down 20 percent from January 2013 to January 2014, masters- and doctorate-level nursing programs experienced a huge spike of demand in January 2014, with YOY volume increasing by 33.26 percent.
  • Online nursing programs (at the masters level and higher) saw the greatest increase – with January 2014 volume up 38.5 percent YOY.
  • Conversion rates (to application, enroll or start) for these programs is very strong – averaging 5.75 percent.
  • Demand is highest for the following programs: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Master of Science in Nursing and RN-to-MSN bridge programs. Demand for tangential concentrations, such as leadership, health care education, nursing education and adult/family practitioner, has also been stable (against industry-wide drops) or on the rise.

Given the anticipated growth impetus the Affordable Care Act is providing for nurses with high-level degrees – as well as the need for people to train these nurses – it’s very likely this demand will continue to grow as those working as registered nurses seek to move up and gain more professional independence. Likewise, although the inquiry volume for these higher-level nursing programs is a small fraction of what we see for lower-level programs, the increasing demand is likely to increase the supply of high-level degree programs that offer the flexibility needed by nurses already working full time.

Big picture, this reinforces what we all know: education demand is based on career demand. Programs based on employment demands of yesterday will continue to falter in the months and years ahead. Conversely, schools that adapt to our current environment – and build programs to match the skills needed by today’s workforce – will be on the path to long-term success.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS) is an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients win in their business ventures and realize their marketing goals. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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