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School of Nursing ranked number one in state by educational almanac

Western Carolina University’s bachelor of science in nursing prelicensure program has been ranked first in the state by the Nursing Schools Almanac research team, in part for achieving an almost perfect rate of graduates passing the National Council Licensure Examination, the standard licensure test for registered nurses, on their first attempt.

Nursing Schools Almanac cited the statistic as an “excellent benchmark for comparing the relative quality” of bachelor’s degree programs. Data analyzed from 2013 through 2019 showed WCU had a 98.5% first-time NCLEX pass rate. In recent years, WCU nursing graduates have had a 100% pass rate on their first attempt.

“It really is a great time to get into nursing – the current shortage means there is a lot of opportunity, particularly in specialties that were often hard to break into, such as intensive care and labor and delivery,” said Terrica Durbin, director of WCU’s School of Nursing and an associate professor.

“Currently, every graduate who wants a job has one, and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future,” she said. “And don’t get me started on the tremendous need for nursing care in rural communities – here at WCU we have long been a part of the solution to that problem, and we do that by producing exceptional nurses.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational outlook for registered nurses is 9% growth through 2030, with about 194,500 openings projected each year, on average, over the decade.

“Having worked at highly-ranked private and public universities across the country, I have been struck by how special the WCU learning environment is, particularly in the School of Nursing,” said Debra Penberthy, director of student services for the School of Nursing. “Our nursing programs are highly affordable, the faculty are tremendously supportive and the learning environments here in Cullowhee and at Biltmore Park are conducive to intense focus and a lower stress level than in larger urban centers.

“We have amazing students and we create a situation in which they can do their best work and become the best possible nurses. We also have multiple pathways to becoming a BSN, which allow students who have families and need to work to access this incredible career field.”

Some 600 nursing students are currently enrolled in the many undergraduate and graduate programs and degree options offered online, on the Cullowhee campus and at the Biltmore Park instructional site in Asheville.

For more information on School of Nursing opportunities, visit

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