Mount Mary College, Columbia College of Nursing end exclusive partnership

By NASTASSIA PUTZ

Photo by JILL WINTERS

Columbia College of Nursing now welcomes students from all institutions. According to CCON Dean and CEO Jill Winters, the change was implemented and signed this past summer in an effort to boost CCON’s enrollment.

CCON’s joint program with Mount Mary, which was established in 2002, will continue. However, the structure and administration has changed.

Under the original partnership, all nursing students — including students transferring from other institutions — would take at least 16 core liberal arts and science credits at Mount Mary prior to attending CCON.

Students also received their financial aid and scholarships directly from Mount Mary, even after they entered the nursing program at CCON.

Now, students who complete their pre-nursing coursework at other institutions can apply directly to CCON.

Mount Mary students will continue to receive financial aid from Mount Mary during their pre-nursing coursework; however, CCON will administer and award financial aid during the two years that students attend there.

Even though CCON is now drawing from a larger pool of candidates, Winters said that competition for nursing slots will not be more competitive.

“We still have a partnership with Mount Mary where we do give a joint bachelor of science and nursing degree to students that come through Mount Mary,” Winters said.

According to Winters, CCON became an independent degree-conferring institution on Feb. 25, 2011. The new affiliation agreement between Mount Mary and CCON was signed on June 29 and implemented on July 1. Many students were not aware of this change until classes began this fall.

Jeremy Ross, a pre-nursing student from Mount Mary and transfer from MATC, who will attend CCON this spring, said he received conflicting information from the various departments here on campus.

“There is not a clear consensus here of what’s happening. And that’s between the different departments telling me different things. One department would tell me I’m grandfathered into the old system and another department would tell me I am cut.”

Ross said he experienced a whirlwind of information this fall from one department telling him his scholarship from Mount Mary for CCON will be honored this spring, to now being told the opposite. “I am not the only student experiencing this. A few students here don’t have a really good idea of what is happening,” Ross said.

Winters is aware of the frustration of current students and said, “Change is difficult when you come in expecting one thing and things change. The students didn’t know that all their financial aid was going to be taken care of by us starting in the fall.” CCON is now in the process of “addressing all concerns.”

As a standard admit, Ross will now be under the new program even though he applied last spring, prior to the recent changes.

For the fall 2011 semester, students who received scholarships from Mount Mary will be able to use them. But as of spring, students who are ready to transfer to CCON will need to apply for scholarships and financial aid directly through CCON.

“We honored all of the scholarships Mount Mary had offered students prior to this semester; however, beginning next semester they will be under our scholarship program,” Winters said.

Winters not only recognizes the new financial benefits of this change for CCON but believes this tremendously benefits transfer students in obtaining their goals. “With the [previous] partnership, they were required to take at least 16 credits of core at Mount Mary and [now] if they already meet our admission requirements, they can start their courses sooner, graduate sooner and it costs them less money, obviously.”

Will Mount Mary’s enrollment numbers at CCON change because of this new open-door policy? There are 152 (out of 158) students from Mount Mary currently enrolled in the CCON program. CCON’s goal is to enroll 180 to 240 students per year, which will also include qualified transfer students from other schools.

Mount Mary President Eileen Schwalbach doesn’t believe the college will be affected. “There are first year and transfer students who are directly admitted into the nursing major and that really is an advantage for students. For example, if you go to UWM you don’t get admitted into the major until your junior year,” Schwalbach said.

Mount Mary and CCON offer 25 slots each semester for direct admission into the nursing program for Mount Mary students. This is based on GPA and other specific criterion that can be found on Mount Mary’s and Columbia’s websites.

If students are not accepted but are still eligible for the program, they can reapply. When students are directly admitted, they are given conditional acceptance, which is also dependent upon available space. So if a student is not eligible for nursing, transferring to a different major is advised.

In light of all the confusion that has surfaced due to these changes, Ross still plans to pursue his goal to become a nurse. However, “If I didn’t get the scholarship money here [at Mount Mary], I wouldn’t have come here,” Ross explained.

“For them to tell me that there’s this change and the scholarship money is going to be gone…it’s damaging,” Ross said.

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