Top Nursing Schools Expert Advice on Finding, Selecting, and Getting into the Best Nursing Program

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From certificate programs to doctoral degrees and vocational schools to private universities, future nursing students have numerous options when it comes to education and training. But where do you start? The perfect school for an aspiring midwife could be a poor choice for an RN looking to earn a master’s. The following guide serves as a first step, both for students looking to enter the field and for current nurses who wish advance their careers. Read on for a comprehensive breakdown of nursing programs, expert advice and strategies on how to get into a top nursing school, and key insight on and the application process from an administrator in the know.

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Top Nursing Schools: Best 2 Year, 4 Year Programs


To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:

  • Accredited at the institutional level
  • Specialized accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Private nonprofit or public school
  • Minimum of 1 bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area for 4-year schools
  • Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools

Schools were then scored on factors such as:

  • Average NCLEX pass rate of graduating students
  • Cost & Financial Aid
  • Number and variety of program offerings
  • Student-teacher ratios
  • Graduation rates
  • Placement and support services offered
  • Academic/Career counseling services
  • Employment services
  • Loan default rates

These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

Finding the right college and program is an important step for all potential students – especially those interested in pursuing a career in nursing. A good on-campus program will offer the student supportive services, flexible learning options, advanced tech and a top-rated education. The programs listed below have been tested against our specific methodology and have come out on top as the best-of-the-best for their on-campus nursing options. Discover who made the list for Best in Nursing below.

1. Linfield College

Chartered in 1858, Linfield operates a main campus in McMinnville, Oregon, and a nationally renowned nursing school in Portland. Linfield established its Good Samaritan School of Nursing in 1982 as a component of the Good Samaritan Hospital — an institution in Oregon since 1873. Today, in conjunction with Legacy Health System, Linfield offers programs accredited through the Oregon State Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The School of Nursing offers its online RN-to-BSN program through a partnership with Linfield's Online and Continuing Education Department. Students begin their studies at Linfield with a transition to professional nursing course. The college uses a generous transfer policy for students with prior experience, with no expiration of course credits.

Students enrolled in the online RN-to-BSN program at Linfield must complete an integrated experiential learning course during the fourth (and final) semester of the program. Candidates must arrange their clinical placement with a service learning coordinator during their third (penultimate) semester. Online students may complete the service learning requirement locally or through Linfield's international service learning program.

Applicants currently enrolled in a community college in Oregon may benefit from Linfield's co-admission partnership agreements with local institutions. Linfield charges a per-credit rate for online tuition. The college also offers discounts to Legacy Health members and specific scholarships for students enrolled in its RN-to-BSN program online. Linfield is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

2. Northeastern University

One of three professional divisions comprising Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern, the nursing school offers bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and continuing education programs. The school maintains partnerships with healthcare institutions in the communities surrounding its campus in Burlington, Massachusetts, to provide immersive clinical options for nursing students.

Northeastern's online RN-to-BSN degree requires students to complete a combination of advanced nursing core coursework and residency credits, emphasizing professional skills in communication, ethics, and pathophysiology. All nursing students at Northeastern must also complete a community or public health practicum under the supervision of a nurse leader.

This online nursing degree requires students to complete 45 credits at Northeastern, as well as a 72-hour clinical experience. The program runs on a hybrid model. Students may enroll full or part time, completing their degree in one or two years. Applicants must hold an active RN license, a regionally accredited associate degree, and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Additionally, the program requires applicants to complete prerequisites and bring in at least 83 transfer credits.

Northeastern also offers an accelerated BSN degree option online. The university charges tuition per credit, depending on which of these programs a student pursues. Northeastern is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Its School of Nursing delivers programs approved by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing and it is also accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

3. University of Rochester

In 1925, the University of Rochester became one of the first schools in the nation to offer a nursing diploma. The school still incorporates its original model into its nursing programs, emphasizing the correlation between nursing research, practice, and education. Rochester's community healthcare partnerships and generous financial aid packages contribute to its ranking among the best nursing schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Rochester offers an online RN-to-BSN that is in full compliance with New York's "B.S. in 10" law, which requires nurses to obtain a bachelor's degree within 10 years of receiving initial licensure in the field. This online nursing degree comprises major-related coursework, as well as arts and sciences classes. Students complete one modular course at a time, with full-time students graduating in four years.

Upon admission into the online RN-to-BSN program, students can automatically apply 32 transfer credits based on prior nursing major coursework. Applicants may transfer in a maximum of 96 credits based on prior learning, enabling some online students to graduate in 16 months. Distance learners must complete a capstone course to conclude the program.

Students receive an iPad once they begin taking core nursing courses online. The university offers multiple financial aid options, including scholarships, employee discounts, and regional merit awards. The program provides an average tuition assistance rate of 50-55%. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis, with program start dates in September, January, and May. Nursing programs at the University of Rochester hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

4. Sacred Heart University

As New England's second-largest Catholic-affiliated university, Sacred Heart provides liberal arts programs that embrace education and spirituality. All academic programs incorporate The Human Journey — Sacred Heart's signature core curriculum.

The RN-to-BSN track at Sacred Heart prepares graduates to meet education requirements for entry-level nursing jobs. The curriculum for this online nursing degree includes a combination of nursing major, liberal arts, natural science, and elective requirements. Students must also complete a Catholic intellectual tradition seminar.

Applicants must meet prerequisites and have an RN license, an associate degree or nursing diploma, and a minimum GPA of 2.5. Additionally, students must submit a resume, a professional statement, and two letters of recommendation. They must also complete a background check. Applicants may transfer in up to 90 credits, including 30 credits of lower-division undergraduate nursing coursework. Students who graduated before 1986 may also have the opportunity to apply 30 credits from an associate degree toward their online RN-to-BSN degree.

Students complete all coursework asynchronously. The program offers six start dates throughout the year. The university maintains small class sizes for personalized instruction in its online courses. The nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

5. Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac's nursing school offers the only program in New England — and one of only 12 in the U.S. — that holds an endorsement from the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. The nursing school promotes a collaborative approach to clinical practice, incorporating interdisciplinary healthcare coursework through the Center for Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences.

Students must complete nursing core and elective courses to earn their online RN-to-BSN. The online nursing degree curriculum emphasizes contemporary issues, research, evidence-based practice, and diversity. The program delivers all of its coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system.

Students applying to Quinnipiac may transfer in up to 88 credits from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must hold an RN license in good standing and an associate degree or nursing diploma from a regionally accredited school. Additionally, applicants need a minimum 2.7 GPA. Quinnipiac accepts applications on a rolling basis and enrolls students in the fall and spring semesters.

Quinnipiac offers an online orientation to introduce distance learners to resources such as its library, financial aid services, and technology support. The university charges the same per-credit tuition rate for online coursework, regardless of a student's state of residence. Quinnipiac's nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

6. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Choosing from Massachusetts campuses in Boston and Worcester, as well as an additional location in Manchester, New Hampshire, MCPHS students can gain access to some of the best healthcare facilities in New England. The college operates five clinics for nursing and medical students, enabling learners to gain hands-on experience in their field of expertise. During an average year, nursing students enrolled on campus and online treat more than 22,000 patients in Manchester and Worcester.

Students must complete a total of 122 credits, including professional nursing and general education coursework, to earn their online RN-to-BSN degree. The online nursing degree curriculum also requires 135 clinical hours. Students conclude the program with a capstone project exploring leadership in the nursing profession.

The program awards qualified first-year students up to 42 credits for prerequisite coursework and 25 credits for a completed associate-level nursing degree. MCPHS charges per-credit tuition rates based on a typical course load of 12-18 credits during the fall and spring semesters; students enrolling in less than 12 or more than 18 credits during these terms may pay more per credit.

Students enroll in this online RN-to-BSN program in the summer term, and the program requires an initial orientation on campus. After that, courses are delivered entirely online. The college maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-1, with 90% of full-time faculty holding terminal degrees. MCPHS students can talk to college mentors, coaches, and advisors.

7. Labouré College

Established in 1892 in Milton, Massachusetts, Labouré focuses on providing nursing and healthcare programs in the Catholic tradition. Labouré is the longest-running education institution for nurses in the Boston area. It also qualifies as one of the most affordable nursing schools in Massachusetts.

The online RN-to-BSN program at Labouré uses an accelerated format, with each semester split into two seven-week sessions. The curriculum combines nursing-specific classes with general education coursework, culminating in an integrative seminar and a senior capstone. Topics explore professional nursing, evidence-based practice, and leadership and management in healthcare. Students pay the same flat rate for all RN-to-BSN courses.

Applicants must submit all official college transcripts with their application and hold a current RN license. Non-licensed applicants may qualify for conditional admission if they receive specific permission from the program chairperson. Students can enroll at one of six entry points. Learners who bring in ample transfer credits may graduate within four semesters. The program accepts a maximum of 90 transfer credits.

Labouré's online nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students complete coursework online by participating in discussion boards and live virtual meetings with peers and instructors. The college maintains multiple support resources, including academic tutoring and coaching, career services, and technology tools. The Student Success Center also assists students with disabilities.

8. The Catholic University of America

Beginning operations in 1932, the Conway School of Nursing at the Catholic University of America offered the nation's first professional coursework in nursing education. Today, the university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in nursing online and on campus in Washington, D.C.

The school's RN-to-BSN program follows a traditional format, enabling students to complete primary elements of the degree online. The curriculum includes classes in the arts and sciences, nursing, and electives. Courses explore evidence-based care, transition to professional practice, and management of healthcare delivery. Students may complete an optional practicum in complex nursing.

Aspiring BSN students accepted to the Conway School of Nursing must complete 60 credits through the Nursing Exploratory Program, after which they can apply for admission into the upper-division BSN track. Students must earn a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, meet chemistry and biology prerequisites, and earn a minimum composite score of at least 75% on the HESI entrance exam during the fall semester of their sophomore year.

Students who choose to enroll part time may extend their degree completion timeline beyond four years. The program accepts a maximum of 12 completed college transfer credits. The Catholic University of America's nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

9. New England Institute of Technology

One of the most prestigious technical universities in Rhode Island and southeastern New England, NEIT enrolls more than 3,000 students in more than 50 programs on campus and online.

NEIT's online RN-to-BSN track includes 67 quarter credits and caters primarily to students with prior experience, allowing learners to transfer in both general education and nursing credits. This online nursing degree culminates in a leadership and management course and a capstone practicum experience. In coordination with a faculty advisor, students may select a practicum site and preceptor of their choice.

Depending on their number of transferable credits, some distance learners can complete the program within three years. Applicants must hold an associate-level nursing degree or diploma with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.77. They must also earn a minimum grade of "C+" in certain biology, psychology, sociology, and English prerequisite courses. Applicants must also maintain current, unencumbered nursing licensure and demonstrate academic eligibility for the NCLEX-RN exam.

Students complete the majority of program coursework entirely online. Distance learners can access 24/7 technology support; career services; and the Academic Skills Center, which provides tutoring, coaching, and enrichment courses. NEIT charges all students the same per-credit tuition rate for RN-to-BSN courses, no matter where they live.

10. Loyola University of Chicago

When it opened its doors in 1935, the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola became the first collegiate nursing facility in Illinois. The school now offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in nursing. Loyola also features specialized programs for aspiring dieticians, as well as degrees in exercise science and health systems management.

Loyola's online RN-to-BSN degree completion program provides a fast track to a professional nursing career. This online nursing degree includes a combination of nursing, universal core, and professional nursing e-portfolio coursework. Applicants can bring in up to 66 transfer credits with them when they enroll, though they must complete at least 30 credits through Loyola's nursing school.

Students may enroll in part-time or full-time study. Full-time students with significant transfer credit can graduate in one year. Each online course lasts 6-8 weeks, and many students graduate in three years. Applicants must have an active nursing license and a GPA of at least 2.5.

Students complete courses asynchronously through the Sakai learning management system. Loyola encourages distance learners to attend one of its monthly online orientation sessions through the Zoom platform. Distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of their state of residence. Loyola accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers fall, spring, and summer start dates.

11. Endicott College

Endicott operates a main campus in Beverly, Massachusetts, and more than 20 academic sites across New England. In its early years, Endicott helped pioneer women's rights in higher education and the workplace. Since graduating its inaugural class in 1941, Endicott has become a coeducational facility, expanding its offerings to include more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs.

Endicott features a hybrid RN-to-BSN program that blends evening face-to-face classes with online coursework. Students must accrue a total of 126-128 credits to earn their nursing degree. The curriculum explores interdisciplinary topics including nursing, biology, psychology, and statistics, culminating in a nursing internship, a seminar, and a two-part senior thesis requirement. Students must also complete a semester-long clinical practicum during their senior year.

Applicants must have a combined score of at least 1150 on the SAT or a composite score of at least 24 on the ACT. Additionally, applicants should hold a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Prospective students should apply by the deadline to ensure their spot in the program, though Endicott may accept additional students throughout the year as space allows.

Students complete asynchronous online courses through the Canvas learning management system. RN-to-BSN students can join Endicott's resident chapters of the Student Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau — the international honor society of nursing. Endicott's nursing programs hold accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

12. Drexel University

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel helped pioneer distance education and was one of the first universities in the U.S. to offer a fully online degree. A provider of higher education programs for more than 125 years, Drexel began incorporating online learning in 1996. Today, students can choose from 140 certificates and accelerated professional degree programs in more than 25 academic disciplines.

Drexel's hybrid RN-to-BSN track emphasizes both evidence-based and experiential learning models. Students must earn a total of 180 quarter credits to graduate from the RN-to-BSN program; however, the program allows students to apply up to 130 quarter credits based on previous experience. Transfer students can complete remaining core nursing coursework in just 12 months.

Students pursuing this nursing degree explore core nursing concepts, along with sociology, science, psychology, and statistics. The curriculum also includes an emphasis on communication in healthcare. Students take a transformational leadership course through Drexel's Global Classroom in collaboration with other students around the world. The RN-to-BSN track culminates in a senior nursing capstone requirement.

Nursing programs at Drexel hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Drexel offers online "test drives" throughout the year, allowing prospective distance learners to familiarize themselves with the virtual learning environment. The university charges distance students a fixed tuition rate, regardless of their state of residence.

13. University of Portland

Established in 1901 in Oregon, UP's location near the Willamette River inspired its nickname, "The Bluff." The university offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs and over 1,300 courses in the tradition of the Catholic Congregation of Holy Cross. UP serves more than 4,000 students and hosts numerous Carnegie and Fulbright scholars.

The university's hybrid RN-to-BSN degree completion program consists of 66 credits. Students must complete a combination of core and nursing major requirements, exploring topics such as policy and leadership, interdisciplinary care management, and evidence-based nursing practice. Prerequisites for this online nursing degree include a core course in the theological dimensions of suffering and death. All students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Applicants must hold an RN license upon entrance to the program or obtain one by the start of their second semester. Additionally, prospective students should hold an associate degree in nursing. Transfer students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission.

Students enrolled in the hybrid RN-to-BSN program at UP complete asynchronous courses through the Moodle learning management system. The university's distance learning resources include a tech support portal, academic tutoring and counseling services, and an online writing lab. The school's nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

14. Pace University

Operating campuses in New York City and Westchester, New York, Pace administers one of the largest internship programs in the New York City area. The university encompasses six major academic areas, delivering nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate options.

Pace offers an online nursing degree through its College of Health Professions. Most students complete this accelerated degree completion program in two years, though students with ample experience can complete the degree in 12 months. Online RN-to-BSN curriculum requirements include nursing core, arts and sciences, and elective classes.

Applicants must hold an RN license or qualify for the NCLEX-RN exam within two semesters of acceptance into the program. Additionally, students must hold an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma and a minimum GPA of 2.75. They must also submit a professional resume and official college transcripts. Pace does not require applicants to take an entrance exam or keep a waitlist. The university immediately admits students who meet entrance requirements.

Students complete courses asynchronously through Blackboard. Pace offers an online orientation for new students to help them gain familiarity with the virtual classroom. Most distance courses last 15 weeks, with students typically spending 9-12 hours per week on each course. Resources for online students include an IT help desk, tutoring and counseling services, library access, and disability assistance.

15. Pennsylvania State University

A pioneer in distance learning, Penn State World Campus launched in 1998. The university serves more than 100,000 students and offers over 150 programs online. Penn State offers its online RN-to-BSN in an accelerated format. Students complete 120 credits of program, major, and general education requirements, culminating in a clinical experience. Through elective courses, students can customize their studies with seminars in forensic nursing or nursing management and advanced coursework in healthcare informatics, data management, and clinical care.

Applicants must have an RN license to qualify for admission. Additionally, students need to submit official high school transcripts or a GED certificate with their application. Transfer students must complete at least 36 of their final 60 credits at Penn State. Each accelerated course lasts for 7.5 weeks. The program offers start dates in the fall, spring, and summer.

Students complete courses through the Canvas learning management system. Penn State World Campus offers comprehensive support services, including 24/7 technical assistance, tutoring and advising options, and career counseling. The online RN-to-BSN program at Penn State holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

16. Salve Regina University

Founded in 1934 by the Sisters of Mercy, Salve Regina delivers programs in the Catholic tradition at its Rhode Island campus and online. The university enrolls nearly 2,700 students and offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, including an online nursing program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Students pursuing an online RN-to-BSN in nursing at Salve Regina must earn a total of 128 credits. Upon admission, students automatically earn 58 credits for prior registered nursing experience. The program requires students to complete a combination of advanced nursing, co-requisite, and general education coursework, culminating in a nursing capstone. Additionally, students must complete a university seminar course.

Applicants should hold an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma, provide official transcripts, submit a nursing license, and possess a minimum 2.7 GPA. Salve Regina reviews credits for potential transfer on a case-by-case basis; however, all students must complete a minimum of 30 credits in residence to graduate from the RN-to-BSN program.

Full-time students with transfer credits can finish the program in one year. Students may choose from one of six flexible start dates throughout the year. The university offers preferred rates and further discounts to members of the military, veterans, and their families.

17. University of Virginia

Located in Charlottesville, UVA's School of Nursing enrolls nearly 800 students and offers four distinctive nursing degrees, including traditional and hybrid RN-to-BSN options. Nursing programs at UVA hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

UVA's RN-to-BSN track takes the form of a two-year, part-time hybrid program. Students complete the majority of courses online, convening on campus once a month for mandatory in-person sessions.

Applicants to the RN-to-BSN pathway program should hold an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma. Prospective nursing students who do not hold an RN license must achieve licensure by the time they begin RN-to-BSN coursework. UVA charges higher out-of-state tuition rates; however, the university offers need-based financial aid options to those who qualify.

Students can access courses and distance learning resources through UVA's SIS and Collab microsites. The university's comprehensive interactive networks offer technical help, tutoring, math and writing labs, and virtual library access. Students interested in earning this partially online nursing degree can apply to enroll in the fall semester. Participants can explore study abroad opportunities through UVA's Center for International Studies and the Center for Global Health.

18. Michigan State University

With an inaugural class of 17 students in 1950, the College of Nursing at MSU remains at its East Lansing location. The college is committed to providing nursing programs that combine research, teaching, and service. The College of Nursing features multiple BSN pathways, MSN concentrations, and doctoral degrees, all of which are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The online RN-to-BSN program at MSU requires participants to earn a total of 120 credits. Students may transfer in as many as 60 credits based on associate-level experience and earn 30 credits automatically for passing the NCLEX exam and/or holding an RN license. The remainder of the online nursing degree consists of 32 credits in nursing and leadership skills, culminating in a three-part integrative seminar course.

Distance learners must also complete 117 clinical hours to earn their BSN degree. Students work under the supervision of a preceptor in nursing leadership and take courses in community and population health nursing. Learners may only enroll part time, with most students completing the five-semester program within 18 months. Applicants must hold an RN license and an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 to qualify for admission.

Students complete RN-to-BSN coursework through the D2L platform. MSU's distance learning resources include technical support, test proctoring services, and online library access. While the university charges tuition based on a student's state of residence, all military service members, veterans, and their families pay in-state tuition. MSU also offers an annual scholarship tailored to nursing students.

19. Belmont University

Located two miles from downtown Nashville, Tennessee, Belmont features a scenic campus and an enrollment of more than 8,000 learners. The university encompasses 12 academic colleges and departments, each offering Christian learning and service programs. Belmont's School of Nursing offers BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees, and learners can choose from traditional, accelerated, and hybrid options. All nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The online RN-to-BSN degree at Belmont requires students to earn a minimum of 128 credits, including up to 30 credits automatically applied for previous associate-level or nursing diploma coursework. The hybrid RN-to-BSN track is suitable for students who have at least 64 transferable college credits, though students must complete the final 32 credits of their degree at Belmont. The program offers start dates in the fall and summer.

Prospective RN-to-BSN students must submit official transcripts, a personal essay, and a recommendation with their application. Belmont charges a fixed, per-credit tuition rate to all distance students, regardless of their state of residence.

Students complete courses online and asynchronously through the Blackboard Learn platform. Learners can also access courses and an online student portal through the university's mobile app. Resources for distance learners include academic advising; math, writing, and language learning centers; and online library access.

20. Widener University

Founded in 1821 as an all-male institution, Widener now offers coeducational programs, including six degrees available online. Nationally recognized for community engagement by the Carnegie Foundation, Widener also earned the National League for Nursing Center of Excellence Award for 2017-2022. Nursing programs at Widener hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Widener's online RN-to-BSN track offers an accelerated program option, allowing students who have completed 59 credits of prerequisites to graduate in one year. Distance learners can also automatically apply 33 transfer credits toward their BSN degree based on previous nursing coursework. The program does not require a clinical or on-site practicum.

This online nursing degree follows the curricular framework set by the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. Coursework emphasizes project-based methods and service learning opportunities. Students interested in enrolling in the fully online RN-to-BSN program should hold an RN license and an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma from a regionally accredited university with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Widener assigns a personal student services coordinator to each learner upon enrollment. Distance learners can also access a new student orientation course online as early as four weeks before starting their program. The university delivers courses asynchronously. Resources for online learners include 24/7 technology support, career services, and financial aid advising.

21. Adelphi University

Founded in the 1940s in Garden City, New York, Adelphi's College of Nursing and Public Health offers multiple undergraduate and graduate programs. The college emphasizes the importance of delivery, practice, innovation, and efficiency in its nursing programs. In addition to educating students in Garden City, Adelphi's nursing and public health school serves more than 2,000 students at a Hudson Valley location and online.

Adelphi's hybrid RN-to-BSN degree covers topics like community and global health, evidence-based nursing practice, and health assessment throughout the lifespan. Students may apply up to 34 credits based on previous study through associate-level coursework or by taking a placement exam in adult nursing, maternal and child nursing, or psychiatric mental health nursing.

Applicants should hold a New York nursing license and possess a minimum 3.0 GPA to qualify for admission. Additionally, students must complete prerequisites in math, science, and nursing theory to qualify for this nursing program.

Students complete the majority of the program's required courses online or through blended learning, with a few classes offered on campus. The university groups students into cohorts, and nursing students move through the RN-to-BSN track together for the duration of the program. Distance learners complete courses through Moodle and have access to support services like tutoring, career counseling, library access, and an IT help desk.

22. Long Island University

A branch of Long Island University, LIU Post occupies a 329-acre estate on Long Island's North Shore. LIU Post's School of Health Professions and Nursing features 16 programs that emphasize interdisciplinary curricula, professional collaboration, patient-centered care, and technology integration. These nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Students pursuing LIU Post's BS in nursing must complete a sequence of college core, co-related, and nursing major courses. The program focuses on contemporary nursing skills for the workplace, including high-fidelity simulations and electronic patient records systems. Students thoroughly examine evidence-based practice, nursing management, and the transition into professional practice for licensed nurses.

Applicants with less than 24 completed college credits must score at least 1050 on the SAT or 20 on the ACT and submit high school transcripts for consideration. Transfer students with more than 24 college credits must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Transfer applicants must also provide official college transcripts and two letters of professional recommendation.

Student support services include academic advising, library access, and test proctoring services.

23. Emmanuel College

New England's first Catholic-affiliated women's college, Emmanuel opened in 1919 thanks to the efforts of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The college enrolls about 2,200 students and offers more than 60 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs at its Boston location and online. Emmanuel features nursing programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, including a fully online RN-to-BSN degree.

This online nursing degree features nursing major and prerequisite courses, with subsections in scientific inquiry, social analysis, and general studies. The program culminates in a health promotion capstone practicum requirement. Students can transfer in as many as 96 credits based on previous coursework toward their online RN-to-BSN, including 40 credits that are automatically applied based on an associate degree in nursing.

Students complete all courses online in an accelerated format, enabling some learners to graduate in 16 months. The program provides access to practicum opportunities at numerous medical facilities, including Boston's Longwood Medical Area. Students may also opt to complete their practicum in Italy through an international immersion experience.

Applicants must hold a current nursing license and provide official college transcripts for consideration. Prospective students must submit a resume, an essay, and two professional recommendations and sit for an entrance interview. Prospective RN-to-BSN students may apply to begin classes in the fall or spring and enroll as full-time, part-time, or non-matriculated learners.

24. Rider University

Founded in 1865, Rider operates campuses in Princeton and Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The school enrolls more than 5,000 students from around the world. Rider offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs across eight fields of study. Students may choose from 12 online bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and certificates, including an online RN-to-BSN track that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Rider's online RN-to-BSN curriculum includes core, nursing major, and elective courses. The program incorporates clinical practice into its online curriculum, eliminating the need for separate clinical immersions; however, this online nursing degree does culminate in a capstone in evidence-based microsystem practice change, which students typically complete in a healthcare setting.

Students complete each seven-week course in an accelerated format online. Applicants must hold a current, unrestricted RN license and a nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing from an accredited institution. They must also submit official transcripts demonstrating a minimum GPA of 2.5 and undergo a background check. Rider welcomes prospective students to "test drive" an online course in the RN-to-BSN program.

Admitted students can enroll in Rider's self-paced online orientation course. Distance learners complete all coursework through the Canvas learning management system. The university offers various support services, including free tutoring, career development, and student accessibility and disability services. Rider accepts applications on a rolling basis, and students can begin the online RN-to-BSN program in the fall or spring.

25. Monmouth University

Based in West Long Branch, New Jersey, Monmouth is located just one mile from the Atlantic Ocean and about one hour from both New York City and Philadelphia. The school boasts a 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio and oversees eight departments and schools, including its School of Nursing and Health Studies.

The nursing school at Monmouth offers a variety of programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels. Among these is an on-campus RN-to-BSN track that targets students who already hold an associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing. This program works to prepare registered nurses for advanced roles in the field by teaching students to act as independent, responsible practitioners who are accountable to their patients.

To graduate, students must complete a combination of general education requirements, lower-division nursing classes, interdisciplinary requirements, and major nursing requirements. Students who hold a valid associate degree or nursing diploma meet their lower-division nursing requirements. Upper-level major coursework features classes that cover issues and trends in professional nursing, research methods in nursing, and a community health nursing lab.

Learners may attend on a part-time or full-time basis, and many classes are offered in the evenings to accommodate working nurses. Students can access a variety of services, including academic advising, tutoring and writing helping, and resume tips. The school's RN-to-BSN track is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Nursing Programs

  • Online Nursing Degrees

    In an effort to address the nationwide nursing shortage, many nursing schools have expanded their educational options to offer online programs, making a nursing degree more attainable. This guide explores online programs and takes a closer look at an important question that many prospective students may be wondering: how clinical, hands-on experience works in a distance learning setting.

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  • Registered Nursing

    There are a number of ways to become a registered nurse. This guide dives into all the different options available to prospective students, from certificate programs to graduate degrees, and also provides some insight on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

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  • RN to BSN

    Bridge programs, such as RN to BSN programs, are a great way for nurses to not only use their current experience towards a four-year degree, but also enhance their skills and knowledge. Explore RN to BSN curricula and potential career paths post graduation.

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  • Accelerated Programs

    Accelerated nursing programs offer a fast track to licensure and employment. Learn about available program options, including specific degree paths, admission requirements, and curriculum. This guide also offers strategies on how to survive these fast-paced programs.

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  • Certified Nursing Midwife

    For nurses with an interest in prenatal health, childbirth and women’s care, a master’s degree in nurse midwifery can be the way to go. Explore this educational path and the certifications required to enter this nursing specialty.

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  • Forensic Nursing

    Nurses in this unique subsection of the field must learn the balance between collecting evidence for potential court cases and providing compassionate care for victims of assault, neglect and abuse. Learn how to become a successful nurse at the intersection of crime and medical care.

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  • Pediatric Nursing

    Working alongside pediatricians, nurses in this specialty promote the health and wellness of their patients from infancy through young adulthood. Explore the steps towards earning a certification in pediatric nursing and making a difference in the lives of young patients.

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  • Neonatal Nursing

    Neonatal nurses play a crucial role in the first line of medical care for newborns with birth defects or other health complications. After earning the required education, clinical experience and certification, these nurses are ready to provide critical care for infants in their first few months of life.

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  • Nurse Practitioner

    Nurse practitioners take their nursing skills and experience to the next level—and earning a graduate degree is an essential step. Explore degree options and potential specializations for this fast-growing nursing position.

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  • Nurse Practitioner Online

    For some aspiring nurse practitioners, taking time off work to further their education may not be an option. Learn how to balance work and study by earning an advanced nursing degree online.

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  • Nursing Scholarships & Financial Aid

    Nursing school costs - tuition, books, supplies and housing - can add up quickly. Explore nursing school financing options, such as scholarships, grants, and loans, and learn what the experts recommend.

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Nursing Resource Center

Men in Nursing

Women have long dominated the nursing profession, but more and more men are entering the field due to lucrative salaries, exciting career opportunities, and a desire to help others through quality patient care. Read this expert-written guide to get career advice and resources for men in nursing.

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Minorities in Nursing

With an increasingly diverse patient population, diversity in healthcare staff is of growing importance. Learn more about what schools and healthcare organizations are doing to increase diversity in the nursing world and get information on how to find success as a minority in nursing.

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Nursing Degree Paths

Nursing education is a broad topic, from the certification of nursing assistants to the rigorous graduate-level education of advanced practice nurses. There is also a range of programs to match many ages, skill levels, life experiences, and educational backgrounds. With so many options, however, choosing an academic path can be challenging. Review the most common nursing degrees available to get an idea of where to start.

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Certificates and Diplomas

A certificate or diploma program can lead to one of two careers – certified nursing assistant or licensed practice nurse (LPN)/licensed vocational nurse (LVN). A certified nursing assistant provides direct, but limited care to patients under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or LPN/LVN.

CNA certification programs range in length from 6 to 18 months, offering classroom instruction and considerable clinical training in patient care facilities such as nursing homes. These courses may be offered at vocational schools, community colleges, and other educational or training institutions. LPN/LVN certificate programs tend to be 12-18 months in length, generally focusing on the task-oriented aspects of nursing care.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The ADN is widely accepted as the entry-level degree for employment as a nurse in a hospital. Although there is now an industry-wide movement towards making the Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) the entry-level degree for all hospital-based nurses, the transition to this goal is a slow (yet likely inevitable) process.

Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing involves considerable prerequisite study, usually including algebra, chemistry, psychology, sociology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, English composition, and other humanities. Time to completion can vary between two to four years, depending on how many prerequisites a student must fulfill. ADN programs involve considerable classroom-based learning, as well as significant clinical hours in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other community settings.

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Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN)

BSN programs in nursing are offered at four-year colleges and universities. In order to earn the BSN, students pursue a more academically rigorous course of study than ADN students, with considerably broader training in the liberal arts.
Since they are taught at the university level, BSN programs provide deeper instruction in salient topics such as nursing leadership, nursing research, community health and community nursing, environmental health, and other aspects of 21st-century healthcare.

Nursing schools within four-year colleges and universities offer pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing programs for students with no previous nursing experience. These programs may also include students with no previous college experience. These pre-licensure programs prepare students to sit for the NCLEX exam. Other students may enter “Second Bachelors” programs wherein they pursue a BSN and nursing licensure after having already earned a baccalaureate degree in another discipline.

Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Programs offering a Masters of Science in Nursing provide specialized graduate education to nurses seeking to further their careers through advanced academic education and clinical training. For example, an MSN candidate may pursue education in order to qualify for a role as a nurse practitioner (including adult, pediatric, family, geriatric, or other specialization), certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, and certified nurse anesthetist.

Non-clinical masters-level job opportunities include nursing administration, nursing education, and related educational/leadership tracks.

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Doctorate in Nursing (PhD or DNP)

At the doctoral degree level, candidates may seek to earn the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) designation. While not yet mandated for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), the DNP is offered as a degree for APRNs seeking the highest possible level of clinical nursing education. As a terminal degree, the DNP educational track offers a depth of clinical education on par with that pursued by pharmacists, physicians, and other advanced healthcare providers. At some point in the near future, the DNP may be a mandated requirement for all APRNs.

In contrast, programs leading to a Doctorate in Nursing Science offer advanced non-clinical educational opportunities such as nursing and healthcare administration, nursing education, nursing research, and other paths of doctoral-level nursing scholarship.

Accelerated and Bridge Programs

Many schools offer accelerated (or “second-degree”) nursing programs, which are the quickest route to RN licensure for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. These programs tend to take about 11 to 18 months for baccalaureate programs and approximately three years for master’s degrees. Clinical hours in accelerated programs are the same as their traditional counterparts, but coursework builds on students’ previous learning experiences. Instruction is more fast-paced, with no breaks between sessions.

So-called nursing “bridge” programs provide licensed nurses who have already completed some nursing education further education in pursuit of advanced career and professional opportunities. Such programs are usually offered via strictly online formats, solely in the classroom setting, or as a hybrid program. Many bridge program students choose this educational pathway in order to maintain employment in their current nursing practice.

Nursing degree bridge programs can include:

  • LPN to RN
  • RN to BSN
  • BSN to MSN
  • LPN to BSN
  • RN to MSN
  • BSN to DNP
  • LPN to MSN
  • RN to DNP

Types of Nursing Schools

There are various types of nursing schools for aspiring and current nursing professionals. The following is a snapshot of what’s available to help prospective nursing students better understand their options and ultimately choose the path that matches their needs and goals.

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Type of School Description Type of nursing education offered Demographic/Who would enroll?
Vocational/Trade schools

Labor market preparation has historically been the goal of post-secondary vocational education.

Vocational and trade schools offer job-specific training and education programs. These schools offer the most efficient route to job-readiness with lower financial and/or time commitment.

Individual courses in practical nursing, as well as courses for nursing assistants. Many also offer certificate programs in nursing.

Students seeking an affordable education that will lead to relatively quick entry into nursing.

Community colleges

Community colleges offer 2-year programs and associate-level degree programs. In the 2-year model, students gain education, training, and a college degree in a shorter span than a four-year college, leading to faster entrance into the workforce.

Associate of Science in Nursing is the program of choice; some community colleges also offer vocational programs for individuals seeking certification as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Students seeking more in-depth education and training with less time and financial commitment than a four-year college or university. Many students use an associate degree from a community college as a stepping-stone to further nursing education at the university level.

Four-year colleges & universities

Four-year colleges and universities offer the highest level of academic pursuit and also the largest range of program options for nurses.

Bachelors of Science in Nursing, various Masters of Science in Nursing educational tracks, and doctoral studies in both clinical and non-clinical nursing. Many nursing programs also allow students to specialize.

Students seeking the benefit of deeper academic education in nursing in order to qualify for more advanced nursing roles.

Ten Things to Consider When Choosing a Nursing School

Choosing a nursing school is an important decision. You will be spending your hard-earned money on your nursing education – as well as a significant amount of your time – so making an informed and prudent decision is paramount.

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When researching nursing schools and programs, here are ten things prospective students should keep in mind:


If you plan to attend a brick and mortar school, seek an institution that offers a location that is convenient and practical for you; a shorter commute is generally favorable in terms of time and expense


Carefully assess the school’s availability of online programs – and the corresponding requirements – if that form of learning is important to you


Find a nursing school that has been properly accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and/or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which is the accrediting arm of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)


Ask the schools you’re seriously considering to supply you with the contact information of at least two former or current students who would be willing to talk with you about their educational experience


Ensure that the school offers the degree programs and specialty training that you desire to pursue


Ask each school for their most current NCLEX pass rates. This number may be an indication of program quality.


Assess the availability of financial aid at your chosen institutions


Inquire about the quality and quantity of clinical rotation sites. Do students arrange their own rotations or is this handled by the school? Is there a wide variety of clinical opportunities in diverse settings? How are clinical requirements completed if the program you’re interested in is online?


Investigate student-faculty ratios in both clinical and classroom settings. Lower ratios usually mean more one-on-one direct instruction from professors, which some students may prefer.


Ascertain what resources the schools offer in terms of skills labs and clinical simulation technologies.

Get into a Top Nursing School: Boost Your Application

Nursing schools seek students with a variety of qualities, characteristics, personality traits, and life experiences that lend themselves to the academic and clinical aspects of nursing. Below are some of the important skills and characteristics that help nursing school applicants stand out in the crowd.

Academic Performance

Strong performance in the sciences (anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and microbiology) is certainly important for gaining entrance into most nursing programs. For master’s and doctoral programs, success in statistics may also be seen as important.

Satisfactory performance in the humanities is also worthy of attention, including English composition, psychology, and sociology.

Life Experience and Clinical Experience

Many nursing schools prefer applicants who have volunteered in their communities, especially in healthcare-related capacities. Healthcare-related internships and similar positions also strengthen a nursing school application.

Positions of leadership in the community or other venues also demonstrate that a student candidate is proactive in advancing his or her career.

For those coming to nursing from a previous career, applicable skills and experience in areas such as research, counseling, writing, data entry, and information technology also offer schools a glimpse of deeper understanding and a wider skill set and base of experience.

Formal certifications and trainings also look great on a nursing school application (e.g. hospice volunteer, Non-Violent Communication, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction certifications).

Personal Characteristics

Emotional intelligence, strong communication skills, and being well-groomed and well-spoken are some personal characteristics that will come across strongly in a nursing school interview. Excellent writing skills will be demonstrated in your application essay/personal statement.

Strengthening Your Chances of Acceptance

There are many ways that a nursing school applicant can strengthen his or her chances of being admitted to a program. In addition to the recommendations above, consider the following strategies:

  • Keep your grades/GPA as high as possible

  • Work with writing experts, as well as friends and family, to craft a powerful and well-written resume and personal statement/essay

  • Sharpen your interview skills in preparation for your nursing school interviews, including hiring a career coach for interview prep

  • Pay close attention to detail when completing your applications in order to avoid your application being rejected for incomplete information

  • Hire a professional editor/proofreader to review your application essay/personal statement prior to submission

  • Network with nursing students who are already in your chosen programs and inquire what strategies supported their application’s success

  • Make an appointment with a nursing school admissions advisor in order to ascertain methods for strengthening your application and interview performance

  • Join LinkedIn, create a robust profile, and network with nurses, nursing professors, nurse administrators, and nursing students

Q & A: Interview with an Administrator

Shannon Hutchison, director of undergraduate admissions at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA, is a Point Loma graduate and was very interested in the university and what it had to offer students. She began working at Point Loma as an admissions counselor and has now been working at the university for about 11 years, helping students gain admission–many into the school of nursing–into her alma mater.

What is the most important prerequisite a student should have or work on before applying to nursing school?

We look for students who are pretty well-rounded. Certainly academic achievers, but freshmen who are also pretty active in their schools, communities, churches; specifically students who have had some sort of experience with nursing, whether it’s volunteer work or something that connects them to their passion. That always helps applications stand out.

What are some of the most important qualifications a nursing school should have to provide a proper education?

Making sure of the availability of clinical hours is very important. Making sure that students are able to get into programs that will offer them that clinical hands-on experience, not just on campus in a lab environment in the classroom but in hospitals, care centers, clinics, etc. in the city or surrounding area.

What are some tips for how nursing students can determine what specialty they might want to focus on in their course of study at nursing school?

Students start their clinical work here in their sophomore year for that reason. Nursing or not, any student can say, “Oh, I love doing this.” And then when you get out in the real world and do that, it may not be what you’re best at. So our nursing students practice and do their clinical hours starting sophomore year in a variety of different areas to help them really find what they love and what they’re really good at. That practical experience is key.

What are some of the most important skills students learn in nursing school?

Certainly the basic medical skills are crucial. But in addition to that, we really focus on that personal connection that nurses have with patients or people. Students need to be well prepared to deal with patients, and their bedside manner needs to be strong. We have a few courses that are specifically geared toward the practice of nursing – not necessarily the science; that comes from other classes, of course. But just how to work with people, how to make people feel OK and how to interact with patients who are stressed – kind of viewing nursing as a whole person and career.

For the NCLEX, what are some of the most important subjects or skills that nurses need to pick up on while they’re at nursing school?

Obviously, the sciences are key. The NCLEX exam focuses on the specific knowledge that you’ve learned. Your bedside manner and things like that will matter when you get the job, but the NCLEX looks at how you can remember what you’ve learned and how you can respond to specific scenarios. Things like anatomy, physiology, chemistry, general and organic, all of those things are key. A strong science emphasis is pretty crucial.

Top Nursing Schools

Methodology +
ASO’s Best On-Campus Nursing Schools

The top nursing schools listed in this ranking were determined by comparison of three primary, equally weighted, criteria including,

  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • In-state tuition
  • Graduation rate

Additional details for each school were included:

  • Count of programs available
  • Public and private not-for-profit schools
Score Tuition Student/teacher ratio Program Count Graduation Rate
1 University at Buffalo 100 13:1 14 72%
2 University of Iowa 99.75 16:1 24 70%
3 Stony Brook University 98.25 16:1 17 69%
4 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 98 13:1 6 90%
5 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 97.25 12:1 10 91%
6 CUNY Hunter College 96.5 11:1 13 52%
7 Allen College 95.25 9:1 16 75%
8 SUNY at Binghamton 94.25 20:1 16 81%
9 Mount Carmel College of Nursing 94.25 12:1 10 64%
10 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus 93.5 14:1 13 82%
11 University of Connecticut 92.5 16:1 9 81%
12 University of Washington-Seattle Campus 92 18:1 10 84%
13 Ball State University 91.75 15:1 9 59%
14 University of Kansas 90.5 17:1 10 60%
15 University of South Carolina-Columbia 90 18:1 9 73%
16 Washington State University 90 15:1 8 67%
17 Rutgers University-New Brunswick 89.75 16:1 8 81%
18 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus 89.75 18:1 18 60%
19 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 100 17:1 9 86%
20 Clarkson College 89.25 11:1 8 59%
21 University of Utah 89 17:1 5 62%
22 University of Wyoming 88.75 15:1 5 54%
23 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 88.5 17:1 8 78%
24 George Mason University 88.5 16:1 5 67%
25 Southern Connecticut State University 88.5 14:1 8 53%
26 University of Mississippi 88 18:1 5 61%
27 South Dakota State University 88 17:1 7 57%
28 Madonna University 87.75 11:1 21 50%
29 East Carolina University 87.25 18:1 5 59%
30 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health 86.75 12:1 5 66%
31 Temple University 85.75 14:1 5 69%
32 Winona State University 85.75 20:1 12 57%
33 University of Hawaii at Manoa 85.75 13:1 5 56%
34 University of Alabama at Birmingham 84.5 18:1 5 56%
35 University of Missouri-Columbia 84 20:1 5 69%
36 William Carey University 84 15:1 5 58%
37 University of Kentucky 83.75 18:1 5 61%
38 Virginia Commonwealth University 83.5 17:1 7 59%
39 University of Arizona 83.25 20:1 8 60%
40 University of North Dakota 82.75 19:1 7 55%
41 Illinois State University 82 19:1 6 72%
42 Missouri State University-Springfield 81.75 20:1 5 55%
43 University of Illinois at Chicago 80.75 17:1 5 60%
44 University of Massachusetts-Lowell 80.25 18:1 8 54%
45 Northern Arizona University 80.25 18:1 6 52%

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