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 Western Governors University Announces Expansion of Nursing Prelicensure Program to Address the Nation’s Nursing Shortage

Michael O. Leavitt School of Health aims to add thousands of newly qualified nursing graduates to the workforce by 2027


HOUSTON– (APR. 13, 2023) Western Governors University’s (WGU) Michael O. Leavitt School of Health (LSH), the nation’s leading institution for nurse education, has expanded its Nursing Prelicensure Program to meet the increasing demand for new registered nurses (RN), which is estimated to reach 1.2 million new nurses by 2030 according to the American Nurses Association.  Student enrollment opened in March 2023 with rolling start dates and clinical opportunities in 11 states, including Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. The program aims to add more than 4,800 newly qualified nursing graduates to the workforce by 2027.

As the country grapples with a nursing shortage and lack of qualified faculty – according to the American Association of the College of Nurses, more than 90,000 qualified students were turned away from nursing programs in 2021 alone – WGU’S Leavitt School of Health is well positioned to lead the country in high-quality nursing education.

“In the midst of the largest nursing shortage in our country’s history, this program is designed to develop new nurses at scale. We want to meet individuals where they are, including those in rural communities,” said Dr. Janelle Sokolowich, WGU Academic Vice President and Dean, Leavitt School of Health. “We particularly considered the pandemic’s impact on compounding rural health care barriers and decided to expand the online, entry-level nursing prelicensure program with regional and mobile lab facilities, so students can complete the program within their communities.”

As an online, accredited and nonprofit university, WGU’s hybrid degree program is designed to increase accessibility for nontraditional students through curriculum that combines online courses with in-person clinical rotations and practice simulations, meeting students where they are in their journey to become registered nurses.

Students begin the prelicensure program at WGU with their pre-nursing coursework. This includes general education courses, as well as introductory medical coursework. This allows students to satisfy required prerequisites for the clinical portion of the program. After finishing the pre-nursing portion of the program, students that have met progression requirements are eligible to progress into the clinical nursing portion of the program. This portion of the program contains more specific nursing coursework, as well as hands-on clinical experiences that are required for students to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree and become eligible to sit for the RN licensure exam after graduation.

WGU’s competency-based learning model allows students to advance in the program as soon as they prove mastery of the material through rigorous assessment. As a result, graduates are well-prepared to enter the workforce. Over the last five-years, WGU’s first-time National Council Licensure Examine (NCLEX) average pass rate was 90.82 percent, markedly higher than the national average of all BSN programs as reported by NCSBN. WGU has educated two percent of the nation’s registered nurses, which represent more than 170,000 jobs in the healthcare industry.

“We’ve offered a nursing prelicensure program for more than ten years and opened the SIM Center in 2019 in the Houston area to provide critical hands-on, transformative learning experiences for future nurses to gain the full scope of patient practice,” said Dr. LaDana Badger, State Director of Nursing, Texas. “Expanding the prelicensure program will help remove barriers to access and the lab will continue to train students from urban and rural areas of the state to increase the nursing pipeline with diverse, qualified nursing candidates.”

485 prelicensure students are enrolled in Texas and 146 graduated in 2022 to become licensed RNs. Across the country, more than 20,000 nursing students are currently enrolled at WGU’s Leavitt School of Health (LSH), and more than 120,000 have graduated from LSH. Built with guidance by nursing and healthcare experts and with clinical partnerships across the country, WGU graduates are significantly contributing to the country’s health system with diverse jobs across health care settings, from hospitals and outpatient care centers to behavioral health centers and schools. WGU students are earning their bachelor’s degrees faster and with less than half the debt of the national average. To offset clinical costs and tuition throughout the length of the program, WGU offers scholarships for students.

The prelicensure program will steadily expand as WGU continues to develop nursing labs and clinical space for in-person and clinical lab rotations throughout the country. WGU is also exploring pilot opportunities for mobile labs in various prelicensure states to reach underserved communities. The mobile simulation unit will increase students’ access to nurse education and critical training for delivering complex, high-quality care.

Click here to learn more about LSH’s growing prelicensure program, including the paced completion time, tuition and the weekly hours expected to spend on studies, assessments and in the completion of clinical rotations and simulation labs.

About Western Governors University

Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 135,000 students nationwide and has more than 300,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 25 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and has been featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times.  Learn more at and

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