UR Medicine Launches Tuition-Free Nursing Education Program

Jan. 12, 2023
Nursing scholars will receive full tuition coverage, guaranteed job placement

To combat the region’s nursing shortage, the University of Rochester Medical Center and School of Nursing today announced an innovative program to provide a tuition-free nursing education for 33 students per year, with the first cohort expected to enroll in Fall 2023.

The UR Nursing Scholars Program will cover 100 percent of tuition costs for Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing (ABSN) students at the University, after passing their NCLEX-RN® licensure exam and in exchange for committing to work at participating UR Medicine facilities for three years after graduation.

New York state faces a projected shortage of nearly 40,000 registered nurses by 2030 due to burnout from the pandemic, an aging population, and a wave of nursing retirements. University officials said they believe this program is the first to combine guaranteed employment as a registered nurse with a fully paid education for college graduates at a nationally-ranked nursing school.

“This innovative program leverages multiple strengths of our academic medical center to address a critical community need,” said Mark Taubman, MD, CEO of URMC and dean of its School of Medicine & Dentistry. “We provide world-class nursing education programs with hands-on experience in virtually every clinical specialty area. By making education available at no cost to students who are new to nursing, we provide them with outstanding career opportunities, while helping Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals to address nurse shortages and expand access to care for our patients.”

The 12-Month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program offers a unique opportunity for bachelor’s-prepared college graduates to pursue a second career in nursing. The program has attracted students from across the U.S. and New York with diverse backgrounds and experiences – some with previous careers in public health, business, or education. Each cohort is guided through a rigorous yearlong immersion into nursing, including 700 hours of clinical training in med-surg, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, and other specialties at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“Our school has earned a reputation for preparing highly-skilled nurses who are ready to enter the workforce and care for patients immediately after graduation,” said Lisa Kitko, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing and vice president of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The UR Nursing Scholars program will make this outstanding education more accessible to students from our community and across the nation, helping us to recruit from groups underrepresented in nursing and create a more diverse workforce that better represents all the patients served by UR Medicine.”

The full-time program enrolls students across three cohorts a year, with applications now being accepted for the Fall 2023 semester. The first cohort will accept and match 10 UR Nursing Scholars with Strong Memorial Hospital and three scholars with Highland Hospital. Once accepted, students will receive funding in the form of a scholarship and a forgivable loan from the School of Nursing to cover all tuition costs.*

Students accepted to the UR Nursing Scholars program will work closely with a career coach to explore specialties and career opportunities in nursing. Scholars will also meet with nursing recruitment and retention offices to match their interests with an employment opportunity at participating UR Medicine facilities.

 “UR Medicine hospitals are committed to offering all our nurses competitive pay and benefits, along with a supportive work environment, flexible scheduling to support work-life balance, and opportunities for growth,” said Karen G. Keady, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, vice president & chief nursing executive at URMC and assistant dean of clinical practice at the School of Nursing. “As our UR Nursing Scholars gain on-the-job experience, they will become eligible for tuition benefits to further their nursing education and advance their careers as far as they want to go, without ever needing to leave the University of Rochester Medical Center.”

Graduates then sit for the NCLEX-RN® exam to obtain RN licensure and start practicing as a nurse within three months of completing the program. Salary and benefits offered to UR Nursing Scholars will be competitive for new bachelor’s-prepared nurses.

“This new opportunity will not only attract new nurses to the profession but provide them with foundational knowledge and the skills necessary for success in a clinical environment,” said Lydia Rotondo, DNP, RN, CNS, FNAP, associate dean of education and student affairs at the School of Nursing. “As longtime leaders in nursing education, we are proud to offer highly-immersive learning experiences where students get to practice caring for patients in a safe, supportive environment. Our goal is to build confidence for the next generation of nurses.”

Current bachelor's student Laura-Ann Fierro, a California native who majored in biology and psychology for her first bachelor's degree before changing careers, said the ABSN program's focus on innovation and care for its students drew her to UR Nursing.

"I was looking for a program that encapsulates my values, that is innovative, and has genuine people who look at students as the future of their field, not just a statistic," said Fierro, who began attending the school in May as a recipient of the Dean's Diversity Scholarship. "The School of Nursing has exceeded all of my expectations of what I wanted in a nursing program. You can really tell that the faculty are passionate about what they do, model what they teach in the classroom, and go above and beyond for their students and patients."

In addition to the UR Nursing Scholars Program, the School of Nursing recently announced the following scholarship initiatives and new educational pathways to increase access to its nationally-ranked nursing programs:

  • Prerequisite Scholarship Program: This new scholarship program covers the total tuition costs of prerequisite courses completed at the School of Nursing for students in the 12-Month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program.
  • 24-Month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program: This new pathway features the same coursework and clinical experience as the 12-Month accelerated bachelor’s program. The extended length allows students to balance work and other commitments while enrolled.
  • SON Tuition Grant: This established grant, together with employee tuition benefits, offers 100% tuition coverage for URMC employees who enroll in select bachelor’s or master’s nursing programs.

Learn more about becoming a nurse at the University of Rochester with the UR Nursing Scholars program at The School of Nursing is also hosting an information session about the program on Jan. 30.

*The condition of UR Nursing Scholars Program is that recipients will work full time in an eligible position at a University of Rochester Medical Center facility or Highland Hospital for three years. If students do not meet the condition of the scholars program, they will be required to repay loan funds as set forth in UR Nursing Scholars Program loan agreement.