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New nurses could come from community colleges

ILLINOIS -- Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) sponsored a bill to increase the number of nurses available to work in healthcare in the next few years.

The measure would allow community colleges to award four-year nursing degrees to address the projected workforce shortage.

A 2015 report by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation noted about a third of registered nurses, age 55 and older, plan to retire within the next five years.

Currently, only universities can award bachelor degrees in nursing, but they have not been able to address the shortage of nurses in some areas of the state.

Manar says it's also a good way to keep people from leaving the state in search of better jobs.

"Eleven other states do this type of thing with their community colleges,” Manar said. “This discussion is about something much bigger than simply the traditional mission of Illinois’ universities and community colleges. This is about offering excellent health care, planning for the future, adapting to changing critical workforce needs, offering affordable options for job training, putting people in good-paying jobs and keeping young people in the communities – and the state –where they grew up. These are all vitally important issues in Illinois, and this legislation touches on all of them.”

Senate Bill 888 grants 20 Illinois community colleges the ability to award bachelor of science degrees in nursing and sets standards for establishing nursing programs, including accreditation, documenting unmet workforce needs and more.

It also calls for a four-year review of the effort by the Illinois Community College Board, including a comprehensive statewide evaluation of newly created programs and a written report submitted to the State Board of Higher Education, the governor and both chambers of the General Assembly before July 1, 2022.

The legislation does not require community colleges to offer the degrees. State money may not be used to establish or maintain the program, according to the legislation.

The measure advanced out of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee Tuesday.

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