This fall, students for the first time will be able to earn a master's degree on Harper College's campus.
Their diplomas actually will carry the seal of DePaul University, under a partnership between the Chicago four-year institution and the Palatine-based community college. The schools will offer the registered nurse to master of science in nursing degree, with one course per term taught at Harper and one course online.
Registered nurses who have associate degrees are eligible for the program, in which they would first complete a bachelor of science in nursing degree, then choose one of three professional tracks at the master's level: family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner or nurse educator.
Depending on the track, the entire program would take three to four years to complete.
"The industry is saying, 'We want nurses to be as educated as possible,'" said Julie D'Agostino, Harper's director of nursing. "Nursing is a popular career, and it's because we need nurses and because our population is aging."
Harper inked partnerships with DePaul, Northern Illinois University and Roosevelt University to launch its University Center last year, aimed at making it easier and cheaper for students to earn bachelor's degrees. All classes take place on Harper's campus, and students get discounted tuition from the partner universities.
The bachelor's degree programs include business administration, and communication and media from DePaul; computer science, marketing, and psychology from NIU; and criminal justice, elementary education, and health science administration from Roosevelt.
Harper officials say they're constantly evaluating which academic programs are best suited for the university partnerships based on need and demand. Adding nursing to the mix, they say, came about from a desire to help nurses progress in their careers.
While an associate degree to be a registered nurse is adequate, D'Agostino said many hospitals prefer those who have bachelor's degrees. Master's degrees support advanced practice nurses in professions such as nurse practitioner, midwife, anesthetist and educator, she said.
It also can mean a great difference in median pay, from $71,730 for a registered nurse to $113,930 for one in an advanced practice field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Harper has scheduled an information session on the master's nursing program from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, in Room X250ab of Building X on the Palatine campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road.