For our inaugural rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on over 3,200 nursing schools and campuses throughout the United States. We included the following states within our Southeast rankings: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. We evaluated each nursing school in the region on three dimensions:
- The institution’s academic prestige and perceived value
- The breadth and depth of nursing programs offered
- Student success, particularly on the NCLEX national licensure exam
We then combined these assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. For a detailed description of our assessment methodology and dimension weights, please see here.
#1: Duke University | Durham, NC
The National League for Nursing (NLN) has twice designated Duke University a Center of Excellence™ (COE): in 2013 for promoting the pedagogical expertise of faculty, and in 2015 for enhancing student learning and professional development. The School of Nursing ranks #4 in the nation among U.S. News & World Report’s top master of science in nursing (MSN) programs, and it was the first school in North Carolina to offer the doctor of nursing practice degree. Duke also graduates 130-150 students each year from its accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program, who consistently enjoy stellar NCLEX pass rates of 97% or better.
#2: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center | New Orleans, LA
The School of Nursing at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSU Health) offers a broad range of traditional degree programs, from the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to the doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Non-traditional degrees are on the menu as well, including an RN-to-BSN degree completion program and the Career Alternative RN Education (CARE) BSN. The CARE BSN is designed for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in another field. A newly inducted NLN COE, LSU Health produces approximately 175 BSN graduates annually who have posted outstanding NCLEX-RN pass rates of 95% or better for six consecutive years.
#3: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Chapel Hill, NC
The UNC School of Nursing was the first in the state to offer a four-year BSN, an MSN degree, a nurse practitioner (NP) program, and a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in nursing. The school, which also offers RN-to-BSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate programs, ranks #21 in the nation on two separate U.S. News & World Report lists (best MSN programs, best DNP programs). The traditional BSN program graduates a class of approximately 175 students annually, who have passed the NCLEX licensure exam at a rate of 95% or better every year since 2010.
#4: East Carolina University | Greenville, NC
East Carolina University has garnered three consecutive designations as an NLN COE. The ECU College of Nursing offers traditional BSN, accelerated BSN (ABSN), and RN-to-BSN pathways, plus the innovative Eastern North Carolina Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses program. This initiative dually admits students to ECU and one of six local community colleges that partner with the university. The College of Nursing’s 250 annual BSN graduates consistently pass the NCLEX exam at a rate of 95% or better, including a phenomenal 98% pass rate during 2015. ECU also offers a breadth of graduate nursing options including MSN, DNP, and PhD programs.
#5: Emory University | Atlanta, GA
The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University is home to nearly 550 students enrolled in BSN, ABSN, MSN, PhD, and DNP programs. The university is ranked #8 overall in graduate nursing by U.S. News & World Report, with three top-20 specialty programs. At the undergraduate level, Emory produces 150-plus BSN graduates annually who have passed the NCLEX-RN examination at an 88% overall rate since 2008. The nursing school has an impressive 82% employment rate immediately after graduation, and students have landed positions at more than 500 diverse clinical sites nationwide.
#6: Vanderbilt University | Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) focuses solely on graduate nursing study. The university offers traditional and direct-entry MSN programs, 13 distinct post-master’s certificates for aspiring advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and two doctoral options (DNP, PhD). The direct-entry MSN program graduates ~150 new nurses annually who have passed the NCLEX exam at a 93% first-try rate since 2009. Vanderbilt’s APRN specialties run the gamut from family nurse practitioner (FNP) to nurse midwifery to nursing informatics. The MSN program also partners with Vanderbilt Divinity School to offer two innovative dual degrees.
#7: University of North Carolina at Greensboro | Greensboro, NC
The UNCG School of Nursing has earned three consecutive COE designations from the National League for Nursing. The school offers three undergraduate pathways: traditional four-year BSN, RN-to-BSN, and BSN as a second degree. UNCG graduates about 100 prelicensure BSN students annually, who have achieved a strong NCLEX exam pass rate of 92% over the past five years. The school’s online MSN program is ranked in the top 50 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. UNCG also offers a dual MSN / master of business administration (MBA) degree and very selective DNP and PhD programs.
#8: Medical University of South Carolina | Charleston, SC
MUSC College of Nursing is ranked #2 in the nation among online graduate nursing programs by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers MSN, DNP, and PhD in nursing science programs, all of which can be completed predominantly online with just a few required visits to campus. MUSC also offers an online RN-to-BSN degree completion program and an on-campus, 16-month accelerated BSN. More than 575 students attend MUSC College of Nursing in total, and approximately 150 students graduate from the ABSN program in two cohorts annually. These graduates have enjoyed a stellar NCLEX exam pass rate of 94% since 2008.
#9: Samford University | Birmingham, AL
The Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing at Samford University welcomed more than 730 students in spring 2015. The undergraduate BSN program offers four education pathways, including a traditional four-year degree, standard and accelerated versions of the second-degree program, and a unique Veterans’ BSN. In total, Samford graduates almost 100 newly minted RNs annually. These BSN students have passed the NCLEX exam at a 94% first-try rate over the past six years, with an incredible 99% pass rate for the class of 2015. Samford’s graduate nursing curriculum includes specialty programs for family nursing practice, health systems and administration, nursing anesthesia, and nurse education (NED).
#10: The University of Virginia | Charlottesville, VA
The University of Virginia (UVA) School of Nursing was recently ranked among the top four percent of nursing schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers an impressive breadth of program options, including prelicensure BSN, RN-to-BSN, seven distinct MSN tracks, two DNP entry points, and a PhD in nursing science. UVA graduates two BSN classes each spring: one of approximately 90 students on the main Charlottesville campus, and one of 15-20 students from the College at Wise. Both cohorts have maintained an 88-90% NCLEX pass rate over the past five years. UVA’s direct-entry clinical nurse leader (CNL) students have performed even better on the licensure exam, with a 92% NCLEX pass rate since 2011.