Since the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the leading national nursing education organization, officially recommended adopting the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree as the industry standard and terminal degree, nursing schools all over the nation have been working to design their own DNP programs. More than a decade later, the DNP is the preferred highest-order degree, over the nursing Ph.D., and the number of programs and graduates is steadily growing.
When it comes to nursing, the DNP differs from the Ph.D. in a few essential ways, the main difference being that the Ph.D. is oriented toward theory and research, while the DNP is directed toward putting theory and research into practice in advanced clinical situations. To simplify, the Ph.D.-holding nurse concentrates on the laboratory, while the DNP nurse concentrates on the field. Both are acceptable for nursing educators, but nurses with a Ph.D. are more likely to teach in a conventional classroom setting, where DNP educators teach in clinical settings.
The AACN has promoted the DNP degree for one essential reason – to combat the well-known nursing shortage, a shortage which has not been alleviated by years of advocacy and even threatens to become a crisis in the next decade. Strong, well-educated leaders are needed in clinical settings, and current, knowledgable educators are needed in clinical education; the DNP prepares nurses for both.
Working nursing professionals are drawn to the advanced degree for other reasons; besides credentials for promotion and major leadership positions, DNP-holders make an average salary of $116,000 according to Payscale, while advanced Nurse Practitioners make $87,000 in annual salary. Those are significant improvements over most nurses’ incomes. But with more nurses looking to the DNP, and schools hastily throwing together their own DNP programs, nurses have to be careful that they are getting the best value for their tuition.
That’s why Value Colleges has compiled a ranking of the top 50 Best Values in DNP programs. Our list begins with the AACN’s authoritative program directory; of the 265 schools AACN lists as having a DNP program, we ranked according to three data points:
- Reputability (U.S. News & World Report 2017 Best Grad Schools – Nursing)
- Cost (Actual per credit Tuition) (we use lowest in-state)
- Projected Salary Outcome (Payscale data for mid-career/alumni’s of institution)
Our formula gives students assurance that these 50 colleges and universities offer the strongest education with the most affordable tuition, combining to provide the best return on their educational investment. All of the programs we feature are regionally accredited, reputable, and well-established – and, best of all, worth every penny.
University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston
Housed at the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston was founded by the UT system in 1972 to be the state’s comprehensive medical university. With schools of medicine, dentistry, public health, and others, UTHealth is the center of medical education and research for the state of Texas, with more Texas health professionals coming from UTHealth than any other institution. That includes the School of Nursing, the top nursing school in Texas and one of the best in the nation.
UTHealth’s Doctor of Nursing Practice is ranked as the best program of its kind in Texas by U.S. News & World Report, putting it in the top 25 nationally with some very strong competition. UTHealth pioneered the DNP degree in Texas, establishing the first program in the state in 2006, and with the tremendous resources of the Texas Medical Center, nurses at UTHealth have an education that few other institutions can match. UTHealth’s DNP is priced at a low tuition rate as well, and is designed for flexibility for working nursing professionals, making the best DNP in Texas the best value in the nation.
Cost: $256/credit hour
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Regularly ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 medical schools in the nation, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, much like UTHealth, came about when the University of Nebraska recognized the value of bringing all their medical and health programs together around the core of the university hospital and medical school. Today, the UNMC is one of the most important components of the Omaha economy, and their top-notch College of Nursing is well on its way to dominating the rankings.
The UNMC DNP degree program benefits from the excellent faculty, resources, and networking that the UNMC can muster. With five nursing campuses across the state, and close connections to dozens of local and regional medical practices, clinics, and locations, DNP students can choose virtually any kind of setting, as well as online. The UNMC is well-funded, nationally-respected, and dedicating to closing the notorious shortages in experienced nurses and nurse leaders, the real secret to its great value.
Cost: $447/credit hour
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Texas’ first medical school, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was founded in 1891 to address the critical shortage of educated, credentialed doctors in the young state. Today, the education is available, but with our rapidly growing healthcare sector, shortfalls in experienced nurses is one of our most pressing problems, one that the UT Medical Branch is committed to correcting.
The UTMB School of Nursing has an ambitious plan for its future, and one of the main components is educating doctorate-level nurse researchers and clinicians, the latter being the job of the DNP program. This online, part-time program is designed specifically for working nurses, allowing students to work around their demanding professional schedules to earn their degree on their own time with minimal on-campus obligations. UT Medical Branch offers low tuition rates to make a DNP degree more accessible.
Cost: $285/credit hour
University of Virginia
One of the oldest medical schools in the nation, begun by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in a building he designed, the University of Virginia Health Center has long since outgrown that illustrious beginning to be recognized as one of the top university campuses in the world. The UVA Health System has been educating nurses since 1901, with the establishment of the hospital, a program which eventually became the official School of Nursing in 1956.
The School of Nursing, with one of the most decorated faculty bodies in the field (including past and present presidents of the ANA, AACN, and more), offers a DNP degree that stands as a model program. It is a highly competitive and highly desired program that attracts working nursing from Virginia and neighboring states, with course offerings that are scheduled for the needs of adult professionals. Students can come into the DNP with a BSN or MSN, with slightly different requirements (such as more clinical hours for students with a BSN). UVA’s Public Ivy reputation ensures that the DNP’s value will be immediately obvious on the job market.
Cost: $825/credit hour
Arizona State University
From a traditional state teacher’s college to the widely-acknowledged Most Innovative University in the nation, Arizona State University has become a household name throughout the US. ASU’s ambition, boldness, and entrepreneurship have had a transformative effect on American higher education, and other institutions are left playing catch-up. The College of Nursing & Health Innovation, one of the most popular and productive of ASU’s many divisions, is regularly ranked among the top nursing schools by U.S. News & World Report, and the DNP program in particular is ranked in the top 15.
The Arizona State DNP is administrated at ASU’s Phoenix Campus, giving students the experience of a major urban healthcare system. This low-residency program (only 2-3 campus visits required for each course) is designed for busy professionals to earn their degree without sacrificing their jobs. Reasonable tuition rates and a tightly-defined program (8 semesters of coursework) keep students on course and achieving. ASU’s DNP perfectly demonstrates the value that has earned Arizona State the largest student body in the US.
Cost: $600/credit hour
University of Florida
A U.S. News & World Report top 15 public university, the University of Florida is the foremost research institution in the state and the flagship of the University System of Florida. In addition to the distinctions of federal land, sea, and space grant designation, UF is particularly known for its excellent medicine and nursing programs, with the College of Nursing typically ranked among the top nursing schools nation-wide, with exceptionally high licensure-exam pass rates and excellent job-market reputation.
UF’s top-tier DNP degree programs have the advantage of the UF Health Sciences Center, one of the only cutting-edge institutes of its kind in the region. The College of Nursing offers DNP programs with mostly online courses for students who have a BSN, though some on-campus courses are required; through a partnership with the University of West Florida, students who already have an MSN can earn the DNP fully online. With UF’s reasonable tuition, students can expect solid returns in their DNP-enhanced career.
Cost: $531/credit hour
Historically ranked as one of the most respected public research universities in the nation, Purdue University is one of the academic highlights of Indiana, especially in its engineering and sciences programs. The College of Health and Human Sciences, the youngest of Purdue’s colleges, brings together a number of departments and schools, including the School of Nursing, to enhance collaboration, interdisciplinary work, and academic entrepreneurship.
Purdue’s DNP degree program is offered in two different paths, depending on where the student starts. For RNs, MS students, and nursing master’s holders, the hybrid DNP gives students a wealth of experience from multiple academic and industry partners, including the Krannert School of Management. For MSN graduates, an online program (with the one-week, on-campus Summer Leadership Institute) gives students more flexibility to work classes around their professional schedules. In either case, Purdue makes sure students keep up their exceptional job market performance and reputation.
Cost: $555/credit hour
University of Missouri
The flagship of the University of Missouri system, and the oldest university west of the Mississippi River, the University of Missouri’s impact on the Midwest cannot be overemphasized. Mizzou is also one of the most comprehensive institutions in the nation for health, with the University of Missouri Health Care System, the foremost academic medical center in the region, encompassing the Sinclair School of Nursing, the School of Medicine, and other partners.
As part of Missouri’s only public research university, Mizzou’s School of Nursing is the premiere healthcare education institution in the area, having pioneered Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. Coursework for the University of Missouri’s DNP program is largely online, with required 5-day and 3-day residencies at the beginning and end of the program, as well as certain on-campus enrichment activities. Different paths are available for students with a BSN, practical experience, and an MSN without experience, so the Mizzou DNP is widely accessible and affordable, a strong example of a best value.
Cost: $422/credit hour
University of Michigan
Once nicknamed the “Harvard of the West,” the University of Michigan has long been considered an exemplar for public research and education. Michigan’s reputation is as solid in healthcare and nursing as it is in engineering, law, and business, with the School of Nursing consistently featured in the top tier of its field, and the Michigan DNP recently ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 10.
Because Michigan’s DNP degree program is designed for working nurses to increase their clinical experience and prepare them for leadership roles, courses are designed as low-residency online hybrids, with short on-campus visits needed each semester, but with coursework delivered via the web. The DNP program is available for students with an MSN or BSN in two different tracks, depending on the student’s previous education and experience. For value and quality, the University of Michigan’s DNP outshines all its competition.
Cost: $1141/credit hour
Founded by Guilded Age billionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University’s purpose from the beginning has been to stand as a Southern rival to the Ivy League, a mission it has accomplished many times over. Besides Vanderbilt’s enormous acclaim in law, engineering, and business, Vanderbilt is home to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, widely considered the finest academic hospital in Tennessee and one of the most recognized in the South.
The U.S. News & World Report top-20 Vanderbilt School of Nursing makes every use of the resources and research available from the VUMC, and in fact was one of the pioneers of formal nursing higher education in the early 20th century. Vanderbilt’s three DNP degree programs are open to BSN and MSN holders, and to nurses with master’s degrees in a health-related, non-nursing area. With the Vanderbilt name, DNP graduates should see strong results on the job market whatever path they choose, which is why Vanderbilt earns its slot in the Best Values Top 10.
Cost: $1219/credit hour
One of Vanderbilt’s main rivals for the title of most elite university in the south, Duke University shares a similar history, having its real start with the establishment of the Duke Endowment by tobacco magnate James B. Duke. Through the 20th century Duke grew into one of the best-funded and most respected universities in the nation, especially for the Duke University Health System, regularly named as one of the ten best. Home of the Duke Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and more, the Duke Health System is also home of the Duke Nursing School, U.S. News & World Report’s #6 best nursing school.
With fully online courses (and a short on-campus orientation), practicing nurses can earn their DNP degree without having to leave their jobs or work within a traditional university schedule. Duke’s resources mean that students have access to some of the most significant research going on in medicine, not to mention world-renowned faculty. The Duke University reputation means that graduates can expect a strong showing on the job market, with Duke’s prominent connections and partnerships.
Cost: $1565/credit hour
University of Washington
As a pioneer in higher education for the west coast, as one of the first universities, the University of Washington is a consistent top 20 public research university and a leader, especially in medical fields. UW’s health programs dominate the top rankings, with the School of Nursing often at the top of U.S. News & World Report since formal rankings began. The UW School of Nursing helped create public health education during the infamous 1918 flu epidemic, and continues to innovate in the field.
UW offered the first DNP degree on the west coast in 2007, and the program’s reputation has only grown in the last decade. The UW DNP is available with a number of specializations, including Community Health Nursing, Nurse-Midwifery, Psychiatric Mental Health NP, and many more. Earning a DNP from UW is done through a mix of hybrid, on-campus, and fully online courses, depending on the specialization and course. A degree from the University of Washington gives working nurses a tremendous advantage throughout the Pacific Northwest, west coast, and beyond.
Cost: $1167/credit hour
Rutgers University - Newark
The Newark campus of Rutgers University is the home of the Rutgers School of Nursing, one of the largest and most respected in the nation with over 1700 students. As the flagship public research university of New Jersey (as well as one of the oldest universities in the nation), Rutgers is the center of education and learning for the region, and that includes Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, the pace-setter for medicine in New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic region.
Rutgers offers a top 20 DNP program, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Two tracks are available for BSN graduates and MSN graduates to advance to the DNP degree, through hybrid, full-time, and part-time course schedules. Specializations in highly-sought areas are available, including Nurse Anesthesia, Pediatric NP, Nurse-Midwifery, and many more. Types of course delivery available depend on the specialization and the student’s level of preparation, but most degree programs are structured for working professionals with busy schedules .
Cost: $775/credit hour
George Mason University
With its location in suburban Washington, DC, George Mason University is one of the best-connected institutions in the nation. This public research university was founded as an extension campus for the legendary University of Virginia, but in recent years has significantly outpaced its mother campus to become the largest university in the state, largely because of the opportunity its proximity to DC provides.
George Mason’s DNP program is available for both bachelor- and master-degree-holding nurses, with a number of different formats: a hybrid Executive track (with infrequent weekend seminars and online courses); a track with fully-online coursework; and a traditional classroom track. The variety of distribution strategies give nurses plenty of ways to earn their DNP in the best way for them. Several concentrations provide the specialization students need to stand out on the job market, an area where George Mason’s reputation especially shines.
Cost: $505/credit hour
University of Minnesota
One of the foremost public research universities in the Midwest, the University of Minnesota has long been a leader and innovator in education, research, and community outreach. The University of Minnesota School of Nursing, in particular, is exceptionally distinguished as the first formal university nursing school, having originated the bachelor of nursing degree, developing the first DNP, and extending the DNP to nurse-midwifery. With such a pedigree, the University of Minnesota has resources dedicated to nursing that no other public university can match.
Of course, UM’s DNP degree program is a standard-setter, with a number of influential specializations created and defined by the UM School of Nursing, such as nurse-midwifery, nurse anesthesia, and public health nursing. Students have a choice between post-bachelor and post-master tracks, both delivered in a low-residency format mixing online coursework with a short campus visit each semester. The post-bachelor path can be completed in three years; the post-master’s, in three semesters. It’s an affordable DNP program from the institution that made it possible in the first place.
Cost: $950/credit hour
University of Alabama System
As the first university in what was then the frontier, the University of Alabama has been a primary influence on higher education in the Deep South since 1820, initiating such innovations as engineering degree programs. With the demand for nurses ever-increasing, the University of Alabama system has stepped up to meet Alabama and the south’s needs, creating a collaborative DNP program between the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, UA Huntsville, and UA Birmingham.
With their combined efforts, the UA system schools of nursing can accommodate more students and broadcast their top-quality nursing education. With the UAB School of Nursing organizing, students can earn their DNP with fully-online coursework, with minimal on-campus time for orientation, research, and clinicals. The UA system joint DNP is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 20 best in the nation, and it’s certainly one of the most affordable, with a tuition rate that makes other programs look overpriced.
Cost: $366/credit hour
Columbia University, one of the oldest of the Colonial Colleges and a definitive member of the Ivy League, has been a pioneer in many areas, not the least being in medicine and health care. The Columbia University Medical Center was the first academic healthcare campus in the world, combining (at first) a medical school and hospital; with the addition of the School of Nursing, School of Public Health, and numerous other health divisions, CUMC has literally been the model of all other academic medical centers.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Columbia University School of Nursing, one of the first in the world, has also long been considered one of the finest in the world. Having originated nursing master’s degrees, Columbia continues to model nursing education with its DNP program. Two tracks – a post-BSN and a post-MSN – allow for nurses of different education levels to pursue their doctorate. A Friday cohort format makes coursework convenient for working professionals, and the Columbia reputation makes graduates the cream of the job market.
Cost: $1820/credit hour
Ohio State University
From its humble beginning as an agriculture and applied mechanics school – the ninth college in Ohio – the Ohio State University has grown into one of the most recognized names in higher education, and the third-largest university. Much of OSU’s reputation comes from its embracing of online education, and its excellence brings prestige and reputability to the field. In addition, Ohio State has been frequently praised for its commitment to diversity as one of the most inclusive institutions in the nation, a commitment that is especially important in healthcare.
The Ohio State College of Nursing offers two DNP degree programs: the Clinical Expert track (for bachelor’s and master’s graduates who are interested in high-order clinical practice) and the Nurse Executive track (for master’s-holders going into leadership positions). Both are available with fully online coursework, though some specializations may require on-campus courses. All DNP students must visit campus twice – once for an orientation, and once to present their final projects. Otherwise, nurses all over the US can attend Ohio State online for a best value DNP degree program.
Cost: $723/credit hour
Johns Hopkins University
Possibly the most respected name in medicine and healthcare education, Johns Hopkins University established the first research university in the United States and one of the first nursing schools. Organized by the legendary Florence Nightingale herself, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing works alongside the Johns Hopkins Hospital, School of Medicine, and Bloomberg School of Public Health, all ranked at the very top of their fields and recognized as not only the most innovative, but the best funded.
DNP students at the elite Johns Hopkins School of Nursing have access to unprecedented and unparalleled resources and are prepared for leadership positions in the most important healthcare facilities, institutions, and agencies in the world. Two tracks – the Advanced Practice and Executive programs – are set for nursing professionals at varying levels of education, but they have in common a deep grounding in research, practice, and theory. It’s the prestige that brings Johns Hopkins to mind whenever we think of health.
Cost: $2029/credit hour
University of Utah
The flagship of the Utah System of Higher Education, and the leading public research university in Utah, the University of Utah has been at the forefront of education for the west since Utah was rugged frontier. In addition to groundbreaking research in genetics, biology, and pharmacology, UU is the home of Utah’s only medical school, and a top-tier nursing school, with pioneering research a major emphasis from the beginning.
The University of Utah College of Nursing offers a DNP degree program with half a dozen specializations, including much-needed areas such as Neonatal NP and Women’s Health NP. The College of Nursing offers these options with some limited distance availability, though students are required to visit campus twice a semester; online completion depends on the specialization. For full-time students, the DNP can be completed in 3 years. The University of Utah College of Nursing is making sure that Utah and the Intermountain West will have prepared, dependable nurse leaders for years to come.
Cost: $903/credit hour
South Dakota State University
South Dakota State University, a land and sun-grant institution, is responsible for the bulk of practical higher education for the state, with South Dakota’s largest student body and most respected agriculture, engineering, and health programs. SDSU is one of the most prominent research universities in the Midwest, and, like many public institutions in areas with vast rural areas and sparse populations, has become known in recent years for developing a top-notch online presence.
The South Dakota State College of Nursing is one of the most significant healthcare institutions in the state, educating more than a third of South Dakota’s nurses, and offering the only masters and doctoral nursing degrees in the state. South Dakota’s healthcare system depends on SDSU, especially rural communities, a field in which the College of Nursing especially shines. Significantly, SDSU’s tuition rates are among the lowest in the nation, making the DNP exceptionally accessible for working nurses and getting more nurse leaders into the field where they can help.
Cost: $313/credit hour
University of Connecticut
A founding institution in the New England Knowledge Corridor – an especially productive region encompassing a high number of colleges and universities, medical centers, and industries – the University of Connecticut is one of the best-known and most-respected public research universities in the US. One of the original “Public Ivies” – a public university with Ivy League quality – UConn easily holds it own among the Ivy League institutions that are its neighbors in New England.
UConn’s School of Nursing was the first to bring public nursing education to Connecticut, and as the only public research university in the state, UConn is the ideal setting for the DNP degree program, combining clinical excellence and up-to-date applied research, the mission of the DNP. Two tracks for BSN and MSN holders include several specializations for students in the BSN-DNP track, and convenient, fully online coursework for MSN-holders (except for brief campus meetings twice a year). It’s an Ivy-level education at a public-university price.
Cost: $723/credit hour
One of UConn’s most prominent Ivy League neighbors, Yale University is a universally-known name – third-oldest college in the US, originator of the Ph.D., and educator of presidents and CEOs. While Yale’s influence in politics and business are well-known, Yale is less famous for its medicine and nursing, though it built one of the earliest medical schools and was among the first to institute modern nursing education with the School of Nursing.
The Yale School of Nursing is a top-20 nursing graduate school according to U.S. News & World Report, a highly selective, rigorous program that accepts only the best students who are most committed to driving and innovating nursing practice. DNP students can earn their degree with a mix of both online and on-site coursework. This hybrid program will finish with an on-campus capstone practicum, guided by a faculty member. Yale’s influence and excellence ensure an ROI that few competitors can top.
Cost: $1300/credit hour
University of Arizona
While younger sibling Arizona State (#5) has captured a lot of attention in recent years, the University of Arizona remains one of the leading public research universities in the southwest, and the only Arizona institution in the elite Association of American Universities. UA is best known for its top-tier business and architecture programs, as well as a highly developed set of online degree programs designed to meet the educational needs of a state where cities are separated by wide deserts and isolated communities.
From its origins in an earlier nurse shortage – when Arizona had no university nursing school in the 1950s – the University of Arizona is working to fill a nation-wide shortage of qualified nurse leaders. For obvious reasons, UA offers a fully-online DNP program for students with a BSN or MSN degree, a program that offers several specializations as well as a dual DNP/Ph.D. Program. Students must attend a 5-day summer seminar, but otherwise, UA makes the DNP degree convenient and affordable, all the better to get nurses where they are needed.
Cost: $789/credit hour
University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado flagship in Boulder may win on coolness, but CU Denver is the largest, most productive public research institution in the state, with the world-renowned Anschutz Medical Campus standing as one of the most significant academic medical centers in the nation. Anschutz’s faculty is also among the most published and cited medical research faculty, a boon to the College of Nursing’s DNP program, which emphasizes research application.
CU Denver’s DNP program is listed as #21 in the nation in the newest U.S. News & World Report rankings, a considerable accomplishment among an extremely competitive new field. The College of Nursing makes full use of the Anschutz campus’s offerings; most classes are online, but almost all require some on-campus intensive class meetings, giving busy nurse professionals the best of both worlds – convenience and immersion.
Cost: $585/credit hour
George Washington University
The largest research university in Washington, DC, George Washington University is one of the most politically active and well-connected universities in the nation. GWU has an outsized place in government policy and an ideal situation to research everything from public health to political science. GWU has had less influence in nursing – while nursing has been taught there for a century, the School of Nursing is GWU’s newest academic division – but in a short period of time they have been ranked in the top 50 for U.S. News & World Report.
The GWU School of Nursing offers an online DNP degree program that has been recognized among the finest of its kind. Whether students begin with a BSN or an MSN, all coursework is fully web-based, with some on-campus requirements for orientation and other special seminars. There are a number of specializations, such as Executive Leadership for MSN-holders in managerial positions. GWU’s market reputability ensures that graduates will enjoy success in the highest reaches of the nursing field.
Cost: $1030/credit hour
University of Oklahoma
One of the most significant public research institutions in the Great Plains, the University of Oklahoma predates Oklahoma’s statehood by nearly two decades. OU is well known for programs in unique or uncommon fields that are well-suited to Oklahoma’s climate and location, such as aviation, meteorology, and Native American studies. The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in Oklahoma City, also dominates medical and health education in the region.
The Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing, the oldest and most respected in Oklahoma, has a mission to be central to health in the state, with wide-spread community outreach and research. They are also committed to closing the gap in nursing leadership with their DNP program, which is fully online to provide opportunity to any nurse in Oklahoma, or throughout the US – no need to visit campus at all. That convenience, plus OU’s extraordinarily low tuition, makes it one of the best values west of the Mississippi.
Cost: $446/credit hour
University of Maryland at Baltimore
The University of Maryland at Baltimore is the home campus for UM’s professional schools (law, medicine, nurses, and so forth), as well as the original campus for the University System of Maryland. When undergraduate and other programs moved to the famed College Park campus, Maryland kept their graduate professional schools in Baltimore, where they can cooperate with government, industry, and business more effectively.
The University of Maryland School of Nursing is one of the oldest, founded in 1889, and has been essential in building the field of nursing into what it is today, especially influencing national healthcare pedagogy. As a U.S. News & World Report top 10 nursing school, UM continues that influence with their DNP degree program, which includes numerous specializations. The School of Nursing’s close associations with the rest of the University of Maryland Medical System gives nursing students tremendous advantages, as does Maryland’s reasonable tuition.
Cost: $692/credit hour
University of Massachusetts
In a state packed with top-tier colleges and universities, from the Ivy League to MIT, the University of Massachusetts stands out as a model of public education excellence. Besides its traditional programs at the legendary Amherst campus, UMass has been a leader and model for quality online education since the development of UMass Online in 2001. That includes programs from the highly-respected UMass School of Nursing, one of the top programs in the state.
The UMass School of Nursing offers a fully online DNP degree, one of the first established in 2006. With a full decade of experience – where most other online DNP programs are only a few years old at best – UMass has put together a program that makes top-flight leaders out of ambitious BSN and MSN degree-holders alike. With the UMass name, nursing graduates have a secure place on the job market, and UMass’s affordable tuition makes it one of the best deals in Massachusetts.
Cost: $750/credit hour
University of Missouri - Kansas City
A mid-sized regional public research university, the University of Missouri-Kansas City may not have the long, illustrious history of the Mizzou flagship (#8), but in its shorter life UMKC has made a considerable impact on the life of Kansas City and the surrounding region. Recognized widely as a best value for its low tuition and high quality, UMKC has also been praised by the Carnegie Foundation for its community service, while other publications have hailed it for military friendliness, LGBT inclusiveness, and environmental responsibility.
UMKC’s online nursing programs have also been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the 20 best in the nation, an impressive achievement in a growing field. Available both online and on-campus, the UMKC DNP degree offers several specializations and tracks for both BSN and MSN holding nurses. With the first DNP program in the region, UMKC has had a decade to find what works, and a low price is one of the things that works best.
Cost: $400/credit hour
New York University
One of the most respected, elite universities in the world, New York University began as an experimental institution open to the most accomplished students regardless of class (at a time when higher education was largely the domain of the wealthy). That mission remains today, as NYU’s rigorous and selective admissions accept only the most qualified and promising future leaders.
The Meyers College of Nursing has historical significance as one of the first nursing schools to treat nursing as a distinct science, and great contemporary relevance as one of the best-funded, most diverse and inclusive nursing schools in the nation. The NYU DNP degree program takes full advantage of NYU’s extensive connections to the healthcare system of New York City, obviously one of the most demanding and developed centers of medicine in the world. DNP graduates are perfectly positioned for some of the most important leadership positions in medicine.
Cost: $2223/credit hour
University of Kansas - Kansas City
The flagship public research institution for the state of Kansas, the University of Kansas is one of the most influential institutions in the region, especially through the KU Medical Center. Located at KU’s Kansas City campus, the Medical Center is the home of Kansas’ healthcare education programs, as well as the only major trauma facility in the state. It is the ideal location for the University of Kansas School of Nursing.
The School of Nursing is Kansas’ nursing center, with the only nursing Ph.D. in the state and the leading DNP program in the area. The KU School of Nursing is concerned with community health and service, a mission that the DNP helps serve by preparing clinical nurse researchers and leaders. The KU DNP offers two tracks for post-BSN and post-master’s nurses, and Kansas’ low tuition shows why KU has been named as a best value for many years.
Cost: $600/credit hour
Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon’s only public medical university, Oregon Health & Science University‘s main concern is providing for the medical needs of Oregon, with well over two-thirds of their students made up of state residents. OSHU is regularly counted among the top public medical schools in the nation, with particular programs often showing up in the top 10 of U.S. News & World Report rankings.
The School of Nursing in particular is a USN&WP #7 for nursing graduate schools, with a DNP program that sets the standard for the state of Oregon. The DNP path for bachelor degree holders includes five possible specializations, and the path for MSN holders can be completed fully online; students who start with a master’s degree may also add a certificate for specialization. As a public university, OHSU’s tuition is kept affordable, and its location in Portland gives graduates access to a thriving job market for added value.
Cost: $564/credit hour
University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina is not only one of the original Public Ivies – it’s one of the original public universities, a pace-setter for public higher education. UNC continues to be regularly ranked in the top 5 public universities by U.S. News & World Report, and contends with heavy hitters such as Harvard, Yale, and other elite universities while remaining affordable and accessible. UNC Health Care is one of the most decorated medical systems in the nation, a wide-spread outgrowth of the UNC Medical School and hospital.
The UNC School of Nursing is one of the most respected in the nation for education and research, and its close connection to the UNC Health Care system is only one reason. A top faculty, innovative programs, and reasonable tuition rates combine to create a program that attracts the very highest level of students. For students with a BSN, the DNP degree will take around 3 years; much shorter for students who already have a master’s. While the degree cannot be completed fully online, many individual courses are available online or in hybrid form for convenience.
Cost: $785/credit hour
Marquette University, a private, Catholic institution, is well-known throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest for its Jesuit commitment to rigorous, challenging education. As the largest private university in the state, Marquette has been noted for its openness; originally intended to provide affordable education for German immigrants, Marquette was the first Catholic institution to admit women, a decision which at the time paved the way for the School of Nursing in 1912.
With its Catholic background, Marquette’s School of Nursing focuses on a holistic view of nursing, not only practical skill – all aspects of the patient’s well-being, from physical to social and spiritual, are the domain of the nurse. Marquette initiated their DNP program in 2008; it includes tracks for bachelor and master’s graduates with multiple specialities. Though Marquette is a private Catholic institution, tuition rates are only slightly higher than most public universities, and the Marquette name is trusted throughout the Midwest and nationally, promising graduates a rewarding outcome.
Cost: $1050/credit hour
University of South Florida
A U.S. News & World Report up-and-coming university, the University of South Florida is one of the fastest-growing major research institutions in the nation, with an exceptionally productive research faculty that has been recognized for the exceptional number of patents they have developed. For a university that only began in 1956, that’s quite extraordinary, and goes a long way to explaining why more Florida students, as well as students from around the world, are choosing USF. An impressively low tuition rate, and highly diverse student body and faculty, are added value.
The USF College of Nursing is the top-ranked nursing program in the state, as well as one of the best grant-funded, demonstrating the USF entrepreneurial spirit. USF offers a highly-regarded DNP degree program with tracks for bachelor and master’s holders, including specializations such as gerontology, family health, and pediatric health. USF’s growing reputation and low tuition rate make it a natural choice for Florida nurses.
Cost: $348/credit hour
New Mexico State University
The University of New Mexico may be better known, but New Mexico State University was the first college in the New Mexico territory, built as a land-grant agricultural college. Today it is the only public, land-grant, major research institution to be designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, and has been widely praised for the educational opportunity it has provided Hispanic Americans.
The NMSU School of Nursing has had a major impact on the southwest, both in producing Latino/a nurses and offering healthcare to the border region. With the mission to meet the demands of the state, NMSU offers a number of excellent, fully-online degree programs, including the DNP. While the NMSU DNP is not available in every state, many states take part in the agreement, making NMSU’s program a nation-wide value.
Cost: $227/credit hour
University at Buffalo (SUNY)
The University at Buffalo is a renowned part of the State University of New York system, one of the most respected public higher education systems in the nation. The SUNY name is highly respected in general, but Buffalo is especially distinguished, standing in the top 50 public universities and leading many U.S. News & World Report program rankings. UB is especially noted for its excellent online programs and proven value.
UB’s School of Nursing offers two top-quality programs to earn a DNP degree. For students who already have an MSN, the DNP can be earned fully online, using a part-time, asynchronous format to make scheduling convenient for working professionals. While the BSN to DNP program is not fully online, nearly half of all courses are available through distance education, reducing the amount of time needed on campus. In either case, UB is one of the best educational values in New York.
Cost: $840/credit hour
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is an independent institution in the Texas Tech University system, and an institution with a major responsibility. As the only comprehensive medical and health university in west Texas, TTUHSC has a mission to bring health care and education to more than 100 counties. TTUHSC has gone to great lengths to fulfill that mission, doubling the proportion of doctors to patients and working to fill the need for qualified nurses.
The School of Nursing offers the only DNP program in the region, making strides to update nursing education in an area with large rural areas and a fast-growing population. To get the DNP degree program to those who need it, TTUHSC offers both online and weekend executive course formats to make classes convenient for busy nurses, as well as keeping tuition at one of the lowest rates in the nation.
Cost: $118/credit hour
University of Iowa
Iowa’s flagship university, the University of Iowa is one of the most beloved and best-regarded public research universities in the Midwest, as well as in the top 35 of U.S. News & World Report public institution rankings. UI is also a center for medical and healthcare practice and education, as the home of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the foremost medical facility in the state and one of the top hospitals in the nation.
The Iowa College of Nursing shares a campus with the UIHC, giving nursing students access to some of Iowa’s best medical minds. The College of Nursing takes pride in their ambition and innovation, having an impact much larger than their small size would suggest. Iowa’s DNP program is preparing nurses for much-needed leadership positions in Iowa and beyond. While many courses are available online, even on-campus courses are scheduled for only once a week, so working nurses can arrange their schedules conveniently. The University of Iowa has a DNP program to watch, one that may one day come to dominate the Midwest.
Cost: $966/credit hour
University of Cincinnati
Formerly a U.S. News & World Report up-and-coming school, the University of Cincinnati has emerged as a leading urban research university, growing to become the second-largest university in Ohio and a top-tier national institution. With the Academic Health Center and UC Health – one of the most respected urban medical complexes in the Midwest – the University of Cincinnati plays a critical role in the healthcare system of Ohio, a role shared by the College of Nursing.
As part of an urban research institution, the College of Nursing is committed to providing the most excellent care and education possible to bring health to a diverse, complex population. They’re doing that job by building funding, designing new research centers, and preparing knowledgeable leaders with their DNP degree program. While their MSN to DNP program is well established, a new BSN to DNP track will get even more nurses into job roles where they can change the world.
Cost: $803/credit hour
University of Texas at Arlington
Located in the Dallas-Ft. Worth suburb of Arlington, the University of Texas at Arlington is one of the fastest-growing major research universities in the nation, both in size and reputation. That placement gives UT Arlington access to one of the most dynamic metropolitan areas in the nation, a network of partnerships that provide students with opportunity, and a trajectory that can only go up.
With such a wealth of resources, the College of Nursing has become the largest nursing school in the nation, and the highest producer of nurses in the state of Texas. Currently the UT Arlington DNP degree program is only open to working nurses with an MSN from an accredited institution; this 36-credit program combines online, hybrid, and intensive on-campus courses for professionals to work into their schedules. It’s the top DNP in Texas, and that means something.
Cost: $453/credit hour
Washington State University
A U.S. News & World Report top 75 public university, Washington State University is Washington’s only land-grant institution, and it demonstrates the land-grant mission with excellent, practical education in applied sciences, agriculture, and professional studies. WSU (known to locals and alumni as Wazzu) is known for its community outreach, from gardening to health, and has been cited by the Carnegie Foundation for its service.
Not surprisingly, the College of Nursing has an significant role in that public service as well, with nursing students contributing hundreds of hours each to area hospitals and clinics. As the major nursing school in Washington, WSU educates more than half of the state’s nurses, and with the DNP program, contributes mightily to the leadership of Washington’s nursing. WSU’s DNP program combines low-residency (around 5-7 days a semester) with online coursework and clinicals in the students’ local areas to make the DNP as convenient as possible. WSU nursing graduates will certainly be in good company.
Cost: $986/credit hour
University of Pittsburgh
As the birthplace of Salk’s polio vaccine, the University of Pittsburgh has a significant place in the history of medicine, a tradition that continues with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the finest university hospitals in the nation, and with Pitt’s top-tier healthcare programs. Much like Rutgers (#13), Pitt is an unusual public/private hybrid, receiving some public funds and giving Pennsylvania residents tuition reductions, but retaining its independence, which allows students to receive private-university advantages at public university prices.
It’s in this climate that Pitt’s College of Nursing earns U.S. News & World Report’s #8 best DNP program ranking. Pitt’s DNP has been around for a decade, giving them the time to build a productive, prestigious presence in the nursing field. Nurses with a BSN can earn the DNP with a blend of online and on-campus coursework, but the MSN to DNP is fully online for added convenience. It’s a degree from a connected institution that promises strong returns.
Cost: $1039/credit hour
University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky is the heart of research and education for the state of Kentucky, a land-grant university with the largest student body and highest level of prestige in the state. UK has been on a concerted mission in the 21st century to bring the university into the top 20 American public universities, and that emphasis on excellence has spread to every discipline.
The University of Kentucky College of Nursing is where the DNP degree was conceived and first offered, literally providing the model for all other terminal clinical nursing practice degree programs in the nation. While many other nursing schools have adopted the degree, and the AACN has recommended it nationally, UK remains one of the best, using a hybrid online/on-campus format to get MSN holders through in two years, and BSN holders in three years. No one knows how to design a DNP degree like the institution that created it.
Cost: $844/credit hour
Florida Atlantic University
One of the fastest-rising stars in high education, Florida Atlantic University is a relatively young institution, founded to meet the need for graduate programs in southern Florida, where there had been no public university. Today, it is one of the fastest-growing in the nation, with a stellar reputation for diversity, in particular awarding degrees to Hispanic students. With extremely low tuition rates, FAU has proven to be a major force in social mobility for Florida students.
FAU’s Lynn College of Nursing has been quickly making a name for itself as one of the premier nursing schools in Florida, guided by their Caring philosophy. Their DNP was the first CCNE-accredited program in the state, and both BSN and MSN-holding nurses are accepted. Courses are weekend and online for the convenience of working nurses, and with FAU’s incredibly low tuition, graduates can count on finding their money well spent.
Cost: $304/credit hour
Texas Woman's University
The largest public women’s institution, Texas Woman’s University does, in fact, accept male students, but their reputation has been built on groundbreaking research and professionalization of traditionally “female” fields like nursing, health sciences, and education. TWU has been a force for feminism and women’s studies in Texas, and houses the Texas Woman’s Hall of Fame.
Often considered the premier nursing school in Texas, TWU has the largest body of doctoral nursing students in the US, drawn to TWU’s unique excellence. Besides the main campus in Denton, TWU has two health sciences campuses in Dallas and Houston, increasing their reach and making their programs more accessible. The TWU DNP focuses on the application of theory, research, and technology to the work of nursing, providing the most up-to-date and significant education possible at one of the most affordable tuition rates in the US – a definitive value.
Cost: $303/credit hour
Florida International University
The youngest Phi Beta Kappa university, Florida International University has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years by providing students a unique combination of excellence in professional education and affordability. FIU has been cited as having one of the lowest student debt rates, and, like FAU (#46), is praised for the social mobility it provides a diverse, largely Hispanic student body.
FIU’s prodigious online presence has been a major factor in its growth, as its many fully online degree programs have attracted professional and working adult students all over Florida and elsewhere. The College of Nursing and Health Science at FIU offers a fully online DNP degree for students who already have an MSN; recognized for its low cost and flexibility for busy nurses, the FIU DNP also offers several focus areas for further specialization, making it a logical choice for nurses in Florida, where a booming healthcare job market all but guarantees success for qualified nurses.
Cost: $564/credit hour
University of San Diego
A small Catholic institution, the University of San Diego is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 100 national university, and has been named one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation for its Spanish Renaissance architecture and hilltop location. In keeping with Sacred Heart and Catholic values, USD is known for its generous financial aid and commitment to academic rigor, making sure the best students can get the best education no matter their financial situation.
The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science is the only graduate nursing program in San Diego, a big responsibility for a small university, but USD offers students the personal support and attention that a huge program cannot. With course plans for BSN graduates and post-master’s students, USD makes courses convenient with once-weekly class meetings. All in all, the University of San Diego offers the most thorough, market-ready DNP degree in Southern California.
Cost: $1420/credit hour
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
The University of Colorado Springs is a mid-sized regional branch of the UC system, ranked in the top 10 regional schools in its class by U.S. News & World Report. Without the name recognition of the flagship in Boulder, or a world-class medical campus like CU Denver’s Anschutz, UC Colorado Springs has instead carved out a respected, growing identity from its online programs, bringing quality education to working adult students who cannot work on-campus classes into their schedules.
Online excellence is the brand of the Beth-El College of Nursing & Health Sciences, which has been acclaimed by USN&WR for their online graduate programs, including the fully online DNP. Both BSN-DNP and the MSN-DNP are available fully online, a rarity, with clinical work done in an approved setting in the student’s area. Residents of at least 20 states are qualified for the UCCS DNP program. With UCCS’s rigorous online programs and growing reputation, Colorado Springs is a fitting close to the Top 50 Best Value ranking.
Cost: $651/credit hour