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Top 50 Best Value MSN Programs of 2015Due to recommendations by the American Nurses Association, many health care facilities are beginning to consider the BSN a minimum standard for hiring. That means two things: more and more RNs are pursuing bachelor degrees to increase their status, and more nurses with a BSN need to consider going farther and earning a Master of Science in Nursing to distinguish themselves on the job market. Furthermore, for nurses who are considering careers in administrative or educational roles, the MSN is a must. So it’s no surprise that nursing schools that don’t offer graduate degrees are working to develop them, or that MSN programs are increasingly competitive.

While many working RNs and BSN holders are choosing online MSN programs in order to continue working while earning their degree, there are still many benefits to choosing a residential program. Many residential programs keep their acceptance rates low, so students can develop closer relationships and faculty can offer more engaged mentoring; most schools have built partnerships with their area hospitals and health care centers, allowing students to take part in direct care and research; and many nursing schools are located in areas with high concentration of health care facilities, meaning that students graduate with a built-in job market and, often, connections to that market.

Of course, not all residential programs are created equal. Tuition rates are going up all over the US, and increased demand means more schools throwing together shoddy programs lacking in adequate educational quality and marketable reputations. That’s why Value Colleges has put together this guide to the best values. These are not just the schools with the best reputation on paper, or the cheapest rates; they are the schools that find the right balance between quality and affordability, without either being sacrificed for the other.

To make it on this list, schools must first be accredited by one of the two main nursing education accrediting bodies: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). To numerically rank the programs, we used four criteria:

Prospective students should be aware that tuition rates may vary according to state residency, and that per-credit tuition rates do not take into account specific fees. But with the schools on this list, students can trust that they are finding MSN programs that will give them a proven return on their educational investment and carry their career into the future.

Coming in at a solid #1 Best Value is the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Acclaimed by U.S. News & World Report as a best nursing graduate program for 2016, UAB’s quality is evident in its corporate and medical partnerships, high-tech simulation labs, and impressive faculty. For students who have completed a BSN and wish to pursue the MSN, UAB offers a number of specialities, including nurse practitioner in primary care (such as pediatric, geriatric, and psychiatric), acute care (including nurse anesthesia and neonatal), advanced roles (such as informatics and systems analyst), and advanced generalist. There is also a more intensive RN to MSN track for registered nurses who wish to go straight to the MSN. At the master’s level, students learn not only nursing practice, but fundamental concepts of economics, marketing, and business, so that they can enter managerial and consulting roles. All of UAB’s advantages include an affordable tuition rate for in-state residents, and the higher salary expectations of the MSN. UAB is not only a top nursing program, but, for our money, the best possible all-around value for nursing students.

At #2 on the Best Values list, the University of Washington’s School of Nursing presents a great value for a top-notch education. Located in Seattle, WA, a hub for technology and active living, as well as a recognized sustainable campus, UW is a great place to live, work, and get an education. The Master of Nursing degree specializes in Community Health Nursing, a uniquely progressive program focusing on the health needs of diverse communities. Students learn to meet the care needs of multi-cultural and multi-lingual patient populations, including preventative care and community-based health initiatives. Such a program is especially forward-thinking, as our society becomes more diverse and health care needs become more and more specialized. This innovative, multi-disciplinary program also allows students to work toward a second master’s in public health, if desired, to get a fuller picture of large-scale health-care systems and the needs of whole populations. At a reasonable tuition rate, UW’s MN-CHN program is a great investment in the future – not only your own, but our world.

Arizona State University’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation is renowned as one of the best in the US, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top graduate school. ASU offers two concentrations for the MSN, Care Coordination (which focuses on leadership and management) and Patient Safety & Health Care Quality (the name of which speaks for itself). Besides the MSN, ASU also offers master degrees in Clinical Research Management and Nursing Education  for students interested in going in a more academic or research-centered direction. ASU’s nursing program is considered one of the most innovative and technologically-advanced, so students can be assured that they are getting an education that will prepare them for whatever surprises the profession can throw at them – a great value and a smart investment.

UCLA, of course, is one of the most well-known and highly-regarded public universities in the US, a Public Ivy with high marks from just about every ranking agency out there. Sports fans will know the Bruins for their top basketball and football teams. But for this list, what matters is their absolutely stellar School of Nursing. Part of the #1 hospital system in the west (according to USN&WR), the UCLA School of Nursing is also exceptionally diverse, with a highly-credentialed faculty and one of the highest rates of NIH funding. UCLA offers two paths to the MSN: the Advanced Practice plan for students with a BSN, and the Masters Entry Clinical Nurse for students who already have a bachelor’s in another field. Either way, students are prepared for leadership roles in a variety of settings. And you might just end up a star – UCLA is (for obvious reasons) one of the most frequently-used locations when Hollywood TV and movie productions need to film on a college campus!

You wont be surprised to find that Johns Hopkins University has one of the greatest nursing schools in the world; Johns Hopkins is synonymous with excellence in medicine, and their nursing school is one of the oldest, founded with the guidance of Florence Nightingale herself. But you can be forgiven for being surprised to hear it’s a value: surely Johns Hopkins must cost a fortune? Yes, Johns Hopkins’ tuition is high; but so is its support and return on investment. Frankly, a nursing degree from Johns Hopkins is not like a degree from just anywhere. The quality of education, and the reputation of the institution, mean that a degree from Johns Hopkins has a higher market value and greater future than pretty much anywhere else. MSN students may specialize in Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Health Systems Management, and Public Health Nursing, competitive, challenging programs that are amply rewarded. It’s this quality and level of return that make Johns Hopkins a value.

Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing is part of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a Nashville, TN, health care institution that stands alongside Duke and Emory as one of the most respected private teaching hospitals in the country. Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing has been a leader in research and learning in nursing for over a century, and is one of the few that focuses entirely on graduate education. Vanderbilt’s MSN program offers a number of specializations in highly-sought fields, such as gerontology, nurse midwifery, and family nurse practitioner. In addition to an excellent education, Vanderbilt graduates expect a high return on investment and a strong footing in a competitive job market, with the ability to shine in most any clinical setting. That makes Vanderbilt one of the best possible investments in an MSN.

As a proud part of the UCSF Medical Center, the UC San Francisco School of Nursing is involved with one of the leading teaching campuses in California and the western US in general, a center for research, learning, and healing. The School of Nursing has prepared nurses since 1907 in the most innovative and timely methods of every era, and today is no different, as students and faculty keep up-to-date technology and forward-thinking ideas a daily part of their work. In addition to the conventional MSN program, UCSF also offers a Masters Entry Program, a 3-year course of study for students who already have a bachelor degree in another field. With specializations including Psychiatric/Mental Health, Pediatric, and Nurse Midwifery, prospective nurses can prepare for whatever area is most appealing or most rewarding for them, and a strong ROI, plus high marketability, make an MSN from UCSF rewarding in more ways than one.

Salt Lake City, UT – with a mountain location perfect for hiking, biking, and active living – is the home of the University of Utah College of Nursing, one of the leading institutions for nursing education in the US. As the oldest university in Utah, and home to the only educational medical center in the state, the University of Utah is the prime location for nursing education in the region, with a high level of research activity and career development for nurses who want to further their intellectual and professional status. The College of Nursing offers three concentrations for the Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Informatics, Nursing Education, and Care Management. Tuition is kept affordable for state residents, and with the high quality education and specialized expertise offered by Utah, graduates can expect this investment to pay off quickly.

The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing has high standards and a level of excellence hard to match. Second in the nation for NIH research funding, and high on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking, UIC is a leader in nursing education. In recent years the College has made major revisions to its graduate programs, following recommendations by the AACN, bringing their curriculum into a more advanced, future-oriented methodology. These changes include ending specializations in favor of a general curriculum, preparing graduates to be more flexible as needs in the profession and on the job market change. This change in approach is good news for students; medical science, and the medical profession, is developing so rapidly that the strongest skills a nurse needs are critical thinking and adaptability, which the UIC curriculum delivers. An ability to adjust to new technology, treatments, and theory means UIC nurses will never have to worry about their expertise becoming obsolete, or unmarketable – a perennial value.

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University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan brings it all together, from science and humanities to law and business, with a secure reputation.
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Closing out our Top 10, the University of Michigan School of Nursing combines cutting-edge research with practical skills for an education that gets both the broad strokes and the special details. MSN students can choose from a wide variety of specializations in acute care, primary care, midwifery, and more, to set themselves on a career path in some of the most marketable areas of nursing. As a residential student, you could benefit from a new, state-of-the-art building for the School of Nursing, as well as the location in Ann Arbor, a definitive college town and famously a best place to live. These are not small considerations, either; with the pressures and challenges of a graduate nursing program, quality of life makes a big difference in your experience. So does return on investment, and there, U-M shines, making an MSN from the University of Michigan a best value.

Thanks to high populations of retirees, nursing is a big profession in Florida, which means a number of top-tier nursing schools in the state. The University of South Florida, in beautiful Tampa, is one of the best, with U.S. News & World Report’s #1 Florida graduate school, high NIH research funding, and the fastest growth in the area. There are three paths for students who wish to earn an MSN, depending on their current status: an Accelerated plan for students with an associate degree to go straight through the bachelor and master programs; an RN to MSN path for licensed registered nurses; and a conventional MSN program for students with a BSN. With a wide range of experience available, thanks to the Clinical Collaborative Preceptor Partnership with many hospitals and care facilities, and a robust job market in the state of Florida, students at USF can count on a high quality education and a solid investment.

With its location in Austin – a vital cultural melting pot of diverse class, racial, and ethnic makeup – the University of Texas School of Nursing puts a high level of emphasis on community engagement, positive action, and collaboration. It is one of the leading nursing schools in the US according to U.S. News & World Report, and the top producer of nurses in Texas. Students looking for an MSN degree have two options: the conventional MSN program for students with a nursing BS, or an Alternate Entry MSN for students with a bachelor degree in another field. There are ten possible concentrations, including Maternity, Holistic Adult Health, and Public Health Nursing, as well as the highly-sought Nurse Practitioner. With the reasonable tuition rates afforded by a public university, and an excellent reputation on the job market, an MSN from UT Austin is a top value.

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Michigan State University

View of the Shaw Lane entrance sign at Michigan State University.
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Michigan State University’s School of Nursing has a growing reputation and a lot of ambition, with its U.S. News & World Report ranking and NIH funding on the rise. Michigan State’s MSN program has three concentrations designed for future innovation and adaptability. These include: Nurse Practitioner; Clinical Nurse Specialist and Education (for students who wish to work in academic settings, with clinical and teaching skills); and Nurse Anesthesia. With a new, energy-efficient building for the School of Nursing, and the comforts of a small college town in East Lansing, residential students benefit from an environment that gives them the opportunity to build relationships and community, just one aspect of Michigan State that makes its a top college value.

Ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Maryland School of Nursing, in Baltimore, MD, has a long history of excellence in nursing education. With a high level of NIH funding, UMSON has been a leader in innovation for nursing education, including the first Nursing Informatics program ever offered. There are three MSN paths available: the Clinical Nurse Leader program for students with a bachelor degree in another field; the RN to MSN route for students who are already licensed RNs; and the conventional MSN for students with a nursing BS. MSN specializations include Community/Public Health, Health Services Leadership and Management, and Nursing Informatics. With many options and an affordable tuition rate, UMSON provides students with a strong investment in their future.

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Columbia University

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As one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Columbia University’s reputation is secure and well-known. Columbia is also home to one of the first nursing schools in the US, founded in 1892, and a leader in nurse education ever since. MSN students can choose from a variety of specializations, including Adult Gerontology (both Primary and Acute Care concentrations), Nurse Midwifery, Nurse Anesthesia, and Family Nurse Practitioner. These are highly marketable fields, and a degree from Columbia University has a substantial market value itself. Add in the New York location, with hundreds of clinical partnerships and a huge health care system, MSN graduates from Columbia can count on strong employability and an investment that can quickly start to show returns.

Though men have been admitted since 1994, Texas Woman’s University’s name reflects its history as Texas’ premiere education institution for women. Not surprisingly, considering the history of women’s education, TWU has a world-renowned College of Nursing, offering a Master of Science in Nursing degree that is a great value (TWU is a public university, after all) and a host of possibilities. Students can specialize in Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Leaders, Nursing Education, and Nursing Health Systems Management, suited to their own talents and preferences. There are also programs available to nurses who are already licensed RNs to skip the bachelor degree and work straight through to the MSN. A degree from TWU carries a lot of experience and reputation, making it a definitive value.

University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing has been consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top in the nation, with a reputation not only for scholarship (with the most productive research faculty of any public nursing school) but also for value. Mizzou has built the Sinclair School into a model and leader for other nursing programs, and this excellence is what brings students to Sinclair. Mizzou offers two MSN concentrations: Leadership in Nursing and Healthcare Systems, and Nurse Educator (other concentrations have recently moved to the doctorate level, including Family Nurse Practitioner). It’s a challenging course of study, with a written thesis and clinical practice, but Mizzou graduates going on the job market can trust that the Sinclair School’s excellent reputation and superb quality will make them ideal candidates.

Ranked #5 by U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 best nursing graduate programs list, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing’s quality can’t be questioned. Pitt is also one of the best-funded institutions for research, according to the NIH. With this reputation, students seeking to earn an MSN would do well to take a look at Pitt. Students can choose program majors in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Anesthesia, or specialize in Nursing Administration, Clinical Nurse Leader, or Nursing Informatics. Pitt’s value is solidified when you consider that the University of Pittsburgh, as a public university, offers an affordable tuition rate and a strong return on investment for graduates, with access to the job markets of the northeast.

If you haven’t heard of NYU’s College of Nursing, you must have started your research thirty seconds ago; NYU has been setting standards for nursing education for generations, with all of the resources that a global university can bring to bear. Third in the nation for NIH funding, NYU’s research and educational quality offer students possibilities that no other school can, from technologically-advanced facilities to international opportunities, not to mention entry into New York City’s thriving healthcare job market. MSN students can specialize in everything from Nurse Midwifery and Nursing Administration to Advanced Practice in many areas such as Adult Acute Care and Pediatrics. A degree from NYU can prepare nurses to do pretty much anything they want, pretty much anywhere they want, a value that is hard to put a price tag on.

The Ohio State University College of Nursing has a commitment to health, developing the Buckeye Wellness plan to create the healthiest campus in the US. The College of Nursing’s faculty and students are a vital part of this initiative, representing just one of the ways OSU is offering students innovative, hands-on education to prepare them for their professional lives. Numerous partnerships with hospitals, care centers, and corporate collaborators also offers students many opportunities for clinical experience, employment, and academic research. MSN students can choose from more than a dozen specialities, including Clinical Nurse Leader, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Nurse Midwifery. Graduates can expect a strong return on their investment, making the Ohio State a top value college.

The University of Arizona College of Nursing has many things to be proud of, not the least being their exemplary diversity and U.S. News & World Report-ranked educational excellence. The Master of Science Entry to the Profession of Nursing has one goal: to make the best practicing nurses possible. Rather than an overwhelming suite of specializations and concentrations, the MEPN degree focuses on creating great, flexible, adaptable nurses who can work equally well in any environment. Residential students will find a number of quality-of-life values in Tucson; sun-lovers will bask in over 350 sunny days a year, and the adventurous will enjoy hiking and climbing in the Sonoran desert, the nearby Pasqua Yaqui reservation, or across the border in Mexico. Such unaccountable benefits add to the value of an already great investment.

The #1 Nursing Graduate School in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report: hard to argue with that. As the first Ivy League school to offer a comprehensive nursing education program, Penn has a long history of educating nurses, and all of the status and reputation that the Ivy League has to offer. MSN students can choose from nearly 20 different concentrations, including Family NP, Nursing and Healthcare Administration, and Health Leadership. Of course, as an Ivy, prices are rather higher than nursing schools at public universities; students can expect that added expense to pay off in the long run, though, as the Ivy League opens doors to employment that can offset the original investment and prove a value.

As a small, research-intensive university, the University of Rochester School of Nursing has long been recognized as an innovative, forward-thinking institution, among the first to develop such concepts at the nurse practitioner and the Ph.D. in nursing. Rochester prides themselves on a progressive curriculum that combines technical skills with humanist values and critical learning. The Rochester SON offers both Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Leadership programs, with specialization in each (such as Adult Gerontology, Pediatric NP, and others). Rochester’s SON also puts a premium on students support, leading to a high retention rate and a high NCLEX pass rate for their students, something that definitely sets a residential program apart. Rochester is also acclaimed by Money Magazine as one of the best places to live in the US, a fact that puts the University of Rochester over the top as a great value.

As mentioned above (the University of South Florida, #11), Florida is one of the best places to earn a nursing degree. With a high proportion of older adults and a growing population, Florida not only offers innumerable job opportunities, but is home to some of the best nursing schools in the nation. The University of Central Florida College of Nursing is one of those, with recognition for the graduate programs, online programs, and programs for veterans. UCF’s MSN programs are offered in hybrid format mixing on-campus and online coursework; students can concentrate in Adult Gerontology NP, Family NP, Nurse Leadership and Management, or Nurse Leadership. The quality of UCF’s education, and their excellent student support, have helped them lead the state in NCLEX pass rates, and a strong start on the job market helps make UCF a top investment.

The University of Kansas School of Nursing is part of the KU Medical Center, one of the most prestigious educational medical institutions in the midwest, giving KU nursing students to some of the most innovative, advanced educational opportunities available. KU has also been named a Center for Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing, a distinction shared by no other college or university in the region. With such testaments to quality, students can trust that a nursing degree from the University of Kansas will give them the skills and reputation to succeed on the job market. Students can earn an MSN with specialization in Clinical Research Management, Nursing Informatics, Organization Leadership, or Public Health Nursing. KU’s curriculum is built on combining skills, leadership, and research for a fully-rounded education that will make a degree from KU a solid value.

As another NLN Center of Excellence, UNC Greensboro’s School of Nursing has a star that is quickly on the rise. In a state with a number of high-quality nursing schools, UNCG stands out as a value due to their combination of affordability (as a public university), quality, and high return on investment. North Carolina, considered a leader in medicine and health care, offers a broad and vital job market for nurses, and a degree from UNCG gives students a leg up when searching for employment in NC. Students can earn an MSN in Nursing Administration or Nursing Education, or work toward a dual MSN/MBA degree in Health Management, all highly-sought, competitive fields. With these degrees putting graduates on track for significant leadership and research positions, it’s no surprise UNCG is a good investment.

Emory University’s Woodruff School of Nursing has acclaim from U.S. News & World Report as a top graduate program, and the reputation of Emory, an Atlanta private research university considered in the rarified league of Duke or Vanderbilt. Beginning in 1905, Emory’s School of Nursing has a long history of excellence, one that continues to today with a nationally-recognized faculty and significant research activity. Master’s students can specialize in more than a dozen areas, including Emergency, Nurse Midwifery, and Women’s Health, or may earn a dual degree in Nursing and Public Health. Plus, Emory’s Atlanta location gives students access to the fastest-growing metropolitan city in the US, with a wealth of job opportunities, and a thriving cultural center.

Penn State is well-known all over the world as a top-tier public university, with the resources for major research and innovation. So of course Penn State’s College of Nursing is highly-regarded, with excellent faculty and access to advanced facilities. MSN students can choose from Advanced Practice and Advanced Role options, depending on whether they wish to pursue a career as a practicing nurse (such as Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care, or Adult Gerontology Primary Care) or administrative/academic careers (Nurse Educator or Nurse Administrator). With a reputable degree and networks throughout the region, Penn State graduates can expect a solid return on their investment when they return to the job market.

Purdue University, in West Lafayette, IN, has long been a highly-respected institution, and Purdue’s School of Nursing is part of that tradition. Purdue offers an MSN degree with specializations in Adult Gerontology Primary Care, and Primary Care Pediatric, both Nurse Practitioner programs. Students who are concerned with community engagement and social responsibility would do well to check out Purdue; Purdue’s School of Nursing is committed to community care and service, with programs such as Child Wellness Day and service as rural clinics, in which undergraduate and graduates students participate. Students also help provide care for indigenous peoples through the Indian Health Service. Finally, residential students will be glad to know West Lafayette is known as one of the most diverse cities in the midwest, and a cultural oasis in its region.

Long recognized as one of the finest universities in the US, and ranked #2 in public institutions by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Virginia was founded by no less significant a person than Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s medical school has grown into the UVA Medical Center, a premiere teaching hospital, and UVA’s School of Nursing is acclaimed across the board. Students may earn an MSN with specializations in Public Health, Adult Gerontology, Psychiatric/Mental Health NP, and several more. As a Public Ivy, UVA’s tuition is a little higher than many other public universities, but its reputation and market value is above just about any other contender, making UVA a real value.

Yale claims the first modern nursing school in the US (providing a university education, rather than simple technical apprenticeship), going back to 1923. With a curriculum designed to develop students as both clinicians and scholars, Yale’s MSN prepares students for research, teaching, and patient care. Yale’s presence on a value list may be surprising, as Ivy League prices tend to be more than a little higher than public or non-Ivy privates, but for nurses who are looking for academic or administrative roles (in teaching hospitals, for example), the authority that a Yale degree confers can give graduates entry into the best class of institution, and the highest pay grade, meaning the initial investment is more likely to pay off.

It may not be as well-known as its sister institution, UMass Amherst, but UMass Boston boasts a highly-regarded School of Nursing (#41 according to U.S. News & World Report). Students can choose from concentrations in Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontological NP, and Adult Gerontological Acute Care. Part of UMass Boston’s value, though, lies in its location: Boston, MA, is not only a world-class city, but one of the highest concentrations of academic and medical complexes in the nation. That means that, whether your education skews toward academic research, administrative leadership, or advanced clinical practice, you can expect to find a wealth of opportunity in Boston and the surrounding region. A robust job market means an investment with strong returns.

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George Mason University

George Mason University is one of the most trusted and recognizable names in Washington DC and one of the nation's best online values.
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George Mason University’s reputation is strong. As the university with the largest student body in Virginia, and the resources to go with it, George Mason offers students a top-tier opportunity for research and experience. MSN students can choose concentrations in Nurse Administration, Nurse Educator, or Nurse Practitioner, depending on what kind of professional role they would like to enter. George Mason is regarded not only as one of the best public schools in the nation (according to U.S. News & World Report), but as a school continually on the rise, as its reputation grows to rival sister institutions like UVA. That growing reputation means that a degree from GMU, already a great value, will only increase in stature on the job market.

Affiliated with the internationally-renowned Duke University Health System – one of the most respected teaching and research hospitals in the world – it’s no surprise that Duke University’s School of Nursing has consistently been ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s top 10 nursing programs. While it is extremely competitive, and carries a price tag in the Ivy League range, Duke also offers its nursing students opportunities that no other university can match, from research and mentorship to job market access. Duke offers seven majors for clinical practice, including Family, Pediatric, Women’s Health, and other Nurse Practitioner programs, as well as non-clinical roles in Leadership, Education, and Informatics. For those who make the cut, a degree from Duke means a reputation that can take you far in your career.

Long on name; long on value. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis is a unique partnership between the two universities. Their shared urban campus has the mission of pooling the resources of both to create opportunities for underserved communities to access an excellent education. The IU School of Nursing at IUPUI (students earn their degree from Indiana University) has a history going back to 1914 and a wide-spread, large network of alumni that can be an asset on the job market. Students can earn an MSN in one of 8 concentrations, including Nurse Education, Leadership, and numerous clinical categories such as Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist. With a high-quality education and solid value, IUPUI offers nurses a great opportunity for advancement.

The University of Louisville’s School of Nursing is associated with the University of Louisville Medical Sciences Center, a world-renowned research institution. The ULMSC has long been a a leader in medical care, with the first emergency room, the first civilian ambulance service, and one of the first blood banks, as well as the place that developed the pap smear, the cervical cancer vaccine, and the hand transplant. Nursing students that the University of Louisville, then, have access to some of the most advanced and exciting current research, especially in cancer studies. The UL MSN focuses on advanced clinical practice rather than administrative, with Nurse Practitioner concentrations in Neonatal, Family/Women’s Health, Psychiatric Mental Health, and several other areas. With a high quality education and a reasonable public university tuition, the University of Louisville is an indisputable value.

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Boston College

Cushing Hall, the Connell School of Nursing.
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Boston College, a Catholic Jesuit private institution in Boston, MA, has a global reputation for excellence. Its education is founded on Jesuit ideals of social responsibility and the inherent value of knowledge, and the Connell School of Nursing is no different. Boston College’s school of nursing emphasizes all-around quality – no only technical skill, but high ethical and moral standards. Community service and social justice are key to Boston College’s educational mission. Concentrations include Nurse Practitioner paths in Family, Pediatric, Psychiatric, and more, as well as a Nurse Anesthesia program. But of course, like UMass Boston above (#32), one of Boston College’s greatest assets is Boston itself, a national center for research, education, and medicine. Boston College MSN graduates have not only the Boston College name, but proximity to boundless employment opportunities.

As the home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama’s economy depends on technology, and while UAH is best known for its Space Grant and aerospace engineering programs, it’s also home to a top College of Nursing. Students in the MSN program can study to become Family Nurse Practitioners or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners, or take a Leadership in Health Care Systems path for more administrative roles. With low public university tuition and a strong ROI, UAH students can expect their investment to pay off as a solid value.

As a public, urban university, the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing values diversity and community engagement, putting these values at the center of their educational mission. Partnering with the Academic Health Center, the College of Nursing is part of the Urban Universities for HEALTH Project to provide research and establish best practices for care in diverse communities, as well as launching the Leadership 2.0 program to prepare students from underserved populations for careers in health care. MSN students can choose Nurse Practitioner concentrations in Family, Adult Gerontology Acute Care, or Adult Gerontology Primary Care; or, may pursue specializations in Nurse Anesthesia or Occupational Health. With its commitment to diversity and social action, the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing is not only a value, but is also providing opportunity for many students who would be denied.

UC Davis’ Moore School of Nursing has the nation’s largest grant for nursing education, from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and has used that unprecedented funding to build an innovative, engaged program that pushes nursing education into the future and into the community. MSN students can earn a degree in either Leadership or Nurse Practitioner; another degree option, the Master of Health Services, prepares nurses for work as physician’s assistants. Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best MSN programs in the nation, UC Davis is a sound investment in your professional future, and a great college value.

One of the premiere nursing programs in the world, Rush University’s College of Nursing has a long history and a reputation to go with it. As the academic wing of Rush University Medical Center, Rush University was named for pioneering, progressive doctor Benjamin Rush, a Revolutionary War-era doctor and early advocate for universal education and the abolition of slavery. That spirit continues to inform the private, non-profit Rush system, which offers a Direct Entry Master’s for Non-Nurses and an RN-MSN program. Both of these programs give students a non-traditional path to nursing leadership and clinical practice, reflecting Rush’s reputation for innovation and accessibility and making Rush a great investment for professionals looking for a career change or advancement.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

South Building, center, is the main administrative building at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At left is the Old Well, the visual symbol of the university.
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Ranked as one of the 5 best public universities by U.S. News & World Report, and affiliated with the UNC Hospitals (widely regarded as one of the best university hospital systems), the UNC School of Nursing has been at the forefront of nursing education in North Carolina and the US for many years. With a reputation like that, and a public university price tag, it’s no surprise UNC is a top value nursing school. MSN students can take concentrations in Health Care Systems, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and more. As a minor added bonus, students no longer have to take the GRE to apply to graduate programs at UNC, taking away one barrier to graduate education dreaded by generations of students.

Yet another Florida university, the University of Miami School of Nursing & Health Studies combines excellence in education with a commitment to diversity as a Hispanic-serving institution. With over 170 clinical partnerships, UM’s nursing programs offer students unmatched opportunity for clinical work and networking for success on the job market, which, as mentioned above, is particularly impressive in Florida. Students can earn an MSN with concentrations in Nursing Informatics, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Adult Gerontology NP, both Acute and Primary Care. As a private university, UM’s tuition may seem a little higher than public tuitions, but the opportunity provided could easily cancel out that expense in the long run with stronger marketability.

Stony Brook University – also known as SUNY Stony Brook – is part of the world-class State University of New York system, a mark of quality in its own right. A well-regarded public university, Stony Brook is also notable for its reasonable tuition rates, the third lowest of major public universities, a statistic that means value for the graduate. Stony Brook’s strong nursing program includes concentrations in Nurse Practitioner (with specializations), Nursing Education, Nursing Leadership, and Nurse Midwifery. Plus, Stony Brook graduates benefit from the tremendous New York City and Northeast region health care job market, meaning that career advancement is a significant part of this education investment.

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Sciences, at the University of San Diego, has been recognized as one of the best nursing graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report. As a mid-sized private school, USD emphasizes their closeness and student support, valuable benefits considering the challenges of graduate education. MSN students may choose from 8 areas of interest; among these is a unique and trailblazing Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specializing in veteran mental health and PTSD. Other innovative programs include Latino Health Care and a Mind-Body-Spirit Health Care specializations. With a growing reputation and forward-thinking, creative programs, a degree from USD is an investment like no other.

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit University located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The traditional Master of Science in Nursing program prepares nurses for advanced roles in the field. Students can concentrate in Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (in various specialities), Nurse-Midwifery, Health Care Systems Leadership, and Clinical Nurse Leader. Marquette also offers an MSN for ADN/RN program for nurses who have associate degrees in nursing and a baccalaureate or higher degrees in disciplines other than nursing. Another option is the Direct-entry MSN program for non-nursing graduates looking for an intense, accelerated curriculum. Finally, an MBA/MSN option is available for those looking to specialize in Health Care Systems Leadership and an MBA degree. While graduate tuition may seem somewhat higher than the cost at a public institution (at $1075 per credit hour for 2016-17), the comprehensive education found at a nationally and internationally recognized institution like Marquette gives students an added value.

The MSN program at Florida Atlantic University’s Lynn College of Nursing is focused on offering leadership, clinical experience and teaching skills for the RN. Many students at FAU are already working professionals resuming their studies and benefit from the flexibility to choose between part-time or full-time study. The current graduate programs offered at the Masters level at FAU include Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Administrator and Financial Leadership, Advanced Holistic Nursing, and others. With a national and international reputation of excellence in nursing education, an effective care-based philosophy, accomplished faculty and an affordable tuition rate, FAU is a top 50 value college.

The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago provides a unique education for the health professional. With a program steeped in the Jesuit Catholic tradition, students will find service, community, justice and faith at the center of their learning. Loyola University Chicago is amongst the nation’s top 50 residential graduate nursing programs in the current U.S. News & World Report ranking, and is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Loyola offers 6 Master of Science in Nursing tracks, including  Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Health Systems Management, along with RN to MSN and MSN/MBA Dual degree programs. Loyola is a private school with an average private school tuition rate ($1,020 per credit hour, plus fees), though keep in mind, private institutions often have generous financial aid packages. So while some may argue tuition is high at most public schools, this particular program’s distinct emphasis on serving humanity provides a higher calling.

Since 1975, the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) College of Nursing has been preparing Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Administrators and Nurse Educators. The MSN program offers flexibility with course offerings in the evening, online and Saturday classes in addition to traditional class schedules. The MSN program at UTA continues to build upon the foundations of the undergraduate nursing education, further preparing the RN for advanced responsibilities. UTA expands the knowledge base for RNs resulting in leaders and experts in the field. UT Arlington has tuition levels ($8,710 for academic year) well below the average for top-tier public institutions, making it a great value for Texas residents in particular. Non-residents can expect to pay approximately $6,515 in addition to the resident tuition above, still a reasonable cost for an institution of this caliber.

It may be #50 on this list, but VCU’s School of Nursing is by no means last. Recognized as a top nursing program by U.S. News & World Report, Virginia Commonwealth University combines excellent education with responsible community engagement. Students learn not only at the VCU Medical Center, one of the best teaching hospitals in the region, but by providing care to low-income residents in Richmond’s public housing communities. VCU offers concentrations in several Nurse Practitioner areas, as well as Nursing Administration and Leadership, for careers in both practice and administration. With public university pricing, an MSN from VCU is a career investment and a great value.