Austin Community College (ACC) is the leading source for registered nurses (RNs) in Central Texas. The school’s Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program typically sees a 95-100% graduate employment rate, and graduates in the Central Texas region earn a median salary of more than $70,000.
For students from low-income backgrounds, becoming an RN is one pathway to significant economic mobility. But the ADN program’s rigid requirements — including a full-time course load and on-site clinical hours — make it especially challenging for students who are their family’s primary caregivers or breadwinners.
To better serve these students, ACC developed an accelerated program that will also help to meet the region’s rapidly growing healthcare needs. Texas is projected to face a shortfall of more than 57,000 RNs by 2030.
The accelerated program paves the way [for me] to gain work experience and pursue advanced education in nursing sooner. It also allows me to spend less time out of the workforce.Rebecca, ACC Nursing Student
How it Helps
To develop its fast-track program, ACC examined accelerated ADN programs across Texas. The school identified successful elements to replicate and potential challenges to anticipate and correct.
ACC used these learnings to redesign their traditional program’s nine courses in the following ways for fast-track students:
- Offering three courses during the summer semester, so first-year students can get a head start instead of waiting for the fall semester.
- Increasing use of simulation technology to replace clinical hours, so students don’t have to depend on clinical site scheduling availability.
- Providing more hybrid classroom options so students can complete more education components remotely.
Additionally, ACC provides faculty and staff with special training on how to best meet the needs of students on their accelerated track. This includes offering wraparound services to support the faster pace and the social needs that could derail an otherwise successful student.
When selecting students for its accelerated cohort, ACC was intentional about trying to identify students with grit, the determination to overcome obstacles on their educational path, and the ability to clearly articulate why an accelerated path was right for them.
The traditional ADN program requires at least 24 months to complete, but students on the accelerated track graduate in just 18 months. This allows them to complete their licensure exam and enter the job market six months earlier than their peers. Through the fast-track program, ACC is making it easier for Central Texans to earn a nursing degree and is filling the regional workforce gap.