Montana State University

MSU College of Nursing receives $100,000 grant to help students pay for tuition and books

April 27, 2017 -- By Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

The MSU College of Nursing recently won a $100,000 grant from the Hearst Foundations, which will provide support for all 48 nursing students beginning this spring in the accelerated bachelor’s program. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN — Nearly 50 students in Montana State University’s accelerated undergraduate program in nursing will receive financial support after the MSU College of Nursing won a grant from the Hearst Foundations.

The $100,000 grant will provide all 48 students beginning this spring in the accelerated bachelor’s program in nursing with $1,750 each for tuition, books and fees. It will also award a total of $16,000 to students for additional living expenses and emergency needs through an application process.

“We are so grateful to the Hearst Foundations for this support, which will have a significant and positive impact on dozens of our students,” said Helen Melland, dean of the MSU College of Nursing.

Chooi Ying Sim Birdsong, a student from Malaysia who will begin the accelerated nursing program this spring, said she appreciates the grant, which will help lessen the financial challenges she faces while enrolled in the program.

"As the funding and time required to train future healthcare workers continues to increase, some applicants, once admitted, cannot enroll due to the cost of tuition and related expenses,” Birdsong said. “Receiving the Hearst Foundations Grant definitely helps to reduce that financial burden."

MSU’s accelerated bachelor’s degree program in nursing is designed for individuals who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than nursing. The 15-month program begins in May every year, with the program concluding the following August.

Students progress through the accelerated nursing curriculum in four terms (summer, fall, spring and summer) and graduate at the conclusion of the second summer term. The curriculum, number of credits earned, number of clinical hours and degree are the same as the traditional BSN degree program. Upon graduation, the students are qualified to sit for NCLEX-RN®, the national licensing examination to enter professional nursing practice as a registered nurse. The degree is fully accredited and has received continuous approval from the Montana Board of Nursing.

Melland said the funds will make a significant difference for the program’s students – many of whom have circumstances that make funding their education challenging.

“Many of the students in this program have outstanding debt from prior loans, have used up financial aid eligibility from their first undergraduate degree and/or are unable to find additional resources to return to school,” she said. “In addition, many of the students in our accelerated program are married and have dependents, and thus they tend to have greater demands on their finances than traditional students.”

Melland said the first class of 16 students in the accelerated program began their studies on the Bozeman campus in the summer of 2011. The next year, the college accepted an additional 16 students – for a total of 32 students – onto the Great Falls campus.

Since then, demand has been strong, Melland noted. To help meet the demand, this spring the college is expanding the program to its Missoula and Kalispell campuses; eight students will be admitted to each of those two campuses. In all, a total of 48 students now are admitted to the accelerated program on the college’s campuses in Bozeman, Great Falls, Missoula and Kalispell.

“We are pleased that we have been able to grow this program to the point that we now admit 48 students per year,” Melland said. “With the actual and projected nursing shortage, we are always looking at ways to improve the number of professional nurses qualified to enter the work force.”

Melland also noted that the success of the program’s graduates is evidence of its quality.

“To date, the graduation rate of our accelerated nursing students is more than 90 percent, and the first time passing rate of those students on the NCLEX-RN® licensing exam is more than 95 percent,” she said.

Brooke Huffman, a student from Havre who will begin the accelerated nursing program this spring, said the grant will help her tremendously.

“The intensity of the accelerated program can make for lofty expenses as well as limited opportunities for income during that time,” Huffman said. “This financial assistance will reduce my stress greatly.”

The Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources for organizations and institutions working in the fields of education, health, culture and social service. The Hearst Foundations goal is to ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives. To learn more, visit

More information about the MSU College of Nursing is available at To learn more about the college’s accelerated bachelor’s degree program in nursing, visit

Contact: Helen Melland, dean, MSU College of Nursing, (406) 994-3784 or