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Assembly attempts to protect financial aid eligibility for  nursing students

The Tennessee House of Representatives this week unanimously passed  legislation  ensuring students in licensed practical nursing (LPN) programs can still qualify for  federal financial aid assistance.

House Bill 2378, sponsored by State Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes, R-East Ridge, requires the Tennessee Board of Nursing to set a minimum of 1,296  clock hours, or an equivalent number of credit hours, for practical nursing programs offered at public institutions of higher education in the state. A minimum of 980  hours is currently required. 

Beginning July 1, colleges that offer LPN programs longer than the minimum set by  state law or regulatory board will no longer qualify for federal financial aid. House  Bill 2378 will ensure students enrolled in the Tennessee Board of Regents’ (TBR)  LPN  programs, which exceed the current state minimum requirement, remain eligible to receive financial assistance.

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“It is essential that Tennesseans have opportunities to pursue a career in health  care here at home,” Helton-Haynes said. “This legislation will ensure students can continue to afford to attend  one of the many LPN programs offered across our state. This will not only benefit  them professionally, but it will improve overall health care in Tennessee.” 

Private institutions would still be able to maintain their current curriculum lengths in accordance with the Board of Nursing’s rules, according to the legislation.

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), operated by the TBR, is the  single largest provider of LPNs in the state. During the 2022-23 academic year, 1,186 new LPNs graduated statewide.

Tennessee faced a shortfall of 15,700 registered nurses in 2021, according to a  report from the Tennessee Hospital Association. The shortage is expected to lead  to increased demand for LPNs statewide.

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House Bill 2378 was unanimously approved by the House chamber on April 8. The  companion version of the legislation is still advancing in the Senate.  

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