Capital Region

Siena expands degree options with other schools

'This dual degree program will significantly improve the marketability of the graduates'
Ellis Medicine Belanger School of Nursing students Cassandra Mendez Diaz, Andrew Parkes, and Carina Possumato.
Ellis Medicine Belanger School of Nursing students Cassandra Mendez Diaz, Andrew Parkes, and Carina Possumato.

Categories: Business, News

LOUDONVILLE — Siena College is launching partnerships with the Ellis Medicine Belanger School of Nursing and Albany Law School to help students at all three schools prepare for the working world.

The Siena-Belanger collaboration has resulted in a new dual-degree program for nurses.

The arrangement, announced last week after state approval, will take effect in September. It is the result of — and part of — a health care industry push for registered nurses to hold bachelor’s degrees, rather than associate’s degrees.

It was a good fit for the institutions: Belanger can provide the laboratory and clinical settings Siena lacks, and Siena can offer the bachelor’s degree that Belanger can’t.

Siena College in Loudonville began its bachelor’s program in nursing in autumn of 2016 as a two-year option for licensed registered nurses who already hold associate’s degrees. It now has 16 students enrolled.

The original incarnation of Belanger was at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady in 1906. It is now based at Ellis Medicine’s McClellan Street campus, the former St. Clare’s Hospital, and averages 110 to 120 students at any given time. About 70 students start the first year, and an average of 50 reach graduation two years later. They get associate’s degrees and, once they pass a licensing exam, can begin work as registered nurses.

Belanger Director Marilyn Stapleton said the move to get registered nurses to earn four-year degrees is driven in part by the nursing profession itself. The effort has been long-running, with greater success in New York City than upstate. More than half the nurses in the Capital Region have associate’s degrees only, Siena said.

The reason for the push is simple: Studies have shown that nurses with more education provide better care.

“It raises the level of quality of care and professional practice overall,” Stapleton said.

Lisa Flack, director of nursing at Siena, said the collaboration between the schools is designed to provide a seamless experience for students. They will be able to start working part-time as registered nurses after earning their associate’s degrees but before getting their bachelor’s, provided they pass the licensing exam.  

“It’s kind of taking the best of both worlds,” she said.

Belanger nursing students currently take their general education classes at Schenectady County Community College as they work toward a two-year degree, because Belanger lacks the capacity to offer those classes. That will continue under Belanger’s new arrangement with Siena. 

Siena students will not take classes at SCCC.

The partnership will involve some movement among the various campuses by students. Tuition will vary depending on the track they take and the aid they receive.

Siena tuition is $34,326 per year. Belanger tuition, including the SCCC coursework, is $16,600 for two years. Siena students receive, on average, more than 50 percent financial aid, and to promote cost equity with Belanger, Siena will offer a clinical scholarship to its four-year bachelor’s degree students.

The push for more education for new nurses comes amid a growing need for nurses in general. Siena cited U.S. Department of Labor statistics that indicate more than 1 million new registered nurses will be needed by the year 2022, as nurses retire and the nation’s average age skews older, due to population demographics.

Flack and Stapleton said the two schools’ partnership is an important step toward expanding four-year degree options for nurses.

“We’re very excited,” Stapleton said. “This is going to change the landscape of nursing education in this area. It’s going to take a few years for that to happen, but we are in a good place.”

Albany Law School

Meanwhile, Siena and Albany Law School have signed two agreements.

The first provides students who have received a juris doctorate at Albany Law with up to nine credits toward completion of a master of science in accounting degree at Siena, allowing them to earn the MSA in less than a year.

The second will let Albany Law students simultaneously earn a juris doctorate from Albany Law and an MSA from Siena in four years, if attending full-time.

Both will take effect in the fall.

In a news release Thursday, the two institutions said the partnership addresses demand in fields such as financial planning, corporate accountancy and tax and estate planning for job candidates with expertise in both law and accounting.

“We have a growing number of students interested in both legal and financial matters and in pursuing careers in these fields, and this program will better prepare them,” said Alicia Ouellette, Albany Law School’s president and dean. 

“This dual degree program will significantly improve the marketability of the graduates,” said Margaret E. Madden, vice president for academic affairs at Siena. “There are many companies and organizations that are looking for employees with expertise in both business and law.”

Siena and Albany Law also have a 4+3 early admission program, under which Siena graduates are guaranteed admission to Albany Law upon completion of their bachelor’s degree, if they have at least a 3.3 GPA.

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