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By Iris Stone

In a perfect world, we'd all go straight from high school to four-year bachelor's degree programs, after which we could start working or move on to graduate school. The truth of the matter, however, is that not everyone has the opportunity to spend four uninterrupted years studying without worrying about work or family obligations. Luckily, many colleges and universities recognize the needs of nontraditional students and have created specialized programs in response. One such program is the RN-BSN completion major - a perfect choice for aspiring nurses. Students who have completed Associate degrees in Nursing and have passed the NCLEX, thus becoming registered nurses, can apply to RN-BSN programs and earn a full Bachelor's degree in an accelerated time frame - sometimes just a year! These students can work as registered nurses while in school and obtain a higher degree to increase their career prospects.


Below, you'll find a list of the top 30 affordable RN-BSN programs in the South. We started by researching all the schools in the Southern United States (defined as Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) and then narrowing down the list to include only those with net price (according to College Navigator) less than $22,000.

We then did research on several points, including freshmen retention rate, graduation rate, student-to-faculty ratio, percentage of courses taught by teaching assistants, and undergraduate GPA required for admission. We also took into account how flexible the schools' delivery formats are; in other words, schools that let students choose between taking classes online or in person according to what fits their schedule were rated more highly than schools that require students to visit campus. We also considered the schools' NCLEX pass rates, which serve as reliable indicators of the quality of each university's nursing courses and instruction.

After rating the colleges in each category, we determined the top 30 and listed them below. We included information about their quality ranking but listed them according to their affordability for your convenience.

30. Eastern Mennonite University

Harrisonburg, Virginia


Nursing students at Eastern Mennonite University can expand on their current knowledge of medicine by taking classes in nursing theory, evidence-based practice, management, policy, and family health issues. The RN-BSN program takes an appropriately interdisciplinary approach to a healthcare system that grows more complex with each passing day, while qualified instructors ideally equip graduates to understand and succeed in diverse environments, from hospitals to nursing homes. Prospective students can enroll in classes in either Harrisonburg or Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but should note that Virginia-based courses are only available in the evening. Many students also appreciate the small class sizes (capped at 22 students) and the option to accelerate their studies and finish in just 17 months.

Net Price: $21,512
Ranking: 18th

29. Mercer University

Macon, Georgia


The Georgia Baptist School of Nursing offers licensed registered nurses the opportunity to complete their esteemed RN-BSN program by taking classes either full-time or part-time. Most students attend both face-to-face and hybrid classes only one day each week to accommodate their careers and busy lives. Students have the option of starting the program in August, January, or May. Full-time students who start in May can successfully complete the program in only three semesters, and students who start in August or January can finish in only 17 months. Classes include Microbiology, Intro to Psychology, and Cultural Appreciation.

Net Price: $19,733
Ranking: 3rd

28. University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama


The Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama is committed to improving the health of the state's residents. The college boasts an average NCLEX yearly pass rate of 96%-100% each year. The program is focused on preparing students to become public servants who work in diverse areas of health care such as community health, mental health, adult care, and labor and delivery, to name a few. Sensitive to the needs of working professionals, students pursuing an RN-BSN will take all classes online and the college makes every effort to place students in an area close to home to complete their clinical activities.

Net Price: $19,042
Ranking: 30th

27. University of Mobile

Mobile, Alabama


The mission of the RN-BSN program at the University of Mobile is to prepare nurses who have completed a nursing program in the past three years or who have practiced nursing in three of the past five years to gain the qualifications necessary to advance in their field. Courses may be completed in three academic periods by attending courses in a day-long Friday format or through the Center for Adults Program in an evening/weekend format. Students will complete 58 hours of nursing courses in areas such as Pathopsychology, The Community as a Client, and Principles of Nursing Research. The college will validate up to 30 hours of nursing credit.

Net Price: $18,204
Ranking: 12th

26. University of South Carolina - Aiken

Aiken, South Carolina


At the University of South Carolina Aiken School of Nursing, students will receive the education and preparation to practice professional nursing in a variety of settings and the background to continue on to graduate level studies. The Aiken School believes that nursing is a life-changing experience, and faculty is devoted to preparing students with both the knowledge and skills required to change the lives of the patients who trust them with their care. Nursing students will learn in a variety of settings, including hands-on lab experiences, high-fidelity simulation, and actual clinical practice in a variety of health care settings. There is one admission deadline each year in the spring.
Net Price: $17,220
Ranking: 11th

25. Charleston Southern University

North Charleston, South Carolina


Charleston Southern University, recently named the top university in Charleston metro by the South Carolina State Board of Nursing for its 95% NCLEX pass rate, offers its students in the RN-BSN program a high-quality, affordable education. The dedicated instructors at CSU are committed to deepening knowledge and promoting critical thinking, leadership, and research skills while training nurses to provide a compassionate and mindful brand of care. This program meets the needs of working professional nurses by offering all its courses online. Full-time and part-time options are available. Students may complete the program in one-year by taking a full course load in summer, fall, and spring semesters.

Net Price: $17,058
Ranking: 29th

24. Clemson University Center of Greenville

Clemson, South Carolina

The Clemson University Center of Greenville is committed to offering active, licensed nurses with an Associate degree the opportunity to finish what they've started and work toward career satisfaction and increased earning potential. The curriculum emphasizes a comprehensive knowledge of theory and leadership and shapes nurses with excellent research, writing, and communication skills. High demand for capable, well-educated nurses ensures graduates of the RN-BSN program will find abundant job and advancement opportunities in their field and will be well-prepared for graduate studies. Full-time students begin the one-year program in either the fall or spring semester, meet on-campus every other Tuesday evening, and complete work online using Blackboard.

Net Price: $16,817
Ranking: 2nd

23. University of Oklahoma

Norman, Oklahoma

The Career Mobility RN to BSN is a flexible program designed for working registered nurses who wish to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. Students may earn 30 units through advanced standing and will earn the other 30 units over nine months (August to May) by attending classes on Saturdays and online. Part-time options are also available. Graduates of the program will be prepared to provide safe, ethical, and competent care to patients of diverse backgrounds in various health care settings. Courses include Community-Focused Nursing, Human Experience of Disability, and Leadership in Nursing P:ractice. Clinical coursework may often be completed in the student's current place of employment.
Net Price: $16,780
Ranking: 17th

22. Georgia College and State University

Milledgeville, Georgia

This affordable and fully accredited online program accommodates licensed working professional nurses who wish to obtain their RN-BSN degree in three short semesters. Applicants may be admitted in either fall or spring and will increase their current knowledge and skills by taking courses in areas such as community health, legal and ethical aspects of professional nursing, and nursing research. The Georgia College School of Nursing focuses on preparing nurses who are highly trained medical professionals, but who are also well-rounded, compassionate, and caring individuals with strong critical and clinical reasoning. They will emerge comfortable serving diverse populations, and with superior written and verbal communications skills to ensure clear explanation of treatments and procedures.

Net Price: $16,466
Ranking: 19th

21. George Mason University

Fairfax, Virginia


An accelerated RN-BSN is available for nursing students to complete their requirements by attending full-time online classes for one year; part-time options are also available. Nurses may begin instruction in either fall or spring. The George Mason School of Nursing emphasizes early detection of health problems and disease prevention. Graduates will be well-equipped to provide unrivaled patient care and handle the managerial responsibilities of the fast-paced and increasingly challenging field of nursing. This highly competitive program is accredited by the Virginia State Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. RN-licensed students will take classes in various subjects such as Epidemiology, Advanced Composition, and Vulnerable Populations, and are required to maintain licensure throughout the duration of the program.

Net Price: $16,155
Ranking: 14th

20. University of Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee


At the University of Chattanooga School of Nursing, working nurses will visit campus once for orientation in either January or August, and then may avoid commutes and tend to their careers and families thanks to their new 100% online format of study. UTC believes that personal attention makes the difference, and helpful program advisors will assist students with creating an individualized course of study, while technology coordinators walk students through their intuitive online classrooms. In addition to enjoying coursework in areas like Pathophysiology and Issues in Professional Nursing, UTC students also receive amenities such as free admission to the Aquatics and Recreation Center, lending privileges at the Lupton Library, and free CARTA bus transportation.

Net Price: $16,062
Ranking: 26th

19. Georgia Southern University

Statesboro, Georgia


This faculty-led, completely online RN-BSN program is specifically designed for currently registered nurses interested in achieving professional advancement and personal enrichment. Students learn in both synchronous (live, real-time) and asynchronous (on their own, not live) formats with alternative options for most synchronous sessions. Students take eight courses and will typically complete the program in 18 months to two years, with accelerated and slower-paced options available as well. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on all coursework completed, although provisional admittance with a 2.7 GPA is available. The Georgia Southern University School of Nursing is especially dedicated to producing graduates who meet the health care needs of underserved and underrepresented, culturally diverse rural populations through the use of health promotion and an illness/disease prevention model.

Net Price: $15,783
Ranking: 25th

18. Mississippi College

Clinton, Mississippi


The Mississippi College School of Nursing endeavors to assist students in providing professional and high-quality patient care in addition to becoming positive and productive members of society who demonstrate the principles of Christian living in their professional and personal lives. Graduates will be prepared to demonstrate a philosophy committed to servicing humankind through the practice of nursing. The School offers an online RN-BSN track for current registered nurses who may begin coursework in either the spring or fall semester. Nursing students may participate in exciting activities and organizations such as Clinical Learning, Health Fairs, the Mexico Mission trip, and Congressional Health Nursing.

17. University of Texas - Austin

Austin, Texas


The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing offers a selective and competitive ADN-BSN program to prepare nurses to provide a higher quality of care to their patients and to lead interprofessional teams in a variety of clinical settings. Students will take classes both online and on campus one or two days each week. Full-time and part-time options are available and most students finish in 12 to 18 months. All students must begin coursework in the fall semester. Classes include Global Health, Genetics in Health Care, and Spanish for Health Care Professionals.

Net Price: $15,336
Ranking: 1st

16. University of Central Florida

Orlando, Florida

Students at the University of Central Florida are afforded the flexibility of an RN-BSN program that may be attended completely online or face-to-face, full-time or part-time, with admits in both fall and spring. Opportunities to engage in faculty-led undergraduate research projects in fields of study such as Computer-Based Simulation for Pediatric Pain Management Education and "Asking Questions, Understanding Asthma" (AQUA) are available. Graduates will be prepared to advance their careers in nursing and continue on to UCF's graduate online nursing program, which was named one of the 25 best online graduate programs by US News & World Report.

Net Price: $15,033
Ranking: 5th

15. Lincoln Memorial University

Harrogate, Tennessee

Lincoln Memorial's Caylor School of Nursing holds its students to high moral and ethical standards with a strong sense of personal responsibility and a belief in service to humanity. Courses are taught by highly qualified and distinguished faculty who are both professional educators and dedicated health care practitioners. Graduates are prepared to work in major medical centers or small community hospitals or to continue on to earn their master's degree. Students begin coursework in the fall, meet on campus one day per week, and can expect to complete their studies in only nine months after completing RN to BSN general education course requirements.

Net Price: $14,576
Ranking: 22nd

14. William Carey University

Hattiesburg, Mississippi


Students pursing an RN-BSN at William Carey University can take courses that cover diverse, useful topics including pathophysiology, gerontology, management, research, and professional writing. The RN-BSN program requires 66 credits of general course work and 30 credits of nursing course work, and is designed to accommodate the busy schedule of a registered nurse. The nursing component can be completed in 12 months and is available in a flexible online format, requiring only three on-campus meetings per semester. Students can choose from two campuses in Mississippi and one in Louisiana. Prospective students who already possess their RN licensure can start their studies with up to 24 credits already applied toward their degree.

Net Price: $14,536
Ranking: 9th

13. James Madison University

Harrisonburg, Virginia


The RN-BSN program at James Madison University teaches students how to be comfortable with and take advantage of advancements in the nursing field, while also emphasizing care of underprivileged patients. Nursing courses are taught online and cover subjects such as community health, pathophysiology, aging, management, and research. Students can choose between enrolling full time for one year or enrolling part time for two years. The RN-BSN program requires that prospective students have either been practicing as a registered nurse for six months, or plan to practice while studying at James Madison.

Net Price: $14,521
Ranking: 6th

12. University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia


Nursing students at the University of Virginia get to experience small, intimately sized classes with world-class professors. The RN-BSN program requires 49 credits of general education course work and 30 credits of nursing course work, with 41 additional credits awarded to licensed RNs. The program is part-time and can be completed in less than 2 years. Courses meet on campus once a week and include graduate level classes on subjects such as Nursing Theory, Evidence-based Practice, Health Policy, and Epidemiology, as well as a clinical practicum. Students are also often excited to hear that UVA guarantees them an interview at the UVA Medical Center.

Net Price: $13,463
Ranking: 26th

11. University of North Florida

Jacksonville, Florida


The RN-BSN program at the University of North Florida focuses on preparing registered nurses to excel in the job market, with a special emphasis on community health topics. The program requires 27 credits of general education course work and 30 credits of nursing course work, with an additional 30 credits awarded for passing the NCLEX examination. The online track is open to any active RNs licensed in their home state, while the on-campus track is open only to nurses licensed in Florida. Courses offered include Nursing Ethics, Management, and Community Health. Students are required to complete experience hours at a community agency as well as attend nursing conferences and civic meetings.

Net Price: $13,207
Ranking: 7th

10. University of North Carolina - Wilmington

Wilmington, North Carolina


Students in the RN-BSN program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington benefit from taking classes led entirely by Ph.D. level faculty. Students can take all courses online and can complete the program in just 12 months. The coursework consists of 31 nursing credits, with a prerequisite of 24 general education credits. Prospective students can choose from courses including evidence based care, gerontology, and transcultural health care. The Princeton Review has consistently ranked the University of North Carolina Wilmington as a "Best Value" school, and the cost of the RN-BSN program for in-state students is less than $5000.

Net Price: $12,089
Ranking: 23rd

9. University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas


The RN-BSN program at the University of Arkansas is dedicated to giving nurses with technical experience the chance to expand their theoretical knowledge. The program requires 35 credits of general education classes and 29 credits of nursing classes, with 37 credits awarded to licensed RNs. Prospective students must have completed either 1,000 practice hours or completion of an RN refresher course within 24 months of enrolling, or be about to graduate from an accredited nursing program. Courses are designed to help nurses take on a variety of roles and cover subjects including teaching, health promotion, and leadership.

Net Price: $12,057
Ranking: 4th

8. Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, North Carolina


Students in the RN-BSN program at Western Carolina University can add to their experience in nursing by taking courses in research, leadership, and community health. The courses take place entirely online on a part-time schedule over two years. The program requires 24 hours of nursing credit and 6- 8 credits for upper division electives, along with 62 general education credits. Licensed RNs will be awarded an additional 30 credits for their previous work. For in-state students, the administration estimates the total cost of attendance to fall below a very reasonable $6,000. Western Carolina University also has an Early Entry option for students who want to proceed into a Masters of Science in Nursing or Nursing Anesthesia program after completing their BSN.

Net Price: $11,978
Ranking: 15th

7. West Liberty University

Wheeling, West Virginia


The RN-BSN program at West Liberty University is geared towards nurses working full-time. The university offers all courses online, and students can complete the program in just a year if they take a full course load. Students must have 45 credits of general education and 36 credits in the nursing program, and can earn 31 credits for experience as an RN to replace required lower-level nursing classes. In certain circumstances the school may require students to take specific classes in person, in which case they can choose between the Highlands Center and Wheeling campuses. The RN-BSN program is a good option for non-West-Virginia students as well because the price per credit hour is the same for both in-state and out-of-state applicants.

Net Price: $10,886
Ranking: 30th

6. Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green, Kentucky


The RN-BSN program at West Kentucky University allows students to complete their degree quickly and with flexibility. Applicants may test out of as many as nine credits of nursing classes, saving them both time and money. The program requires 36 nursing credits overall, in addition to two credits in Statistics, Psychology, or Nutrition. Students can choose between full-time or part-time cohorts, which progress in a group and follow a planned schedule. Courses are offered in areas including pharmacology, disease, transcultural care, and teaching, and have limited-on campus meetings. Prospective students must have an Associate Degree in Nursing.

Net Price: $10,597
Ranking: 20th

5. University of North Carolina - Pembroke

Pembroke, North Carolina


The Nursing Department at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke is committed to three main roles: teaching, research, and community service. RS-BSN students are exposed to topics in all three areas, as well as pathophysiology and gerontology. Students are required to earn 31 credits of nursing course work, as well as 62 credits of general requirements. Previous nursing education earns students an additional 30 credits. Prospective students should have an Associate Degree or Hospital Diploma in Nursing, as well as a North Carolina or multi-state nursing license. Classes take place on campus, and the University offers a residential living community where Nursing majors can help one another learn and build a supportive environment.

Net Price: $9,632
Ranking: 13th

4. Northern Kentucky University

Highland Heights, Kentucky


Northern Kentucky University offers an online, RN-BSN completion program that students can complete on a part-time or full-time basis. Rotations start each fall, and students taking at least four courses per term can complete the program in as little as 18 months. The program blends liberal arts and humanistic theory with upper-division nursing courses to ideally prepare graduates for careers in a number of healthcare fields. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), while the MSN and DNP programs are fully approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing - great news for students who want to continue on to graduate study.

Net Price: $9,044
Ranking: 27th

3. Nicholls State University

Thibodaux, Louisiana


Applicants to the Nicholls State University RN-BSN program can receive credit for previous nursing experience, while still staying within the recommendations for Bachelor of Nursing majors. Not only does the Louisiana State Board of Nursing approve the program, but it is also accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school offers students up to 25 "credits by examination," which can help eager students move on to upper-level BSN classes more quickly. Examples of courses include Allied Health, Dietetics, Psychology, and Math, a few arts and humanities classes, and 60 credits worth of major nursing studies.

Net Price: $8,850
Ranking: 16th

2. Louisiana State University

Thibodaux, Louisiana


Applicants to the LSU RN-BSN Program in the School of Nursing must have either Associate Degree or Diploma of Nursing. The program focuses on principles of adult education which, combined with general education coursework, helps nursing students build a solid foundation of applicable knowledge. Nursing courses are designed specifically with the RN in mind, ensuring that students learn new information that will supplement their already acquired skills. LSU encourages registered nurses to pursue a BSN in order to augment their marketability and mobility in the workforce. LSU's program also puts graduates in a great position to move on to Nurse Anesthesia, Public Health Nursing, and Nursing Administration studies.

Net Price: $7,042
Ranking: 8th

1. University of Texas - El Paso

El Paso, Texas


The University of Texas at El Paso may not be as highly ranked as its Austin sibling, but the school more than makes up for it with its rock-bottom tuition prices. Even students who don't receive financial aid can earn all their nursing credits for just $9,000 (this doesn't include general education). The CCNE-accredited RN-BSN program is perfect for employed nurses who are looking to build a school schedule around their careers. Professors deliver classes in an accelerated online format and offer clinical hours through relevant "application-based assignments," making it easy for RN's to translate their skills into a BSN in as little as 12 months. Nurses graduate with the preparation to become leaders in healthcare, apply multidisciplinary approaches to solving problems, and take on a broader range of responsibilities.

Net Price: $6,089
Ranking: 21st

College Navigator
Nursing Degree Guide
Princeton Review
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Wikipedia - Southern U.S.

About the Author:
Iris Stone got her start in the industry when she began working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates' careers. Check out her Google+ Profile.

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