Updated December 1, 2022

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 ...

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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.

#1 University of Texas - El Paso El Paso, TX
#2 Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA
#3 Nicholls State University Thibodaux, LA
#4 Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, KY
#5 University of North Carolina - Pembroke Pembroke, NC
#6 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY
#7 West Liberty University West Liberty, WV
#8 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC
#9 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
#10 University of North Carolina - Wilmington Wilmington, NC

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  1. University of Texas - El Paso

    El Paso, TX



    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.

  2. Louisiana State University

    Baton Rouge, LA



    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.

  3. Nicholls State University

    Thibodaux, LA



    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.

  4. Northern Kentucky University

    Highland Heights, KY



    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.

  5. University of North Carolina - Pembroke

    Pembroke, NC



    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.

  6. Western Kentucky University

    Bowling Green, KY



    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.

  7. West Liberty University

    West Liberty, WV



    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.

  8. Western Carolina University

    Cullowhee, NC



    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.

  9. University of Arkansas

    Fayetteville, AR



    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.

  10. University of North Carolina - Wilmington

    Wilmington, NC



    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.

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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