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February 26, 2020

WGU's Nursing Students Outscore National Average on Licensing Exam

Innovations in competency-based education and in clinical coaching propel nursing students to success

SALT LAKE CITY – Graduates of Western Governors University’s (WGU) Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Prelicensure program achieved a 96.7 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in 2019, compared with the national average of 91.2 percent. A requirement for licensure as a registered nurse in all states, the exam provides a uniform benchmark for nursing education quality.

WGU’s BSN Prelicensure program launched in 2009 with grants from several states and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The nation’s first competency-based nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and in available states, WGU students exceeded the state average pass rate.

  • California: 97.9%, compared with 91.7%
  • Florida: 90%, compared with 88.8%
  • Indiana: 93.7%, compared with 91.5%
  • Texas: 100%, compared with 94.4%
  • Utah: 96.7%, compared with 89.2%

“Our nursing graduates continue to demonstrate a high level of competence,” said Dr. Jan Jones-Schenk, Senior Vice President of WGU’s College of Health Professions. “We are committed to advancing access to our quality prelicensure nursing education because we know that our students go on to positively impact the health of the communities in which they work and live.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites registered nursing as a top occupation for job growth with demand projected to rise 15 percent through 2026. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, one of the biggest barriers to meeting demand across the country is nursing schools’ ability to expand student capacity.

Many prelicensure students enroll having worked as licensed practical nurses or in allied health jobs. Competency-based education enables learning through mastery of concepts, independent of time spent in class. Self-paced, mentor-guided, online learning, and advanced simulation coupled with in-person clinical experiences, gives students access to a nursing education that meets them where they are—so they don’t have to leave the health workforce to upskill. WGU’s prelicensure program prepares students to earn both their RN license and their BSN.

Dr. Mollie Nordgren, Associate Dean of WGU Undergraduate Nursing, adds, “The NCLEX pass rates are indicative of the quality of the program WGU offers to students. The prelicensure program prepares students to be exceptional nurses ready to deliver care today, and also adapt to the continuous evolution of healthcare.”

In addition to Course Instructors and Program Mentors—faculty members who provide instruction and coaching from enrollment to graduation—prelicensure students have additional support during clinical training from Clinical Coaches, experienced staff nurses and clinical experts. During clinical rotations, students accompany their Clinical Coach for full shifts, creating an immersive experience that includes participation in multiple “care hand-offs”, experiences integral to optimizing patient safety and quality. This difference in practical experience is crucial for nursing students to learn and develop competencies in patient care and to prepare for the realities of contemporary nursing practice.

To learn more about WGU’s nursing programs, please visit

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