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Aspen U Nursing Program Under Fire for ‘Severe’ Problems

February 18, 2022

Aspen University, a private, for-profit online institution based in Denver, must sign a consent agreement with the Arizona State Board of Nursing by today or risk administrative charges, according to audio of a board meeting held by the Arizona State Board of Nursing last month.

David Hrabe, the education program administrator with the board of nursing, said during the meeting that the problems at the Aspen University nursing program were “very severe” and akin to “infrastructure collapse.”

The university has about 10,000 students enrolled nationwide, including in Phoenix. Only 31 percent of those enrolled graduate within eight years, according to the College Scorecard published by the U.S. Department of Education.

Concerns were raised during the board meeting about nursing students who were unable to pass the NCLEX, the nursing licensure exam used nationwide. The minimum NCLEX pass rate requirement for nursing programs in Arizona is 80 percent for first-time exam takers, according to the Arizona State Board of Nursing. Aspen’s nursing program’s pass rate for first-time test takers was 58 percent. The national average pass rate was 82 percent, and the state of Arizona’s was 87 percent, according to the board of nursing.

If Aspen University agrees to the consent agreement, it will be for a three-year “stayed revocation probation.” Discussion at the board meeting made clear that under the consent agreement, new admissions in the core nursing courses will be suspended until the program achieves an 80 percent pass rate on the NCLEX.

Michael Mathews, CEO of the Aspen Group, Aspen University’s parent company, said in an interview that he is “in the process of working closely with the Board of Nursing to determine what the terms of the consent decree will be, so it’s a little premature … at this point to express what the finality of the consent agreement will be.”

Mathews declined to comment on the substance of the allegations.

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Suzanne Smalley

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