Petitions are circulating around Cuesta campus, calling for a repeal of the April 4 Board of Trustees decision that halted acceptance of new students into the college's registered nursing program. Would-be nurses hoping to get in have collected more than 200 signatures and planned to make their discontent known during the public comment period of the May 2 Board of Trustees meeting.
The decision for a moratorium came in the midst of a statewide nurse shortage that has school administrators scrambling to add new seats to now-swelling classes. The current wait list at Cuesta is pushing 300 names, which translates into years of waiting. The moratorium may only be in place for the 2007-2008 school year so the college can reevaluate the situation, but Board of Trustees President Angela Mitchell doubts that it will last even that long.
The problem isn't as simple as a lack of funding for faculty, she said, but involves a need for clinical space for on-the-job-type training. Mitchell said that double shifts might provide a solution, as might limiting enrollment to allow only applicants from the area Mitchell estimates that up to 30 percent of applicants basically come from outside of San Luis Obispo County but they need more time to develop a solution.
"We hope to evaluate [the RN program] so we can create a larger program," Mitchell said. "I really believe that it's not fair to be on a waiting list for two or three years."
Nursing and pre-nursing students are also voicing concern over what they call a breakdown in communication. Student Nurses Association Representative Maria Arevalo said that they were caught off guard when the college announced the moratorium in an April 16 general press release. Mitchell countered that the college's administration is very open, and that the issue was well publicized even before the April 4 decision.
The petition outlines 10 major points to be addressed by the board paramount among them is a call for greater collaboration between students and administration in dictating policy.
"We are not an adversary, we are just trying to facilitate dialogue between the students and the administration," Arevalo said.
The nursing hopefuls are also calling for a cease-and-desist order on the moratorium, with a permanent state-protected waiting list, a greater push for state funding, and a rejection of proposed merit-based filters into the program, which they say violate the basic junior college commitment to equal access.