Local News

Construction underway for FSU's troubled nursing school

Posted July 20, 2009 5:03 p.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2009 7:28 p.m. EDT

— An $11 million, taxpayer-funded building project is underway for the troubled nursing school at Fayetteville State University, despite a decision by the chancellor to temporarily shut down the school itself.

Plans for the building have been in the works since 2007, which was about the same time the state put the nursing school on probation for poor performance.

In May, Chancellor James Anderson stopped admissions to the nursing program after abysmal test scores and violations of state rules. But Anderson plans to restart the program, maybe in a couple years, after the curriculum has been revamped and faculty evaluated.

The university says the new building is a much-needed project, not just for the nursing department, but for a crowded and growing campus.

The “Southeastern North Carolina Nursing Education and Research Building,” which is scheduled to open in August 2010, will include three floors, 37,000 square feet, eight classrooms, two computer labs, three seminar rooms, general offices and study rooms for faculty and students. A state-of-the-art nursing simulation laboratory also will be incorporated into the project, university officials said.

“I look at the larger picture than just one program,” said David Barlow, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This building will serve our needs tremendously.”

The building will house the nursing program as well as the psychology department, which is the second-largest program on campus.

“We have been in cramped, confined spaces for the last three years, and prior to that, (we were) moving all over campus in temporary housing,” said Thomas Van Cantfort, interim chairman of the psychology department.

FSU still has its online program for registered nurses seeking bachelor's degrees. Barlow said he would like to create a partnership with other nursing schools in the region, such as Fayetteville Technical Community College, which would be able to share the new building.

“Most of the hospitals today are seeking to get bachelor-trained nurses. This is a big demand, and we can serve that very well,” Barlow said.

The $11 million is all state money, and the project had to be approved by the UNC Board of Governors. FSU officials were talking with officials at Fayetteville Technical Community College about partnering.

As for a timetable when the FSU nursing program can get going again, Barlow said there isn’t one.

“We are not going to do anything too quickly. We need to evaluate the faculty, the curricula, everything there is,” he said.

The 4-year-old nursing program has been plagued by students performing poorly on state nursing exams and has been on state probation for the past two years.

Forty-six percent of FSU students passed the state licensing exam in the past two years, far below the 83 percent pass rate required by the state Board of Nursing during a two-year period.

Rising seniors in the program will be allowed to complete their degree.