What Are You Struggling With?

Did you pick the wrong nursing school? (how to evaluate the quality of an RN program)

I spent the last week driving through western Oregon and Washington checking out and evaluating some of the nursing programs in the area.

We get a lot of students asking us about the best programs throughout the country.

In order to answer that fairly I felt it best to visit the area and see the schools myself.  It wasn’t possible for me to see every school in these two wonderful states in the short time I was here, but I was able to see a handful.

It’s a beautiful area . . . I hope to go back soon!

While I focus primarily on the schools that I visited on this trip . . . this post is helpful to anyone struggling with finding a nursing program or for students wanting to evaluate their own program . . . I go into that more below.

oregon nursing schools

How Are The Schools Ranked?

This is an important question.  Here is how I primarily ranked the schools.

  • NCLEX® Pass Rates

The choice in nursing school is really a personal one and is based on so many factors.  This post is meant to give you a basic overview of some of the schools in the area.  I will primarily focus on NCLEX® pass rates and the correlating data available from that information.

About NCLEX® Passrates

It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are not the end all-be all regarding a colleges quality.  I think that you have to do a few things when looking at these numbers:

  • Are the high or low numbers a trend over a few years?  You can find pass rates for any college on the states BON page.  HERE for Oregon.  HERE for Washington.
  • Are the numbers a result of one of the following things: low admission standards, school being too easy, the school passing students that shouldn’t pass.
  • Your success is independent of anyone else.   My school actually had pretty low NCLEX® pass rates when I started . . . I passed with ease as did many of my classmates.

Oregon Nursing Schools


Clatsop Community College – ADN

2014 Passrate: 94.1%


Central Oregon Community College – ADN

2014 Passrate: 89.6%


Lane Community College – ADN

2014 Passrate: 85.5%



2014 Passrate: 93.5%

University of Portland – BSN

2014 Passrate: 89.1%


Chemeketa Community College – ADN

2014 Passrate: 97.6%

Schools Above and Below the Standard:

National NCLEX® pass rates for first time test takers usually hover right around 86%.  As you can see, only one school was below this standard (Lane CC).

In Oregon there were several schools that historically have pass rates high above the national average.  These schools are:

  • OHSU – Ashland
  • OHSU – EOU
  • OHSU – Portland
  • U of Portland
  • Chemeketa CC – Salem
  • Clatsop CC
  • Columbia Gorge CC (100% 3 out of last 5 years)
  • Linn Benton CC

Schools Historically Preforming BELOW National Average:

  • Linfield  (3 of last 5 years)
  • SWOCC – Coos Bay (3 of last 5 years)
  • Treasure Valley CC (3 of last 5 years)
  • Umpqua CC (2 of last 5 years)

Oregon Schools with the Lowest 2014 Passrates:

  • Treasure Valley CC – 72.2
  • Linfield – 77.7%
  • Concordia – 79.5%
  • Blue Mountain CC – 84.6%
  • Breckinridge at ITT – 85%

Oregon Nursing Schools with the Highest 2014 NCLEX® Passrates:

  • OHSU – Monmouth – 100%
  • Columbia Gorge – 100%
  • Linn Benton – 100%
  • SWOCC – Coos Bay – 100%
  • Chemeketa CC – 97.6%

nursing study group

Washington Nursing Schools


Grays Harbor College – 89.66%


Bellingham Technical College – 76.19%

Whatcom Community College – 100%


South Puget Sound CC – 95%


Seattle Central College – 88.46%

University of Washington – 89.79%


Clark College – 84.73%

Highest Preforming Washington Nursing Schools 2010 – 2014

  • Big Bend CC (100% 4/5 years)
  • Peninsula College
  • Whatcom CC (100% 4/5 years)
  • Pacific Lutheran University (100% 4/5 years)
  • Shoreline CC

5 Historically Low Preforming Washington RN Programs

  • Bellingham Tech (73% average 2010 – 2014)
  • Clover Park Tech (71% average 2010 – 2014)
  • Heritage University ADN (49% average 2012 – 2014)
  • Renton (75% average 4 years)
  • Tacoma Community College (76% average 2010 – 2014)

Other colleges with poor pass rates:

  • Seattle Pacific seems to be experiencing a downward trend in pass rates.
  • South Seattle Community College has only produced 1 class with pass rates higher than the national average in the last 5 years.
  • Spokane Community College has had 3 classes below the national average in the last 5 years.

Some of these pass rates give me reason to be HIGHLY concerned.  What is administration doing? What are the professors doing?  Why have they not SERIOUSLY revamped their curriculum and fired the Dean.

If a CEO of a large company produced numbers like this they would have been tossed out like yesterdays garbage.  What in the world is going on in a program with pass rates below 70%?

I feel terrible for those students. While I truly believe that academic success is within the reach of all students . . . these programs are doing something wrong.

Nursing science is complex and requires professors and curriculum that can guide the students.

  • Are they taking in students that are not prepared for the rigor of nursing school?
  • Are they basing admission on a check clearing?
  • This is horrid!

Why Do NCLEX® Pass Rates Matter?

I have written before about how truly pointless the NCLEX® is . . . HERE . . .however . . . it is currently required to become a nurse . . . . so it kinda matters.

Did you know that if you don’t pass the NCLEX® on your first attempt your chances of passing on any subsequent try drop to just 43%   . . .

If you are going to dedicate several years of your life, thousands of dollars, and those valuable brain cells to going to nursing school . . . You Deserve a Program that Will Prepare You to Pass the NCLEX®!

If you are struggling in A&P, Micro, Patho etc . . . don’t just google “what’s the easiest nursing school” (trust me people do this).

Trust me . . . if you have a credit card . . . you will find a nursing school that is willing to take you . . . don’t fall into their trap!

Instead develop new study habits, meet with professors, dedicate more time . . . do whatever it takes . . . Like my buddy NurseBass says  . . . Nursing School is Hard . . . it’t that simple.

Spend the needed time to find a program that is a good fit for you . . . but that will also help you to achieve your goals.  The NCLEX® itself costs about $400, that doesn’t account for the study materials, lost wages from not working, and more each time you have to take the test.

  • Work your butt off
  • Do your best
  • Get into a good program
  • Network
  • ACE nursing school
  • Pass the NCLEX®
  • Become an awesome nurse
  • . . . .it’s that simple!

The right program will HELP you reach that goal . . . not become a road block in your success.

The Push Back

Now, now, now before you slam me in the comments telling me that a school doesn’t make a grade . . . let me ask you a question:

How can you explain a program with 50 students that only achieves a pass rate of 43%?  While another program with 150 students achieves a pass rate of 97%?

Defensive programs and professors might try to pass the blame on to the students . . .that’s not fair.  I believe that a school with dismal pass rates is doing one of two things wrong:

  • Accepting students that are not ready for nursing school.
  • Cheating the students with poor curriculum during nursing school.

You can explain away a pass rate of 89% on a few students not working hard enough . . . but pass rates below the national average . . . sorry but I have to call out the program.  It is time for that program to take a HARD look at what they are doing and what they are really doing.

I promise you . . . schools like Whatcom CC are doing something different.  Poorly preforming schools need to take a humble pill and ask what is that difference.


Okay . . with all of this said.  I recommend spending a lot of time focusing on how well a school is preparing it’s students.  The easiest way to do this is via pass rates on the national boards.

Other things I would consider are:

  • Cost
  • Length of Program
  • Proximity to excellent medical centers (for clinical)
  • Reputation in the Area

Your Turn . . . what are your thoughts going into nursing school?



Date Published - Oct 23, 2015
Date Modified - Apr 17, 2019

Jon Haws RN

Written by Jon Haws RN

Jon Haws RN began his nursing career at a Level I Trauma ICU in DFW working as a code team nurse, charge nurse, and preceptor. Frustrated with the nursing education process, Jon started NRSNG in 2014 with a desire to provide tools and confidence to nursing students around the globe. When he's not busting out content for NRSNG, Jon enjoys spending time with his two kids and wife.