Messaging. In addition to support from employers, curricular alignment and development of infrastructure between community colleges and universities, other key practices have been identified to support academic progression, especially in regard to recruitment and messaging. Individual programs have used various methods to advertise and promote their academic progression pathways (NMNEC, 2016; University of Phoenix, 2016; 2016b). The OADN academic progression task force found messaging by community college faculty to be particularly motivational for students. Researchers from the OCNE program interviewed first cohort students who elected not to continue to the BSN and found they lacked the information needed to make an informed choice (OCNE, 2012). Continuation rose from 21% to 30% after providing a “transition advisor” to better inform students (OCNE, 2012). Several states found meticulously prepared college advisors to be critical to success, and subsequently developed specific methods of communication for this process (NMNEC, 2016b; OCNE, 2012, RIBN, 2017b). Substantial effort has gone into messaging the value of the BSN to varying audiences (RWJF, 2013b). Individual states have developed mechanisms to encourage nursing as a career and the BSN in particular to students in middle school and high school. See for example content from New York State at www.academicprogression.org.
Retention. A number of project sites have addressed retention of vulnerable students. The Montana APIN team developed and evaluated extensive resources for mentoring of nursing students (Montana Center to Advance Health Through Nursing, 2016). North Carolina developed a program to train and deploy Student Success Advocates, who promote successful program completion (RIBN, 2011).
Financial aid. Nurses seeking to advance their education often confront a complex landscape in regard to financial aid. Redundant coursework and excessive residency requirements can keep students enrolled beyond the period of eligibility for financial aid, while the sheer volume of credits frequently exceeds what financial aid will cover. AD graduates returning to complete the BSN commonly learn that they are not eligible for federal financial student aid such as Pell Grants because those sources were accessed during their community college program. This is true even if the funds were not fully utilized or were spent for courses that would not articulate to the baccalaureate level.
Many academic progression partnerships have developed creative mechanisms to address financial aid barriers. At a minimum, transfer or articulation pathways may include financial aid guidance that helps students more efficiently and effectively utilize the aid available to them. Academic progression programs with integrated or overlapping AD and BSN coursework have embraced additional strategies to reduce barriers to accessing financial aid and to minimize out-of-pocket costs to those students. Chief among these strategies has been the utilization of Financial Aid Consortium Agreements developed by the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). These agreements were specifically designed to allow students to apply financial aid to separate educational institutions in which they are enrolled concurrently or in alternating terms. Lack of familiarity with these agreements among financial aid professionals has been a barrier to the utilization of this strategy. They are integral to successful partnerships in New Mexico and Kansas, where students have qualifying federal financial aid distributed across the two institutions in which they are concurrently enrolled. This ensures that students maximally utilize their aid in a timeframe similar to that of a traditional BSN student.