Azusa Pacific University’s School of Nursing (SON) received a $1,053,634 grant from the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) with Aurelia Macabasco-O’Connell, PhD, MSN, ACNP-BC, FAHA, chair of the Department of Doctoral Studies, as the principal investigator. More than 30 APU nursing graduate students will benefit from the NFLP.

“This program will decrease financial barriers in pursuing higher education for nursing students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Macabasco-O’Connell said. “Further, these funds will help APU develop collaborative partnerships to address health disparities, social determinants of health, and the needs of rural and underserved populations through teaching and training.”

The NFLP is a federal loan cancellation program from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that will support graduate students on a trajectory to become full-time nursing faculty in schools or colleges of nursing. In exchange for full-time, post-graduation employment as nurse faculty, the program authorizes cancellation of up to 85 percent of any such loan (plus interest). Recipients must serve at least four years at an accredited nursing school as full-time faculty. More recently, the department has extended this loan opportunity to those serving as adjunct faculty and preceptors to student nurses in clinical facilities. The NFLP program at APU has had 140 recipients with a total award of $8,286,058, including the current award, providing continuous funding for the past 12 years.

“At a time of great nursing shortages and workforce challenges in healthcare, this is a vital program aimed at supporting nurses and their education,” said Renee Pozza, PhD, RN, CNS, FNP-BC, interim dean of SON. “Our students are difference makers in the nursing profession and in healthcare. Our graduates serve in key leadership positions, making a difference in the lives of the patients, families, and the communities where they serve.”

Students in APU’s Master’s of Nursing program, as well as students enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice(DNP) or PhD in Nursing program are eligible to apply for the NFLP. The SON had a January 2022 graduate enrollment of 646 students, 450 being traditionally underrepresented minorities and an additional 113 from disadvantaged backgrounds. Enrollment of students of color—Hispanic/Latino(a), American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, and two or more races—has steadily increased at APU in recent years. “The extent of diversity in APU’s graduate student population is considerable with 70 percent coming from minority backgrounds, as compared to the national estimated 34 percent of minority students represented in master’s programs and 32 percent in research-focused doctoral programs in 2019,” Macabasco-O’Connell said.

This award comes at a critical time as the national nursing shortage grows exponentially. As the country’s population ages, with the last of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age in 2029, more nurses are needed to meet health needs. California is the most impacted state, with a projected shortfall of 44,500 nurses by 2030. The NFLP program aims to combat this shortfall. “Nursing shortages and maldistribution are partially attributed to nursing school faculty shortages, which hamper nursing program enrollments,” Macabasco-O’Connell said. “The overarching goal of the NFLP is to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty in order to increase the nursing workforce.” According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), most nursing schools point to faculty shortages as the top reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into nursing programs.

The nursing shortage presents a rich vocational opportunity for young people contemplating career choice. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), more registered nurse (RN) jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020-2030. Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate (9 percent) than all other occupations through 2026. “Research indicates that nurses prepared in BSN programs are more likely to complete graduate level education to fill nursing positions where the need is the greatest,” said Aja Tulleners Lesh, PhD, RN, NP, former dean of the SON. “APU’s School of Nursing, with over 2,000 undergraduate and graduate nursing students, and its many pathways to graduate education, is particularly well positioned to encourage and support nurses seeking graduate education.”

All graduate nursing students at APU are welcome and encouraged to apply for this program. To learn more about the NFLP at APU, contact Macabasco-O’Connell.


Rachel White
Executive Director of Strategic Communication
Phone: (626) 815-4502
Email: [email protected]

Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical, Christian university committed to God First and excellence in higher education. With 68 bachelor’s degrees, 48 master’s degrees, 18 certificates, 10 credentials, and 9 doctoral programs, the university offers its more than 8,000 students a high-quality education on campus, online, and at several regional locations throughout Southern California.