Students enrolled in Gateway Technical College‘s nursing program will now be able to parlay their associate’s degree into a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Cardinal Stritch within a semester.

Officials from Gateway Technical College and Cardinal Stritch signed an agreement on Tuesday that allows Gateway nursing students to be concurrently enrolled at Cardinal Stritch. Once a nursing student earns their associate’s degree, they can then take classes towards their bachelor’s degree in nursing at Cardinal Stritch.

“This is an innovative and exciting concurrent approach which will expedite the student’s completion of their bachelor of science in nursing degree — often to within one year after the student has registered licensure through the Gateway associate degree nursing program,” said Diane Skewes, dean of nursing at Gateway.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree allows the student to advance their nursing knowledge and increase their employment opportunities. This also makes the bachelor’s degree more affordable, Skewes said.

The concurrent enrollment status means that students will be able to earn credits from Gateway and Stritch at the same time. The agreement helps to address the nursing shortage. The program includes taking a six-week accelerated online nursing course, which will be offered year-round. After completing their associate’s degree and being licensed as a registered nurse, they will have one semester left to complete a bachelor’s degree at Stritch.

Gateway has 2,893 students in its nursing program. This is the first concurrent collaborative agreement in Wisconsin. Students earn credits from Stritch by taking online courses, which will begin in the fall of 2017.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.