There are many advantages for HCC students participating in the ATB option at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland (TUNE), our neighbor across the street. It is cost effective; students only have to complete 30 credits of their BSN at the university tuition rate. General education requirements needed for Towson can be completed at Harford.

Towson University’s Associate to Bachelor’s (ATB) option allows Harford Community College students to complete their bachelor’s degree within two terms after completing HCC’s Associate of Science in Nursing program. All 30 credits, some hybrid and online, are available through Towson University in Northeastern Maryland (TUNE), conveniently located in Harford County.

HCC’s first cohort of ATB students began in the summer of 2016; the first Harford student graduated from Towson University’s Associate to Bachelor’s (ATB) Option in December 2017. Seventeen Harford nursing students graduated in May 2018 from Towson’s Associate to Bachelor’s (ATB) option.

Harford currently has 80 students dually enrolled in Towson’s ATB degree option. In addition, there are 31 students who have graduated from HCC’s program and are currently working to complete their bachelor’s coursework at Towson. Harford projects that 34 students will begin Towson’s ATB track in fall 2018.

The curriculum for the ATB option and Towson’s RN to BS in Nursing program are the same 30 credits. However, with the ATB option, students begin their first course with Towson University in the same semester that they begin HCC’s Associate of Science in Nursing program. HCC students take concurrent coursework at TUNE while working on their associate degree. They complete 18 out of the required 30 credits for the bachelor’s degree by the time they graduate from HCC’s nursing program. After completing an AS degree in Nursing, an RN to BSN program takes longer, an average of one and one-half to two years, to complete. The length of time to program completion depends on the number of credits completed each semester.

For HCC students who did not sign up for the ATB option during their first semester, Towson offers a summer start option called ATB 2.0. Students may begin this option after they complete their second semester at HCC; however, they would require additional time (within four terms after graduating from Harford’s AS in nursing program) to complete their BS in Nursing from Towson.

There are many advantages for HCC students participating in the ATB option. It is cost effective; students only have to complete 30 credits of their BSN at the university tuition rate. General education requirements needed for Towson can be completed at Harford. With the processes in place at both academic institutions, there is a seamless transition to connect to a BSN program. Also, students can earn a bachelor’s degree from Towson without ever having to drive to the main campus, saving them time, the cost of gas, and the general inconveniences of a commute and parking. Students get a head start on degree completion; they can complete both an Associate of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in as little as two and one-half years. Students also have a point of contact at both Harford and Towson. Another advantage: those enrolled in the option are considered full university students and have access to all of Towson’s resources.

Being enrolled in the option also offers an advantage to students seeking employment. By showing prospective employers that they are already enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program, these students have an edge in the job market. Many healthcare organizations are now requiring nursing graduates to either have a BSN or have a plan to complete one upon hire.

The Towson ATB option began in conjunction with the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) Nurse Support Program II academic progression grant project, “Cecil-Harford Academic Progression in Nursing Initiative” (NSP II-16-111). The five-year grant project is shared with Cecil College and funded through FY 2020. Academic Progression Coordinator Laura Schenk provides advising, support and guidance to nursing students. Her position is grant funded through the MHEC’s Nurse Support Program II and is shared between Harford and Cecil College. She supports students on the HCC campus three days a week and also works closely with Nursing Advisor Roger Hoover to ensure he has the most up-to-date information to share with prospective nursing students.

Sarah Caro, Clinical Assistant Professor at Towson University, graduated from Harford’s nursing program. She has been teaching in the ATB option from the start of the cohort with Cecil College and HCC in the summer of 2016. She shares the benefits of enrolling in the program:

“My name is Sarah Caro, and I am a lifelong resident of Harford County and a Harford Community College Nursing program graduate from the class of December 1994. I would like to share with you the benefits of the ATB/Nursing Dual Completion track with Towson University’s Nursing Department. I wish an opportunity like this had been available during the early years of my nursing education. This pathway to a bachelor’s degree in nursing is a fantastic opportunity made possible by the partnerships with our participating community college nursing departments and Towson University's nursing department. The ATB option is the best of both worlds!

The Associate to Bachelor’s or ATB track is a dual enrollment approach allowing nursing students to pursue their BSN with Towson University while in a community college ADN program. The ATB pathway coincides with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses from 50% to 80% by 2020. Please see the following link for details about ATB/Nursing dual enrollment and the participating community college partners.

I taught the first classes for the cohort with the Cecil and Harford Community College partners in the summer of 2016 at the TUNE building in Harford County. I primarily teach NURS349 Health Assessment and Promotion Across a Lifespan; however, I have taught NURS476 Community Health, NURS460 The Older Adult, and NURS435 Nursing Research.

I hope you consider the value of our partnership and the benefit of pursuing your bachelor’s degree while in your associate degree program. I am thankful to be a nurse. I love sharing the value of our phenomenal profession with future nurses. Hope to see you soon!”

In addition to the partnership with Towson University, the addition of dual enrollment partnerships with multiple universities is a key initiative within the grant. To that end, HCC began a dual enrollment partnership with Frostburg State University in spring 2018 as well as a dual admission partnership with the University of Maryland School of Nursing. For more information on Harford Community College’s nursing program, call Admissions at 443-412-2109.