Nurses at Children’s Hospital Colorado Lose Graduate Tuition Benefits After One Year

The program provided up to $5,250 per year for over 200 programs through Guild, a learning platform. The hospital is cutting the program due to high costs and too many employees opting in.
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Published on December 13, 2023
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  • Children's Hospital Colorado recently ended a free graduate tuition benefit for nurses less than a year and a half after creating it after too many employees opted in.
  • Calling it "a difficult decision," hospital leaders estimated they spent $11 million on the benefit.
  • Other institutions in Colorado and beyond provide free tuition, fees, and other benefits for nursing students.

Children's Hospital Colorado is rescinding a promise of free graduate education for nurses and other employees, potentially leaving those employees in the lurch and facing the prospect of accruing unforeseen student debt.

On December 8, local NBC News affiliate 9NEWS reported that several nurses and behavioral health specialists contacted the station to report that the hospital's head of human resources had informed employees the hospital was cutting the tuition benefits for 2024 because too many employees opted in, making the program too costly.

"This was a very difficult decision and one we did not make without serious consideration of various options," the hospital said in a statement to 9NEWS.

The hospital also told the media outlet it has already spent $11 million on the program.

Children's Hospital Colorado claimed it was the first pediatric hospital system in the nation to provide tuition-free benefits when it announced the program in May 2022. The program was administered through a partnership with Guild, a platform providing various programs for hospital employees.

"Here, our team members are our most important asset," Betsy Rodriguez, chief human resources officer, said in the 2022 statement. "This new benefit is an additional way we're fulfilling our promise to team members by investing in them and supporting their individual potential. It's so much more than an education benefit program — it's a chance for growth, advancement and discovery for everyone at every level. We aspire to be a place where people can begin a job and are supported to grow a career."

The hospital initially funded up to $5,250 a year in tuition benefits for programs tailored to the hospital's mission and vision, focusing on healthcare, business, technology, psychology, and hospitality.

Within a week of the initial announcement, almost 25% of eligible employees reportedly created a Guild account.

One registered nurse (RN) told 9NEWS she was already a third of the way through her graduate program when the hospital announced the cut. Now, she said, she must either drop out or fund the program alone, incurring unforeseen student debt in the process.

Another nurse told 9NEWS that her partner made sacrifices within his job so they could stay in Denver for her to complete the graduate program.

Opportunities for Nursing Education in Colorado

Colorado nurses have another opportunity for a reduced-price education through the state for students pursuing nursing education and other high-demand careers.

In July, the Colorado Community College System announced the Career Advance Colorado program, covering tuition, fees, course materials, and other expenses for students entering high-demand jobs. All students have to do is apply for federal or state financial aid.

"We're excited to save Coloradans money and train people for good-paying jobs by offering free community college education for in-demand positions at the state's 19 community and technical colleges," Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement regarding the initiative.

The program builds on Care Forward Colorado, which provides free tuition for students at state community and technical colleges pursuing healthcare careers.

Professional programs under Care Forward Colorado include certified nursing assistant (CNA), nurse refresher, medical billing and coding, emergency medical technician (EMT), and integrative health practitioner and massage therapist.

Opportunities for Tuition-Free Nursing Education

Some universities offer tuition-free education for nursing students provided they meet certain criteria or fulfill specific obligations after graduation.

For example, students with bachelor's degrees in majors other than nursing can enroll at the University of Rochester in New York for a tuition-free bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Students in the program must agree to work in a local hospital for at least three years after graduation.

The program allows students to earn a BSN in 12 months, substantially shorter than a typical accelerated degree program.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing waives tuition for students with a BSN degree who have worked in a clinical setting for at least one year and want to obtain a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree to become a nurse practitioner (NP). Graduates are expected to practice in underserved areas for at least two years.

Students with more financial needs can apply for a stipend covering living expenses. The university wants up to 40 fellows annually by 2026.

In Louisiana, the Chamberlain University College of Nursing offers tuition-free schooling for up to three years for students pursuing a BSN from Chamberlain as long as students work at LCMC Health for at least three years. Students must pass the NCLEX licensing exam after graduating. Students must repay tuition if they cannot complete the work requirement or pass the NCLEX.