Partnership Between West Hills College Lemoore and University of Phoenix Gives Future Nurses a Leg Up

Once she got started, Erin Chieze just couldn’t stop.

The pediatric nurse at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno began her medical education at West Hills College Lemoore, where she took advantage of a program that allowed her to complete credits toward a bachelor’s while earning her associate degree.

Now she’s back in school, getting a master’s degree. She attributes a unique partnership between West Hills College Lemoore’s nursing program and University of Phoenix for getting her started on this path.
“I recommend the West Hills program all the time,” Chieze said. “It’s definitely a rigorous program, but I feel like you come out being more prepared and ready for what real nursing is like. Our instructors have very high expectations of us. And getting a head start on my Bachelor of Nursing was such a big help.”

The Transfer Pathway-Concurrent Enrollment Program is a partnership between West Hills College Lemoore and the University of Phoenix. Students in the program earn credits toward both their associate’s degree at WHCL and their bachelor’s degree at University of Phoenix through concurrent enrollment, and most are able to earn their bachelor’s less than a year after graduating from WHCL.

“Being given the opportunity to go to University of Phoenix while I was still in the program at West Hills was fantastic. It motivated me to continue on with my education,” Chieze says. “Looking back, I think that the biggest change was a confidence I got. I got a feel for what it was like working 12-hour days with little to no breaks and having people dependent on you for you for their care. The program taught me that I really could do this, that I was capable of doing the job well.”

Currently, about 25% of nursing students at West Hills take advantage of the Transfer-Pathway Concurrent Enrollment Program, says Kathryn DeFede, WHCL Director of Health Careers and Director of Nursing, RN MSN.

“The first key to success is the program’s cost,” she said.

“University of Phoenix has made it so students have a very flexible payment plan. And the cost is so reasonable. You almost can’t turn it down because it’s such a great price.”
The WHCL nursing program runs about $7,000, including tuition, uniforms, books and testing fees. Enrolling in the University of Phoenix partnership program adds about
$4,000 to the total cost, but students finish with a year of bachelor’s degree work under their belts.

“It speaks to the trend of where healthcare is going. When students first come in for orientation, I tell them I believe within five years you will not be able to get a job without a bachelor’s degree in nursing,” DeFede said. “Students need to factor that into their overall education plan. They can’t just graduate and not think about it again. The healthcare environment just doesn’t work that way.”

The program also makes students more employable, she added.

“Most healthcare facilities want a magnet status, which means 80% of their nurses need bachelor’s degrees,” DeFede said. “They’re going to make hiring considerations on whether you have that degree or not. So, if one of my students has already completed the program and just has a few credits left to get a bachelor’s degree, versus someone else who hasn’t started a bachelor’s program at all, my student has a real advantage in getting that job.”