Kelman served as an evaluator on the Excelsior clinical exam for 20 years and said it was very stringent. About 35 percent of Excelsior’s students fail the exam on their first try, according to Excelsior. Only students that pass are allowed to sit for the national licensure exam.

For students who are too busy or are not interested classroom studies, Kelman said Excelsior is a good option.

Indeed, many nursing school like Sage now offer online courses.

Cynthia McDaniel, 42, of Schenectady, is literally the poster student for Excelsior. She appears in ads and billboards for the school.

McDaniel has three children, works full-time as an RN in Albany Medical Center’s outpatient HIV clinic and is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at Excelsior.

“The best part of being an online student is having the flexibility of going to school when ever you want,” McDaniel said. “If I can’t sleep at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, I can do schoolwork.”

Excelsior was founded in 1971 as a distance learning program for the University of the State of New York. It was called Regents College until 2001 when it changed its name to Excelsior.

The school is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The school also offers non-nursing degrees and collects more than $60 million annually in tuition and fees.

Even as states were placing additional requirements on Excelsior graduates, the National League of Nursing gave the school its highest honor, naming Excelsior a “Center of Excellence” for promoting student learning and professional development.

Based in New York City, the league is the oldest nursing organization in the United States and has 1,200 nursing schools among its members.

“There are more and more nursing programs online but Excelsior was truly the pioneer in distance education,” said Elaine Tagliareni, chief program officer at NLN. “They set the standards for how it is delivered and how one evaluates competence at the end of a program that is online. They have very strong standards for end-of-program determination of competence.”

Copyright (c) 2011, Times Union, Albany, N.Y. To see more of the Times Union, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesunion.com. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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