Nursing survived, barely

The nursing department narrowly survived a budget cut to become a thriving program.

Christian Leonard, News Editor

The halls of the Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health reverberated with whispers of reverent awe as visitors toured the bottom floor in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the nursing department in October. A sense of excitement permeated the unfurnished rooms, connecting students and alumni in their anticipation of the future.

Yet perhaps those in attendance who had graduated from Biola decades before did not feel amazed that the program had been growing, but rather that it had survived at all.


During the late 80s and early 90s, Biola joined the national trend of colleges facing a decrease in enrollment. Interest in nursing was also diminishing nationwide, with the program producing only 13 graduates in 1991, down from approximately 65 a decade prior, according to professor of nursing Anne Gewe. Because of this, administration considered cutting the major from its budget.

While Gewe does not recall the precise year administration began cutting its budget, she remembers the effect the announcement had on faculty, who had to question the security of their jobs.

Furthermore, unlike with the recent prioritization process, administration did not take into consideration faculty input when making the budget cut, according to Gewe.

“Back in those days, it wasn’t that faculty had a voice, like now they have a faculty senate,” Gewe said. “Back then it was basically, ‘Administration has made these decisions and we’re just telling you about what the decisions are…’ So the university has changed a whole lot.”

Gewe and her colleagues decided they needed to act quickly to convince administration of the importance of the nursing program, which remained third in line for cancellation. Knowing admissions keeps a record of the number of prospective students who ask about a specific program, nursing faculty spent their evenings calling high school students to encourage them to apply for the major. Ultimately, administration spared the nursing department, cutting another program instead.


While the nursing program received a smaller budget, it has since benefited from a national growth in the field and now accepts 30 pre-clinical students a semester, up from the previous 40 a year. The program currently hosts 150 freshmen and sophomores and 120 clinical nursing students, including president of the Biola chapter of the California Nursing Students’ Association and senior nursing major PJ Maddela.

“I still think that there are going to be some challenges with the transition,” Maddela said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the department itself and the faculty adapt to those changes, but I have every confidence in them, as they are some of the most caring and godly people on the campus.”

While the nursing program has made advances, Maddela also wants nursing students to partner with the department to impact the Biola community. She envisions a future wave of nurses who will live out the biblically based education they received.

Three decades ago, the nursing program barely survived. Yet, director of nursing Rachel Van Niekerk believes God will continue to sustain the program as it grows.

“The future’s very bright. We’re very excited to have some new resources, new building, new spaces. [We’re] looking forward to watching how God continues to be faithful and provide for our needs, as he has for the last 50 years,” Van Niekerk said.

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