For our 2021 rankings of direct entry MSN programs, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac compiled an extensive database of student performance on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Aspiring registered nurses in the United States must pass this examination before they may commence practice. Thus, student performance on the NCLEX-RN exam provides an excellent benchmark for comparing the relative quality of prelicensure programs.

We used our database to calculate each program’s NCLEX-RN pass rate among first-time test-takers. This is the standard program assessment metric reported by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s Division of Professional Regulation, as well as by the test’s administrator, Pearson Vue. Whenever possible, we calculated this first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate over an extensive period of time, typically the past decade of student performance. We then used this metric to rank all of Illinois’s direct entry MSN programs accordingly.

  1. #1: Millikin University
    98.0% first-time NCLEX pass rate

    1184 West Main Street
    Decatur, Illinois 62522
    https://www.millikin.edu

    98.0% first-time NCLEX pass rate
    Direct Entry MSN
    Average of 6 students graduated per year
    Data analyzed from 2012 through 2020

  2. #2: Rush University
    97.1% first-time NCLEX pass rate

    600 South Paulina Street, Suite 1080
    Chicago, Illinois 60612
    https://www.rushu.rush.edu

    97.1% first-time NCLEX pass rate
    Direct Entry MSN
    Average of 128 students graduated per year
    Data analyzed from 2011 through 2020

  3. #3: Elmhurst University
    96.2% first-time NCLEX pass rate

    190 Prospect Avenue
    Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
    https://www.elmhurst.edu

    96.2% first-time NCLEX pass rate
    Direct Entry MSN
    Average of 16 students graduated per year
    Data analyzed from 2016 through 2020

  4. #4: DePaul University
    89.9% first-time NCLEX pass rate

    990 West Fullerton Avenue
    Chicago, Illinois 60614
    https://www.depaul.edu

    89.9% first-time NCLEX pass rate
    Master's Entry to Nursing Practice
    Average of 137 students graduated per year
    Data analyzed from 2011 through 2020

  5. #5: University of Illinois Chicago
    86.2% first-time NCLEX pass rate

    845 South Damen Avenue
    Chicago, Illinois 60612
    https://www.uic.edu

    86.2% first-time NCLEX pass rate
    Direct Entry MSN
    Average of 54 students graduated per year
    Data analyzed from 2011 through 2020