WINDSOR -- St. Clair College will be allowed to offer stand-alone nursing degrees as part of changes being made by the Ontario government.

Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano announced a new nursing education policy on Tuesday that he says will give students more choice around accessing a high-quality education to pursue a career in registered nursing.

The decision gives colleges, including St. Clair, the option to deliver stand-alone nursing degree programs intended to produce more qualified nurses to fill key shortages in many communities.

“This is terrific news for students and health-care professionals in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent,” said St. Clair College president Patti France.

St. Clair officials say they are working on curriculum approval and are hoping to have it set up for the fall of 2021.

Since 2000, the province has required any college wishing to offer a nursing degree program to partner with a university.

The college says research has shown that this has created unnecessary costs and other bureaucratic hurdles for some, discouraging students from going into the nursing profession.

College nursing degree programs are hoped to offer a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and the practical skills to apply this knowledge in the real world.

A number of colleges already deliver at least 90 per cent of the current curriculum and some colleges currently deliver 100 per cent of the curriculum.

“We have enjoyed a collaborative partnership with the University of Windsor and we are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for our existing students in the St. Clair College/University of Windsor Collaborative Nursing program,” says France.

To become a registered nurse in Ontario and a member of the College of Nurses of Ontario, students must obtain a BScN degree.

“Any policy that creates greater accessibility, convenience and affordability for our students is to be commended and this decision on the Ministry’s part does just that,” France added. “We also believe it will help to achieve the government’s ultimate goal: namely, to train more nurses for the health-care system which is calling out for them.”