Many nursing students at Doña Ana Community College are left wondering if they'll be able to get jobs after the college lost its accreditation.
On Monday, the main office at the Health and Public Services building was filled with frustrated students wondering if they'd wasted years of studying and hard work to get a degree from a non-accredited program.
Taylor Ortiz, 21, was ready to start classes next week for her first year. Now, she said she may have to find a new college and start all over again.
"I already bought all my supplies, scrubs, stethoscope, all that," Ortiz told ABC-7. "I was ready to graduate. I've got two children. It's going to probably make us up and move really quickly, which isn't fun for anyone ever, so it's just going to change a lot."
Ortiz would have started classes at DACC next week, but now she's thinking about moving to El Paso to attend a community college that's still nationally accredited.
DACC lost its accreditation after being placed on warning status in 2010 and failing to meet requirements this spring.
"For us it's been a real challenge to find nurses who will come and want to teach," said Margie Huerta, DACC president.
The National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission denied the college accreditation because it did not have the proper student-to-faculty ratio. With 109 students enrolled, the college should have 10 full-time faculty members. The college only has six, a problem they were given the opportunity to fix after the commission gave it re-accreditation with a warning in 2010.
Huerta blames the college's low wages.
"Nurses can earn much more money working in a hospital setting or other settings than teaching. It's less salary," Huerta said.
The question on many students' minds: will a degree from a non-accredited program really affect their chances of finding jobs?
ABC-7 searched job postings for many local hospitals and clinics. Many postings clearly ask for nationally accredited degrees.
Huerta maintains that students can still find jobs.
"There are some places that will hire them. And others that may not, but there are still many that will hire them," Huerta said.
For many students like Ortiz, these reassurances are not enough. She said she's going to look for nearby colleges that are accredited, likely having to wait an extra semester to start classes and lose financial aid in the process.
"It was disappointing, and now I feel kind of like I put a lot of hard work into something that isn't even that great," Ortiz said.
Huerta told ABC-7 the college is reapplying for accreditation, but it will take another year and a half before a decision is made by the accreditation commission. She is hopeful they can hire the right amount of full-time faculty members by that time.