Nurses provide patient care, educational and emotional support to patients and family members. The top colleges for nursing in New Jersey were based on the best 2011 graduate nursing school rankings from “U.S. News and World Report,” compared to 2013 U.S. Department of Education statistics on undergraduate retention, graduation and net price after grants and scholarships.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University of Newark offers programs in nursing, ranging from a Bachelor of Science for students applying directly from high school, to master's and doctoral nursing programs. By 2014, Rutgers College of Nursing and the School of Nursing will merge, offering expanded opportunities that will include new programs such as midwifery and the Doctor of Nursing Practice. According to “U.S. News and World Report,” Rutgers nursing programs scored 79th for the College of Nursing and 234th for the School of Nursing, with an 84 percent freshman retention rate, an overall graduation rate of 84 percent, and the lowest net cost of all schools reviewed.

The College of New Jersey

The College of New Jersey of Ewing offers a range of programs from a bachelor's degree, a bridge from RN to bachelor's and master's degrees and a post-master's nurse practitioner certificate. The bachelor's program has a faculty-to-student ratio of 8 to 1 and a 100 percent employment rate. The nurse practitioner program includes three options, family, adult or gerontological and neonatal care, while the RN bridge to master's program is designed for RN's with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The college ranked 166th according to “U.S. News and World Report,” with a 94 percent retention rate, an 84 percent overall graduation rate and a net cost of $18,464 as of 2013.

William Paterson University

William Paterson University of Wayne provides nursing programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral level. The undergraduate programs include a generic program, an RN to bachelor's program and a second degree option. The graduate programs include a master's degree in nurse practice, a school nurse certificate, a post-master's nurse practice certificate, and a doctor of nursing practice. The university ranked 265th according to “U.S. News and World Report,” with a 77 percent retention rate, a 50 percent graduation rate and a net cost of $13,288 as of 2013.

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Fairleigh Dickinson University of Teaneck offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral-level programs. The programs include an accelerated bachelor's program, an RN to bachelor's to Master of Science in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice. The accelerated bachelor's degree allows students with other backgrounds to complete a second degree in one-to-two years. Registered and advanced practice nurses with a master's in nursing can complete a doctoral program in nurse practice. The university ranked 295th according to “U.S. News and World Report,” with a 70 percent retention rate, a 47 percent graduation rate and a net cost of $17,791 as of 2013.

Thomas Edison State College

Thomas Edison State College of Trenton, a public university with nursing accreditation, is exclusively for adults, offering mostly online programs, such as an RN to bachelor's and master's program, an accelerated second degree in nursing or graduate nursing certificates. The accelerated one-year second degree program is geared to those holding a first bachelor's degree in another field who want to complete a second degree to be licensed as a registered nurse. The college ranked 234th according to “U.S. News and World Report,” but no other statistics were available because of its nontraditional nature.