Plymouth State University is starting a new nursing degree program in response to a growing shortage of nurses, particularly in New Hampshire's most rural areas.

Starting this fall, Plymouth State will offer a four-year bachelor of science degree in nursing, as well as a bachelor's degree completion program for current nurses who already have associate's degrees. The school expects about 40 freshman and 30 sophomores to enroll the first year in addition to transfer students.

Dr. Mary Bantell, who directs the school's nursing department, says the demand for nurses in New Hampshire who are trained beyond the associate-degree level is growing in every part of the state.

There are about 12,500 nurses in New Hampshire, but the state expects to need 4,000 more in the next five years.