RED WING, Minn. (AP) — School officials hope that a new nursing program in southeast Minnesota will help lessen the nursing shortage in rural areas.

Students will begin the program by pursing an associate degree in nursing at the Minnesota State College Southeast Red Wing campus . Students can then pursue a bachelor of science degree in nursing at Winona State University.

The program has enrolled 28 students this semester. William J. McBreen, Winona State University dean of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the enrollment exceeds expectations.

More students will be able to enroll in the program in the fall. The Red Wing program can accept up to 50 students.

The program is particularly tailored for students who are working while attending classes, said Jennifer Timm, an assistant professor at Winona State University and co-coordinator of the program.

The program combines classroom and lab time with online coursework.

Officials hope the program will help fill nursing vacancies in the rural areas in the state.