Officials from two Baltimore area nursing schools say they must close, despite a nursing shortage in Maryland, because the cost of maintaining the schools is too high.

At the end of January, Maryland General Hospital School of Nursing in Baltimore will graduate the last 27 of the 2,209 nurses it has trained since it was founded 95 years ago. St. Joseph Hospital in Towson said it plans to close its nursing school next year with its 84th class of 28 students.

"It's unfortunate that the hospital-based nursing programs are ending," said Timothy Miller, executive vice president of Maryland General Hospital. "It's going to be a real loss to us" because more than one-third of the nurses who staff Maryland General were trained there.

The closings leave Maryland with only two hospital nursing diploma schools -- at Baltimore's Union Memorial Hospital and at Memorial Hospital in Easton. South Baltimore General Hospital operates a 12-month program that qualifies licensed practical nurses to take the state examination to become registered nurses.

The decision to close the Maryland General school was made by the hospital's board of trustees two years ago because "it was too costly to maintain," Miller said.

Cost savings were also the main reason for the decision to close the nursing school at St. Joseph, according to a hospital spokeswoman.