ACEN AND ACCREDITATION

CANDIDACY AND INITIAL ACCREDITATION

LIST OF ACCREDITED NURSING PROGRAMS

OTHER QUESTIONS


 

Q. What is the ACEN mission?
A.  http://www.acenursing.org/mission-purpose-goals/
The ACEN supports the interests of nursing education, nursing practice, and the public by the functions of accreditation. Accreditation is a voluntary, self-regulatory process by which non-governmental associations recognize educational institutions or programs that have been found to meet or exceed standards and criteria for educational quality. Accreditation also assists in the further improvement of the institutions or programs as related to resource invested, processes followed, and results achieved. The monitoring of certificate, diploma, and degree offerings is tied closely to state examination and licensing rules and to the oversight of preparation for work in the profession.

[Back to Top]

Q. What is accreditation?
A.  Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental, external peer-review process that promotes institutions and academic programs embracing quality assurance and quality improvement to become stronger and better institutions and programs by setting standards of educational quality specific to nursing education. There are three (3) different types of accreditation used for institutional and academic programs; (1) Regional, (2) National or Institutional, and (3) Specialized.

Specialized accreditation normally applies to the evaluation of programs, departments, or schools which usually are parts of a total collegiate or other postsecondary institution. The unit accredited may be as large as a college or school within a university or as small as a curriculum within a discipline. Most of the specialized accrediting agencies review units within a postsecondary institution which is accredited by one of the regional accrediting commissions. However, certain of the specialized accrediting agencies accredit professional schools and other specialized or vocational or other postsecondary institutions which are free-standing in their operations. Thus, a “specialized” or “programmatic” accrediting agency may also function in the capacity of an “institutional” accrediting agency. In addition, a number of specialized accrediting agencies accredit educational programs within non-educational settings, such as hospitals (USDOE, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/FAQAccr.aspx).

ACEN is a specialized professional accreditor for practical, diploma, associate, baccalaureate, master’s including post master’s certificate, and clinical doctorate nursing programs. ACEN also functions in the capacity of being an “institutional” accrediting agency and as such the nursing program offered by the “institution” can be eligible for Title IV funds.

[Back to Top]

Q. Why is ACEN accreditation important?
A.  Currently, in most states, specialized accreditation for pre-licensure nursing programs is voluntary. There are states however, where specialized accreditation through an agency recognized by the USDOE is mandatory. ACEN is recognized by the USDOE and CHEA. Participating in the ACEN accreditation process gives a program the opportunity to validate that it is committed to providing a quality nursing program and through the review of the program by peers, the extent to which the program meets expected standards of educational quality specific to nursing education. ACEN accreditation requires that a nursing program continually assesses and make improvements in the educational quality of the nursing program based on data. This is done by evaluating specific Standards and Criteria, which include mission, faculty, students, curriculum, resources, and outcomes.

[Back to Top]

Q. Why would a program want to be accredited by ACEN?
A. 
In short, because it helps students by fostering excellence through ensuring that a program is meeting standards of educational quality specific to nursing education through the peer review process.

ACEN accreditation:

  • Provides recognition that the program or school has been evaluated and periodically re-evaluated by a qualified, independent group of peers and the extent to which the program meets appropriate educational purposes and standards of educational quality specific to nursing education.
  • Fosters on-going, self-examination, re-evaluation, and focus on the future.
  • Heightens faculty members’ and administrators’ awareness and responsiveness to areas needing improvement.
  • Aids in student recruitment.
  • Provides useful information for career and education decision making.
  • Enables student eligibility for funding support from federal and state agencies, and foundations for those programs that do not have regional accreditation.
  • Is required by many nursing programs for admission to the graduate level.
  • Is required by some state regulatory agencies.
  • Assists employers seeking graduates who are competent practitioners.
  • Offers professional development opportunity and validation for faculty.
  • Facilitates the transfer of credit using the following considerations:
    • the educational quality of the institution from which the student transfers;
    • the comparability of the nature, content, and level of credit earned from the programs offered by the receiving college or program; and
    • the appropriateness and applicability of the credit earned from the programs offered by the receiving college in light of the student’s educational goals.

[Back to Top]

Q. What is the disadvantage to a student if the nursing program is not accredited?
A. 
It can and often does impact students when they graduate from a non-accredited program in several ways:

  • The student may not qualify for employment if the employer requires nurses to have graduated from an accredited program.
  • The student may not be able to join the military as a nurse.
  • The student may not qualify for entitlement funding.
  • The student may not be able to continue his/her education and transfer nursing credits to another nursing program.
  • The student will not be able to be licensed as a nurse in some states, either initially or by reciprocity/endorsement.

[Back to Top]

Q. Is it possible for a nursing program not to be accredited even if the institution where the program is located is accredited?
A. 
Programmatic accreditation and institutional accreditation are different. It is possible that a school/institution is accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency and that the nursing program is not. The ACEN requires accredited programs to indicate accreditation status clearly to the public when it becomes accredited. The accreditation status is usually noted in publications such as the college catalog, website, and nursing brochures. See the ACEN website for more information on accredited and candidate programs.

[Back to Top]

Q. What is the difference between ACEN accreditation and the state regulatory agency approval?
A. 
ACEN accreditation is voluntary and ensures that the nursing program meets standards of educational quality specific to nursing education. A nursing program must apply for ACEN accreditation and complete the application and peer review process in order to become accredited. The state regulatory agency process is usually not voluntary but required for a program to operate in the state, depending on state laws and/or regulations. A nursing program’s status with the state regulatory agency for nursing can affect licensure and a graduate’s ability to take the licensure examination. Please contact the state agency for information on a program’s status with the state regulatory agency. Please contact ACEN for information on a program’s status with ACEN.

[Back to Top]

Q. What are the requirements for a program to be ACEN accredited?
A. 
The governing body of the program must first have state regulatory agency approval and provide evidence of accreditation from an appropriate agency; see ACEN Policy #3 (http://www.acenursing.net/manuals/Policies_March2016.pdf). There are six (6) sets of ACEN Standards and Criteria listed by program type (practical, diploma, associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and clinical doctorate) located on the ACEN website: http://www.acenursing.org/accreditation-manual/. Programs must be able to demonstrate through the candidacy, self-study, and peer review process, its ability to meet the standards of educational quality specific to nursing education requirements set in the aforementioned standards and criteria.

[Back to Top]

Q. How long does it take a program to become ACEN accredited?
A. 
All programs seeking initial accreditation must first apply and be approved as a Candidate for accreditation. A program with Candidate status has two (2) years to complete the initial accreditation process. However, a program sets its own timeline and may request an onsite visit for any cycle after becoming a Candidate. This means the nursing program may complete the Candidacy process sooner than two (2) years. The ACEN accreditation process includes the following:

  • Program preparation of the Self-Study Report
  • A site visit for evaluation of the program
  • Review of the program by the Evaluation Review Panel
  • Review of the program by the Board of Commissioners and the Commission accreditation decision

Accreditation results for the Spring and Fall Cycles can be found on the ACEN website under Commission Actions.

[Back to Top]

Q. What does Candidacy mean?
A. 
Candidacy is not accreditation. It is the first step for a nursing program seeking initial accreditation. Candidacy means the nursing program (a) demonstrated it is currently compliant with selected ACEN Standards and Criteria or demonstrated the potential to be compliant with selected ACEN Standards and Criteria within two (2) years of notification of achieving Candidacy, and (b) the potential to achieve ACEN accreditation based upon the selected ACEN Standards and Criteria reviewed in the Candidacy Presentation. Candidate programs need to complete the Candidacy process within two (2) years of notification of achieving Candidacy. Completion of the Candidacy process includes writing the complete Self-Study Report and having an initial accreditation site visit. Approval of Candidacy does not guarantee that the program will achieve initial accreditation.

[Back to Top]

Q. Once a school is listed under Candidacy, at what point does the program and public know that it is accredited?
A. 
A list of programs with upcoming review is available under the “Site Visits” tab on the ACEN website.

[Back to Top]

Candidate programs being reviewed for initial accreditation must be in compliance with all six (6) of the ACEN Accreditation Standards. The ACEN website is updated at the completion of each accreditation cycle following the notification of the programs that were reviewed during that particular cycle. For programs reviewed during the Fall Cycle, the results are posted in early April. For programs reviewed during the Spring Cycle, the results are posted in early August.

[Back to Top]

Q. I was told that if the program was granted initial accreditation that previous graduates would be grandfathered in. Is this correct?
A. 
No. Students that graduated prior to the program being granted ACEN accreditation, cannot be grandfathered in. Accreditation is not retroactive for former students and graduates.

[Back to Top]

Q. If I was enrolled in a nursing program during the initial site visit, would I graduate from an accredited program
A. 
Students enrolled in a nursing program during the initial site visit would be graduates of an ACEN accredited program IF the program is granted ACEN accreditation at the Board of Commissioners meeting immediately following the site visit. For programs visited during the Fall Cycle, the Board of Commissioners will make an accreditation decision during its spring meeting and for programs visited during the Spring Cycle, the Board of Commissioners will make an accreditation decision during its summer meeting. If initial accreditation is not granted then students would not be graduates of an ACEN accredited program. Accreditation is not retroactive for former students and graduates.

[Back to Top]

Q. How often are programs reviewed after the program was granted initial accreditation?
A. 
A program is reviewed five (5) years after initial accreditation is granted. Once continuing accreditation has been granted, the program is reviewed every eight (8) years. In addition, a program is surveyed every year through an annual reporting process and could be reviewed periodically through the substantive change process.

[Back to Top]

Q. Are programs that are not ACEN accredited listed on the ACEN website?
A. 
No, the ACEN website provides the list of programs that are currently accredited by the ACEN. For programs not listed on the website, contact the nursing program directly to determine by what agency(ies) they are accredited.

[Back to Top]

Q. Why aren’t the programs that are closed or have withdrawn from ACEN accreditation listed on the website? Does the ACEN sell any type of publication that would have information on a program that was accredited by ACEN?
A. 
The ACEN website lists programs that are currently accredited by the ACEN. For information or verification of accreditation requests for programs not currently accredited by ACEN but that may have been accredited previously, please use the “Contact Us” link at www.acenursing.org and complete the form for accreditation verification requests. If you are not able to use the form available online, you will find a link at the bottom of the page to contact ACEN by email. Please provide the name of the school, program type, city and state, and the month/year of graduation. Please allow up to 14 business days for processing.

[Back to Top]

Q. What does it mean if a program is accredited “with conditions”, “with warning” or “with warning for good cause?”
A. 
There are six (6) ACEN accreditation standards that nursing programs must meet to be accredited by ACEN. Continuing accreditation with conditions is granted when a program is found to be in non-compliance with one (1) or two (2) accreditation standards. The program’s next review and follow-up action(s) are determined by the Board of Commissioners. Continuing accreditation with warning is granted when a program is found to be in non-compliance with three (3) or more accreditation standards. Continuing accreditation with warning for good cause could be granted when a program has not remedied deficiencies at the conclusion of its maximum monitoring period and the program meets all three (3) principles for good cause. The program’s next review and follow-up action(s) are determined by the Board of Commissioners.

[Back to Top]

Q. How do I find international programs that are accredited by ACEN?
A. 
To find an accredited international nursing program, search the ACEN website (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm). In the field for “Select by State or Country,” filter by the search criteria under “Outside of the U.S.”

[Back to Top]

Q. How do I find online programs that are accredited?
A. 
The ACEN accredits practical, diploma, associate, baccalaureate, master’s including post-master’s certificate, and clinical doctorate nursing programs. ACEN accredits the entire program; in other words all program options/tracks and therefore, does not list programs by the method of delivery, such as online or distance education. For example, if a nursing program is accredited for its associate degree, then that associate degree nursing program is accredited regardless of method of delivery, tracks, or program options. For more information regarding an online nursing program, it is best to contact the program directly.

[Back to Top]

Q. Is the accreditation information on the ACEN website up-to-date?
A. 
The ACEN website is updated at the completion of each accreditation cycle following the notification of the programs that were reviewed during that particular cycle. For programs reviewed during the Fall Cycle, the results are posted in April. For programs reviewed during the Spring Cycle, the results are posted in August. A list of programs with upcoming review is available under the “Site Visits” tab on the ACEN website. Additional updates related to policies and documents contained on the website are updated on an as-needed basis.

[Back to Top]

Q. Does ACEN accredit Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Medical Assistant programs?
A. 
The ACEN accredits practical, diploma, associate, baccalaureate, master’s including post-master’s certificate, and clinical doctorate nursing programs. ACEN does not accredit CNA or Medical Assistant programs.

[Back to Top]

Q. What are degree mills and accreditation mills?
A.  Recently, several issues have been cited regarding “degree mills”, which refers to unaccredited institutions who offer degrees of questionable merit.  Additionally, concerns have also been raised regarding institutions who claim to hold accreditation from dubious accreditors which are referred to as “accreditation mills.”

For current information on such practices, visit:  http://chea.org/.

[Back to Top]

Q. How do I submit a complaint against an ACEN accredited program?
A. 
Please refer to Policy #20 in the ACEN accreditation manual on the ACEN website (http://www.acenursing.net/manuals/Policies_March2016.pdf) for information on how to formally submit a complaint against an accredited program and the ACEN procedure for processing complaints.

[Back to Top]

Q. What questions should I ask when choosing a nursing program?
A. 
Attending school to advance your education and become a nurse is a big decision. You will invest significant time and resources in this process. The educational program you choose will significantly inform and shape the nurse you will become. The following questions may be helpful to you as you seek a program that matches your personal and professional goals. You are encouraged to ask questions of the program you are considering before you enroll to determine if the program is a good fit for you.

  1. Is the institution offering the nursing program regionally or nationally accredited?
  2. Is the nursing program accredited?
  3. What is the most recent graduation rate for this program?
  4. What percentage of the most recent nursing program graduates have passed the national licensing exam (NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN) or certification examination(s) in each of the last five (5) years?
  5. What is the most recent employment rate for graduates from the nursing program?
  6. How many of the nursing graduates from this program go on for more education?
  7. How much does this program cost from beginning to end? Does the cost include all tuition, fees, and educational supplies (e.g., books, uniform, etc.)
  8. Am I eligible to receive financial aid and/or scholarships if I attend this program?
  9. What background do the nursing faculty who teach in the program have in nursing practice and nursing education?
  10. What theories or model of nursing does this program use and how does that model fit with your personal belief system and world view?

[Back to Top]

Q. Where can I find information on NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN pass rates?
A. 
The ACEN is a specialized accrediting agency and has no licensing functions. Licensure pass rates may be found on a state regulatory agency’s website or be available from the nursing program. Contact information for a state regulatory agency for nursing can be found on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website (https://www.ncsbn.org/boards.htm).

[Back to Top]

Q. Will my courses transfer to another nursing program?
A. 
All students should contact the college/university for information on transferring credits.

[Back to Top]

Q. Where can I find information on nursing scholarships?
A. 
It is necessary to contact the nursing program and/or the college or university for information on scholarships.

[Back to Top]

Q. I have been convicted of a felony. Can I become a nurse?
A. 
All students should contact the nursing program or the state regulatory agency for nursing for information regarding criminal convictions. All students may prefer to review the regulations related to nursing licensure and practice on the state agency website.

[Back to Top]