The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) supports the interests of nursing education, nursing practice, and the public by providing specialized accreditation for all levels of nursing education and transition-to-practice programs. The ACEN is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, and participation in its accreditation process is voluntary.
The ACEN is recognized as an accrediting body by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ACEN is one of the largest specialized accrediting agencies, accrediting nursing programs throughout the United States, its territories, and internationally.
As the leading authority in nursing education accreditation, the goal of the ACEN is to be a supportive partner in strengthening the quality of nursing education and transition-to-practice programs.
The ACEN supports the interests of nursing education, nursing practice, and the public by the functions of accreditation. Accreditation is a peer-review, 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 resources 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.
The purpose of the ACEN is to provide specialized accreditation for all levels of nursing education and transition-to-practice programs located in the United States, U.S. Territories, and internationally.
As the leading authority in nursing accreditation, the goal of the ACEN is to be a supportive partner in strengthening the quality of nursing education and transition-to-practice programs through:
The ACEN accredits nursing education programs of all degree levels and transition-to-practice programs.
Currently, specialized accreditation for pre-licensure nursing programs is voluntary in some states; however, many states mandate that a nursing program be accredited. Most states where specialized accreditation for nursing programs is required mandate that the accrediting agency is recognized by the USDE. ACEN is recognized by the USDE and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and is the only USDE and CHEA-recognized accrediting agency that accredits all types of nursing programs – practical, diploma, associate, baccalaureate, master’s including post master’s certificate, and clinical doctorate including DNP specialist certificate nursing programs.
Transition to practice (TTP) is a critical time during which a nurse develops the skills and attitudes necessary for autonomous nursing practice within their level of licensure. ACEN TTP accreditation promotes excellence in nursing and patient outcomes through established policies, procedures, and processes that are transparent, guided by peers and contemporary practice, and have an intentional focus on outcomes.
The ACEN and ARC-PA have partnered to offer Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant (NP&PA) Residency Program Accreditation. This joint endeavor reflects the organizations’ shared commitment to maintaining high standards of quality and excellence in clinical specialty training.
Visit nppa-accredit.org for more information or to begin the accreditation process.
The ACEN is recognized as an accrediting body by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
U.S. Department of Education
The USDE reviews national, regional, and specialized accreditors that oversee federal funding eligibility to ensure that the accrediting body meets specific standards established by Congress. Students in institutions or programs accredited by a USDE-recognized agency are eligible for federal financial aid assistance and other needed resources. For more information, visit the USDE website.
Council for Higher Education Accreditation
CHEA is a U.S. association of degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. For more information, visit the CHEA website.
The ACEN is governed by a 17-member Board of Commissioners (BOC). The Commissioners are elected by the representatives of ACEN-accredited nursing programs.
The legal basis for the foundation and structure of the Commission is outlined in the Bylaws and the Articles of Incorporation. The ACEN is incorporated under the laws of the state of New York.
From Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton to Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman, nursing has a rich history; a history that may not be known by many but is upheld through nursing education and nursing education accreditation. The ACEN is a proud member of the nursing community, with decades of experience in nursing education accreditation and an eye on the future.
In the late 1800s, the initial growth in higher education in the United States led to the need to ensure educational quality. This began the rise of institutional accreditation, also known as regional accreditation, and the founding of organizations such as the New England Association (1885), the Middle States Association (1887), the North Central Association (1895), and the Southern Association (1895). Soon after the development of institutional accreditation, it became clear that individual disciplines had the responsibility to ensure that each program’s graduates were well-prepared. The early 20th Century saw the birth of programmatic accreditation for business, medicine, and nursing. This led to the development of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses (1895).
In 1912, the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses was renamed the National League for Nursing Education (NLNE). The NLNE would publish the first set of accreditation standards for nursing education in 1917. During this time, programmatic accreditation was monitored using a platform similar to the peer review process of today. A program seeking accreditation would apply to the accrediting agency, a self-evaluation process would occur followed by an external evaluation led by peer evaluators, and based on the standards set by the accreditor, the program would be granted or denied accreditation. If accreditation was granted, the program would undergo the process again in a set number of years. With the model for evaluation and the standards for accreditation established, the NLNE was poised to evolve into the international agency we know today. In 1952, the NLNE combined with the National Organization for Public Health Nursing and the Association for Collegiate School of Nursing to become the National League for Nursing (NLN).
As the decades progressed, the NLN through its accreditation division, served as the sole nursing program accreditor in the United States. However, 1997 brought about big changes. In order to comply with the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE’s) regulations requiring accrediting activities to be separate and independent from trade organizations, the accreditation activities were transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary corporation of the NLN through the establishment of the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC); thus, permanently removing the NLN from accrediting nursing programs and conveying all accrediting activities and responsibilities to the NLNAC.
After taking this step to comply with USDE regulations, the NLNAC began expanding its accreditation services to assist nurse educators develop and maintain strong nursing programs. The NLNAC soon became the most well-trusted and well-known accrediting agency for nursing education. In 2009, the NLNAC relocated from its headquarters in New York, New York, to its current location in Atlanta, Georgia. Settling in Atlanta facilitated the continued emergence of the agency as a supportive and innovative partner in nursing education.
The move to Atlanta also spurred a name change for the NLNAC. In 2013, the NLNAC was renamed the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The ACEN has expanded its range beyond U.S. accreditation to welcome international neighbors, with programs in Scotland, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. Today the ACEN, now recognized by the USDE as an independent, wholly owned subsidiary corporation of the NLN, operates from the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, where it continues to expand support for nursing education.
As the leading authority in nursing education accreditation, the ACEN strives to be not just a leader in nursing education accreditation but a dedicated and supportive partner in nursing education, collaborating with nursing faculty and administrators, volunteers, and colleagues to continuously strengthen nursing education at the national and international level. The ACEN is proud to be the oldest nursing education accreditor, and will continue adding to its history for decades to come by ensuring educational quality through accreditation for nursing programs everywhere.