ACEN Accreditation Manual – Policy 3

ACEN Accreditation Manual – Section II Policies

POLICY #3
Eligibility for Initial and Continuing Accreditation


To be eligible for initial or continuing accreditation, the governing organization and nursing program must demonstrate that it meets or continues to meet all of the eligibility and continuing eligibility requirements of the ACEN.

 

GOVERNING ORGANIZATION/INSTITUTION

A. Eligibility requirements for the governing organization/institution offering the nursing program seeking initial accreditation with the ACEN

  1. The governing organization/institution is legally authorized to provide a postsecondary education program in the state or country in which the governing organization/institution and nursing program is physically located.
  2. The governing organization/institution is legally authorized to grant the credential (degree, diploma, or certificate) for the nursing program seeking accreditation.
  3. The governing organization/institution is accredited or approved to pursue accreditation by a governing organization/institutional accrediting agency recognized by the ACEN; however, this does not apply to programs outside the U.S. or its territories.
  4. For governing organizations/institutions included in section C, subsections 1, 2, 3, and 4, that do not hold governing organization/institutional accreditation by a governing organization/ institutional accrediting agency recognized by the ACEN:
    1. The governing organization/institution must be approved to pursue accreditation by a governing organization/institutional accrediting agency recognized by the ACEN; and,
    2. The governing organization/institution must be accredited with a governing organization/ institutional accrediting agency recognized by the ACEN before the ACEN Board of Commissioners makes its initial accreditation decision for the nursing program(s) seeking initial accreditation with the ACEN.
  5. For governing organizations/institutions included in section C, subsection 2, that do not hold or are ineligible to hold governing organization/institutional accreditation by a governing organization/institutional accrediting agency recognized by the ACEN, the governing organization/institution must be approved by a supervisory state education department/public school system/district before the ACEN Board of Commissioners makes its initial accreditation decision for the nursing program(s) seeking initial accreditation with the ACEN.
  6. The nurse administrator of the nursing program is responsible for immediately informing the ACEN Chief Executive Officer (CEO), in writing, of any change of status with any agency that accredits and/or approves the governing organization/institution. The notification must occur before the ACEN Board of Commissioners makes its initial accreditation decision.

B. Continuing eligibility requirements for the governing organization/institution offering the nursing program seeking continuing accreditation with the ACEN

  1. The governing organization/institution must continuously hold legal authorization to provide a postsecondary education program in the state or country in which the governing organization/institution and nursing program are physically located.
  2. The governing organization/institution must continuously hold legal authorization to grant the credential (degree, diploma, or certificate) for the nursing program seeking accreditation.
  3. For governing organizations/institutions included in section C, subsections 1, 2, 3, and 4, the governing organization/institution must continuously hold an accredited status with an ACEN-recognized governing organization/institutional accrediting agency.
  4. For governing organizations/institutions included in section C, subsection 2, the governing organization/institution must continuously hold approval by a supervisory state education department/public school system/district.
  5. The nurse administrator of the nursing program is responsible for immediately informing the ACEN CEO, in writing, of any change of status with any agency that accredits and/or approves the governing organization/institution. The notification must occur before the ACEN Board of Commissioners makes its continuing accreditation decision.

C. The ACEN will accredit a nursing program when it:

  1. Is administered by a college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution that is part of the system of higher education; grants a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate degree in nursing, or DNP specialist certificate; and the college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution holds governing organization/institutional accreditation through an ACEN-recognized governing organization/institutional accrediting agency. Programs outside the U.S. or its territories must be administered by a college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution that is a part of a system of higher education and grant a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate degree in nursing, or DNP specialist certificate.
  2. Is administered by a vocational/technical/career school or public school system/district; grants a postsecondary certificate; and the vocational/technical/career school or public school system/ district holds governing organization/institutional accreditation through an ACEN-recognized governing organization/institutional accrediting agency, or the governing organization is supervised by a state education department/public school system/district. Programs outside the U.S. or its territories must be administered by a college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution that is a part of a system of higher education and grant a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate degree in nursing, or DNP specialist certificate.
    If the nursing program is administered by a vocational/technical/career school or public school system/district and grants a postsecondary certificate, the governing organization/institution and nursing program may use ACEN accreditation to establish eligibility to participate in Title IV programs of the Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended. If the governing organization’s/institution’s accrediting agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to establish Title IV eligibility, the ACEN may not be used to establish Title IV eligibility.
  3. Is administered by a hospital; grants a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate in nursing degree, or DNP specialist certificate; and the hospital holds governing organization/institutional accreditation through an ACEN-recognized governing organization/institutional accrediting agency. Programs outside the U.S. or its territories must be administered by a college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution that is a part of a system of higher education and grant a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate degree in nursing, or DNP specialist certificate.
    If the nursing program is administered by a hospital and grants a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate in nursing, or DNP specialist certificate, the governing organization/institution and nursing program may use ACEN accreditation to establish eligibility to participate in Title IV programs of the Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended. If the governing organization’s/institution’s accrediting agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to establish Title IV eligibility, the ACEN may not be used to establish Title IV eligibility. Title IV does not apply to programs outside the U.S. or its territories.
  4. Is administered by an independent college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution; grants a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate in nursing degree, or DNP specialist certificate; and the college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution holds governing organization/institutional accreditation through an ACEN-recognized governing organization/institutional accrediting agency. Programs outside the U.S. or its territories must be administered by a college, university, or technical/vocational governing organization/institution that is a part of a system of higher education and grant a diploma, certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, clinical doctorate degree in nursing, or DNP specialist certificate.

 

NURSING PROGRAMS

D. Eligibility requirements for nursing programs seeking initial accreditation with the ACEN

  1. The nursing program must be approved without qualification by the state or country agency or agencies that has or have legal authority for education programs in nursing. This is not applicable to those programs in nursing over which a state or country regulatory agency that has legal authority for education programs in nursing has no jurisdiction (e.g., selected master’s degree programs or programs admitting previously licensed registered nurses).
  2. The nurse administrator of the nursing program is responsible for immediately informing the ACEN CEO, in writing, of any change of status with any state or country agency that has legal authority for education programs in nursing. The notification must occur before the ACEN Board of Commissioners makes its initial accreditation decision.

E. Continuing eligibility requirements for nursing programs seeking continuing accreditation with the ACEN

  1. The nursing program must be approved with or without qualification by the state or country agency or agencies that has or have legal authority for education programs in nursing. This is not applicable to those programs in nursing over which a state or country regulatory agency that has legal authority for education programs in nursing has no jurisdiction (e.g., selected master’s degree programs or programs admitting previously licensed registered nurses).
  2. The nurse administrator of the nursing program is responsible for immediately informing the ACEN CEO, in writing, of any change of status with any state or country agency that has legal authority for education programs in nursing. The notification must occur before the ACEN Board of Commissioners makes its continuing accreditation decision.

F. Recommendations for governing organizations (institutions)/nursing programs seeking initial accreditation with the ACEN

  1. For nursing programs without previous graduates, the program should seek approval to pursue ACEN accreditation and host the initial accreditation site visit that would facilitate that all students are graduates of an accredited program.
  2. For nursing programs with previous graduates, the program should seek approval to pursue ACEN accreditation and host the initial accreditation site visit as soon as possible to facilitate students graduating from an accredited program.

Note: Upon granting of initial accreditation by the ACEN Board of Commissioners, the effective date of initial accreditation is the date on which the nursing program was approved by the ACEN as a Candidate program that concluded in the Board of Commissioners granting initial accreditation.

G. Requirements for governing organizations (institutions)/nursing programs seeking initial or continuing accreditation with the ACEN

  1. If a governing organization offers the same certificate or degree nursing program with more than one option/track then that nursing program and all options/tracks must be reviewed in its entirety for initial or continuing accreditation by the ACEN. All nursing program options/tracks that lead to the same degree or certificate within a governing organization/institution must be accredited by the ACEN for any one of the options/tracks to be accredited. The nursing program may not select individual options/tracks within the same certificate or degree to be reviewed for accreditation.
    For example:

    1. The accreditation of a master’s degree program that includes several options/tracks such as Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Education, and Nurse Leader must be inclusive of all options/tracks. The nursing program may not select only the Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner options/tracks to be reviewed for accreditation. [Rationale: Students graduate from a master’s degree program, not an option/track; therefore, the accreditation applies to the entire nursing program.
    2. The accreditation of an associate degree program that includes two options/tracks such as pre-licensure and LPN-to-RN must be inclusive of all options/tracks. The nursing program may not select only the pre-licensure option/track to be reviewed for accreditation. [Rationale: Students graduate from an associate degree program, not an option/track; therefore, the accreditation applies to the entire nursing program.]
  2. If a governing organization/program offers a graduate-level certificate or certificates composed of only the specialty courses for an option/options or track/tracks, the ACEN will automatically include the graduate-level certificate program option(s)/track(s) in its review of the graduate-level degree program in the accreditation process.
    1. For example, if the governing organization/program seeks accreditation of a master’s program that includes several options/tracks such as Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, and Nurse Leader, and the governing organization/program offers a certificate or certificates composed of only the specialty courses from an option/options or track/tracks such as Family Nurse Practitioner, then the ACEN will automatically include the certificate program option(s) in its review of the degree program in the accreditation process. [Rationale: The options/tracks that compose the certificate(s) are a subset of the degree program, and the accreditation applies to the entire nursing program, including the certificate(s).]

Note: The ACEN supports models whereby one nursing program is “nested” within another nursing program, which facilitates graduates being able to progress seamlessly from one level of licensure to another level of licensure such as practical nursing to registered nursing. A “nested” practical nursing is an educational program leading to a specific level of licensure and must have its own program-specific end-of-program student learning outcomes. Graduates from a practical nursing program embedded within an ACEN-accredited registered nursing program are not graduates of an ACEN-accredited practical nursing program unless the practical nursing program holds ACEN accreditation specifically for the practical nursing program.

  1. If a governing organization offers the same certificate or degree nursing program at more than one location, then that nursing program and all locations must be reviewed in its entirety for initial or continuing accreditation by the ACEN. The nursing program may not select individual locations within the same certificate or degree nursing program to be included in the ACEN accreditation.
  2. In accordance with federal regulation 34 CFR §602.28 and consistent with ACEN policy:
    1. The ACEN may not grant initial accreditation or continuing accreditation to a governing organization/institution or a nursing program offered by a governing organization/ institution if the ACEN knows, or has reasonable cause to know, that a governing organization/institution or a nursing program is the subject of:
      1. A pending or final action brought by a state agency to suspend, revoke, withdraw, or terminate a governing organization’s/institution’s legal authority to provide postsecondary education in the state;
      2. A decision by a recognized agency to deny accreditation or pre-accreditation;
      3. A pending or final action brought by a recognized accrediting agency to suspend, revoke, withdraw, or terminate a governing organization’s/governing organization/institution’s accreditation or pre-accreditation; or
      4. Probation or an equivalent status imposed by a recognized agency.
    2. The ACEN may grant initial accreditation or continuing accreditation to a governing organization/institution or nursing program only if ACEN provides to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, within 30 calendar days of its action, a thorough and reasonable explanation, consistent with the Standards and Criteria, why the action of the other body does not preclude the granting of initial accreditation or continuing accreditation by the ACEN.
    3. If the ACEN learns that a governing organization/institution or nursing program it accredits is the subject of an adverse action by another recognized accrediting agency or has been placed on probation or an equivalent status by another recognized agency, the ACEN must promptly review its accreditation of the governing organization/institution or nursing program to determine if it should also take adverse action or place the governing organization/institution or nursing program on conditions or warning. See ACEN Policy #14 Reporting Substantive Changes and ACEN Policy #18 Accreditation Status of the Governing Organization for details regarding a negative or adverse action by an appropriate governing organization/institutional accrediting agency.

 

Policy #3 History
Revised July 2015
Revised October 2016
Revised July 2017
Revised November 2018
Revised July 2020

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