Mingle with Marcy, November 2019


Your CEO Answers Frequently Asked Questions

By Dr. Marcy Stoll, EdD, MSN | CEO | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

What is the impact of the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education on accreditation?

National, regional, and specialized accreditors that oversee institutional and/or programmatic accreditation are recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

  1. The U.S. Secretary of Education is charged with ensuring that an accrediting agency meets specific requirements established by Congress. Depending on the recognition granted by the USDE to the accrediting agency, students attending institutions or programs located in the United States and U.S. Territories may be eligible for federal student financial aid assistance and other federal funding (e.g., HRSA).
  2. The CHEA Board of Directors is charged with ensuring that an accrediting agency meets specific standards established by the CHEA Board of Directors. Recognition by CHEA does not provide students access to any type of financial aid assistance.

The ACEN is recognized as the accrediting agency for all types of nursing education by the USDE and CHEA, and is the only nursing accrediting agency recognized by both entities. The USDE recognition of the ACEN also allows students enrolled in all types of nursing education programs offered by certain institutions to participate in financial aid programs administered by the USDE and other federal agencies. The CHEA recognition also facilities ACEN accreditation of nursing programs outside of the United States.

The USDE and CHEA have recognition criteria unique to each organization that an accrediting agency must meet to be recognized by the USDE or CHEA. The ACEN meeting the USDE and/or CHEA recognition criteria is equivalent to a nursing program meeting the ACEN Standards and Criteria for initial or continuing accreditation.

To what extent does the USDE and CHEA impact ACEN accreditation?

The short answer is “there is a great deal of impact” by both organizations and most especially by the USDE.

USDE Impact: The Higher Education Act (HEA) is the law that is the basis for the USDE regulations that accrediting agencies must follow to be recognized. The HEA has been rewritten eight times since it initially passed in 1965, and like any federal law, is “driven by the times.” Federal regulations changed variably each time the law was rewritten, and all accrediting agencies must change to comply with the most current federal regulations. Sometimes the changes only impacts the accrediting agency, but sometimes institutions/programs are impacted as well. An example of this is the current focus on student achievement indicators, such as licensure examination pass rate, completion rate, and job placement rate.

CHEA Impact: There is no law that serves as the basis for CHEA recognition criteria; however, CHEA is aware of the trends happening throughout the United States and globally. Therefore, CHEA recognition criteria are similar to the USDE, only differing as CHEA focuses on international educational quality, which is not part of USDE regulation. An example of one of CHEA’s similar criteria pertains to student achievement.

New Leadership Offerings at OADN


By Mary Dickow, MPA, FAAN | Director of Strategic Initiatives | Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN)
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

At the 2019 Convention, OADN worked in partnership with the ACEN to deliver a full-day session entitled Be the Leader You Would Follow: Essentials for Great Leadership in Nursing. That session drew enormous interest from nurse educators attracted to this full-day, interactive experience. It provided the participants the opportunity to work on personal leadership development plans as well as to gain valuable tools and resources to take back to their programs to address real-time solutions. Other sessions offered on Professional Identity in Nursing and Critical Conversations were two of the highest attended breakout sessions, targeting important issues for nurse educators. OADN remains committed to staying engaged with the leadership pulse by paying attention to the current trends that affect nursing education and contributing to the success of nurse educators.

OADN understands the challenges and hurdles nurse educators face every day. With a goal to prepare them with the tools to address these challenges, OADN is planning to offer new leadership development opportunities to identify solutions. An exciting leadership development track is in the works for the 2020 Convention with topics such as mentoring, goal setting, and succession planning. As the only national nursing organization representing ADN programs, we have a responsibility to offer a strong leadership platform for new directors and faculty aspiring to lead. Everything OADN does to better prepare nurse educators is a reflection on the students and the communities surrounding the many community colleges across the nation. OADN is ready now more than ever to contribute to the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the vision of creating healthier communities—one nurse leader at a time.

Working with national leaders such as the ACEN, OADN is in the process of developing webinars and pop-up sessions on hot topics in leadership to offer throughout the year. In addition, OADN is exploring ways to incorporate what was gained from the recent membership survey to demonstrate a commitment to taking what nurse educators say they need, then creating valuable content to address those needs. As OADN continues to grow, it is essential to acknowledge the importance of growing and mentoring new leaders while providing unique opportunities for the more seasoned leaders as well. OADN is committed to developing successful nurse leaders with a vision for 2020 and beyond!

Top 10 Ways to Get or Keep Your Faculty Engaged


By Suzette Farmer, PhD, RN | Director | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

Ever wondered how to engage faculty in the accreditation process? Read this article to see the Top 10 strategies for engaging faculty and ensuring program success during your next accreditation site visit!


Live accreditation every day—be visit-ready all the time. Create a culture where accreditation is not a dirty word!! For example, use ACEN terminology during meetings…make accreditation processes “normal” and familiar in your daily work as a nurse educator.


Appreciate and acknowledge how accreditation can help you be a better faculty member and a better program. As you become more familiar with the Standards and Criteria, you will recognize how curriculum (Standard 4) flows into outcomes (Standard 6); and soon, you will see how the ACEN’s emphasis on student learning and the end-of-program student learning outcomes can help you be a better and more effective nurse educator.


Use the Standards and Criteria as a framework for orienting new faculty. Don’t wait to introduce new faculty to accreditation and the ACEN Standards and Criteria. Once again, the emphasis on faculty qualifications and development, students and student learning, resources needed for program development and maintenance, the development and delivery of a curriculum designed to help graduates practice in a contemporary environment, and a focus on the achievement of end-of-program student learning outcomes and program outcomes will provide new nurse educators with a framework that will support them throughout their career in nursing education.


Keep it simple, don’t overthink the accreditation process. The Standards and Criteria are simply statements of good educational and academic practice. The Standards and Criteria are designed to help programs achieve and maintain quality…they are indicators of quality as determined by your nurse faculty peers. A program that is in compliance with the Standards and Criteria is not jumping through hoops; they are intentionally doing the “right thing” for their students and the profession!


Consider taking advantage of optional services offered by the ACEN, such a being an Observer on a site visit team or taking advantage of an Advisory Review. These optional services can help you be more familiar with the accreditation process and the activities of the site visit team (Observer); or, they can help you and your faculty develop a deeper understanding of selected Standards within the specific context of your program (Advisory Review).


Share accountability for maintaining accreditation readiness. The nurse administrator is not an island. When the work of accreditation is distributed among the faculty, everyone—including the students—benefits. Sharing accountability helps ensure the program is always ready for a visit, and it can help minimize the chaos that sometimes occurs before an accreditation visit. It also provides a means for faculty to provide service to the program and develop leadership skills!


Develop knowledge about and understanding of the Standards and Criteria. Don’t believe “urban legends” about accreditation—find out for yourself! Many people believe things about accreditation that simply are not true, such as the myth that you have to have a graduating class before you can be accredited (which isn’t true). Study the Standards and Criteria, review ACEN policies, and ask questions! The ACEN is here to be your supportive partner in the accreditation journey.


Nurse administrators should listen to faculty and be open to their ideas, learn to appreciate their creativity, and be willing to take a few risks when faculty suggest new ways of doing things. If we want to prepare our students for a dynamic healthcare environment, we need to be willing to make our nursing education programs more dynamic and move beyond “the way we’ve always done it” mentality. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches and be sure to give them some time to work! Celebrate innovation.


Encourage faculty to become peer evaluators for the ACEN and provide support for them to participate in site visits. Being a peer evaluator is an effective way to increase knowledge of the Standards and Criteria, learn from peers serving with you on the site visit team, and learn from the programs you visit. Dr. Sharon Beasley’s article will provide you more information about how becoming a peer evaluator benefits the program and the individual faculty member.


Send faculty members to an ACEN Self-Study Forum! Self-Study Forums are held 2‒3 times a year in locations across the country. It’s an opportunity for attendees to interact with other nurse educators and the ACEN Directors….all while developing a deeper understanding of the Standards and Criteria. We hope to see you soon!

Living the ACEN Accreditation Process


By Sharon Beasley, PhD, RN, CNE | Director | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

Dr. Suzette Farmer’s Bridges article, Top 10 Ways to Engage Faculty in the Accreditation Process (2019) , provided techniques to engage faculty in the preparation for and maintenance of ACEN accreditation. As a corollary to Dr. Farmer’s article, Living the ACEN Accreditation Process outlines key definitions inherent in the four-step ACEN accreditation process, and the faculty’s opportunities to participate in various steps of the accreditation process. Let’s start with a review of definitions necessary to understand each step of the process.

Definitions and the Four-Step Process

1. The Self-Study Report (SSR) is a written document addressing the program’s self-evaluation regarding its compliance with the ACEN accreditation Standards and Criteria (2017 ACEN Guidelines for the Self-Study Report). The SSR is evidence that is evaluated by peer evaluators in each level of review; therefore, it should be written clearly and accurately.

2. The site visit team is a group of peer evaluators (educators and clinicians who are eligible to volunteer as described in ACEN’s Peer Evaluator Selection Criteria), who are knowledgeable about various program types, appropriate curricula, common practices, and trends in nursing education and practice. The peer evaluators on the site visit team provide an onsite review inclusive of interviews, observations, tours, and a review of exhibits. At the conclusion of the site visit, the peer evaluators complete a Site Visit Report (SVR) documenting their findings and a recommendation for accreditation.

3. The Evaluation Review Panel (ERP) is a group of peer evaluators who are appointed by the ACEN Board of Commissioners (BOC) to conduct its own independent analysis regarding the extent to which the program meets the ACEN Standards. The ERP represents peer evaluators from programs similar to the programs reviewed and clinicians from various geographic regions. At the conclusion of ERP deliberations, these peer evaluators offer their independent recommendation to the BOC based on the program’s SSR and the findings from the peer evaluators on the site visit team.

4. The BOC is responsible for making all accreditation decisions, and the Commissioners are elected by the nurse administrators from ACEN-accredited programs. Additionally, this 17-member Board is responsible for ensuring consistency in the application of the Standards and Criteria among all programs within each cycle. The Board reviews each program’s SSR, the SVR and recommendation, the ERP recommendation, any additional information if applicable, and renders an accreditation decision.

All of these terms are commonly used in the ACEN realm of accreditation. Notably, all of the definitions are steps within the accreditation process. The four steps in the process are the:

  • Submission of the Self-Study Report;
  • Site Visit;
  • Evaluation Review Panel’s recommendation; and
  • Board of Commissioners’ accreditation decision.

The first step in the accreditation process is the perfect opportunity for faculty to become familiar with the ACEN accreditation process from the faculty/program’s perspective. The remaining three steps provide additional opportunities for participation within the ACEN accreditation review process. However, the three remaining steps require faculty to become ACEN peer evaluators – what a wonderful opportunity! Thus, living the ACEN accreditation process relies on the volunteer efforts of peer evaluators.

Why Are Peer Evaluators Needed?

The ACEN is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit all levels of nursing programs (i.e., clinical doctorate/doctorate in nursing practice specialist certificate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical). Therefore, peer evaluators are needed for all program types and three (i.e., site visit, ERP, and BOC) of four levels of review. Eligibility to serve as a peer evaluator requires a minimum of a graduate degree in nursing. However, to serve on a team that reviews a graduate program, peer evaluators serving as a nurse educator must have a master’s degree in nursing and an earned doctorate degree from a regionally accredited college/university. To serve on a team that reviews an undergraduate program, peer evaluators serving as a nurse educator must have a master’s degree in nursing. A nurse clinician must have a minimum of a graduate degree in nursing to review any program type (2019 ACEN Accreditation Manual, Section 1 General Information, pp. 21–22). Further, the process to become a peer evaluator is seamless and includes submission of a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and a letter of recommendation. All documents must be submitted through our Nominate a Peer Evaluator portal located on the ACEN website.


Peer review is the core of the ACEN accreditation review process. The ACEN is fortunate to work with nearly 650 volunteer peer evaluators who ensure integrity of the accreditation review process by evaluating programs in three of four levels of the process. During each level of review, peer evaluators provide expertise from their current and past experiences in nursing education and practice. Peer evaluators offer their personal time and expertise to the nursing profession through their rigorous review of nursing programs. Serving as a peer evaluator is personally fulfilling and an altruistic act of serving a community of nursing students, educators, and clinicians. Yet, two of the most practical benefits are a broader and deeper understanding of the ACEN Standards and Criteria and exposure to various practices in nursing education. “…one of the most fulfilling attributes of the peer evaluator role is the opportunity to lend an expert voice to the accreditation review process and ultimately the quality of nursing education” (Beasley, Farmer, Ard, Nunn-Ellison, 2019).

How To Get Faculty Involved


By Wade Forehand, PhD, DNP, RN-BC, CNE | Director and Professor | Troy University School of Nursing
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accreditation process intends to enhance quality improvement in nursing education through peer-review process. Achieving accreditation signifies that a school or university has been found to meet or exceed standards and criteria for educational quality. The accreditation process at any level is both a daunting and an arduous task for nurse administrators and faculty alike. Whether you are preparing for initial accreditation, a continuing accreditation review, or simply trying to incorporate the ACEN Standards and Criteria more into your daily practices, it is needed for the program’s betterment and livelihood. The focus of this column is to offer some very casual and practical advice from one nurse administrator to other administrators—or to faculty looking to embrace the accreditation process more confidently.

I would like to begin by sharing a little about my university, the nursing programs that we offer, and myself. Presently, I have the honor of serving as the Director of Nursing for the Troy University School of Nursing (SON) in Troy, Alabama. Troy’s SON offers programs at all levels including ASN, BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, Post-MSN Certificates, and the DNP. Our pre-licensure ASN and BSN programs are offered in a traditional face-to-face format on three different campus sites. Our RN-to-BSN, MSN, Post-MSN Certificates, and DNP programs are offered as distance education delivered online. I mention all of this in order to relay the complexity and diversity of the different degree offerings that we have at Troy University—to help you compare it to your own program. In terms of size, Troy University has approximately 17,000 students enrolled either on-campus or online. The SON has approximately 600 students enrolled. In respect to myself, I would say that I am a relatively new nurse administrator. I was appointed to my position two years ago in 2017. My background includes experience in teaching BSN and graduate students at the MSN- and DNP-levels. I have over seven years of experience in nursing education and fourteen years of nursing experience. I am also a Certified Nurse Educator through the National League of Nursing.

When I accepted the nurse administrator role in 2017, the SON was actively preparing for a continuing accreditation visit of our BSN and MSN programs, which was scheduled in for Spring 2019. Needless to say, I felt a great sense of responsibility to ensure that our site visit would go as smoothly as possible. Some of the strategies and activities that we implemented as a SON not only prepared us for the site visit, but also engaged all faculty in the process. Approximately three years ahead of our scheduled visit, we initiated a timeline and series of efforts that would carry our program through the entire continuing accreditation process. We intentionally wanted to build a schedule that would lead to a successful visit. In offering advice to others, I would first highly recommend that you consider strategically when to start preparing for your visit. A three-year preparation process has served our school well over the years. Getting faculty buy-in and support the preparation process was essential.

Faculty must be involved in the preparation and execution of the visit. Faculty and support staff are the cornerstone of a program’s success, and therefore must be instrumental in preparing the Self-Study Report (as required by the ACEN). Most probably know, but the Self-Study Report is a self-evaluation regarding compliance with the ACEN Accreditation Standards. This report in essence tells the story of the nursing program. The way that Troy University sought to engage faculty was to have them active in the planning process from day one. One of the early steps that we took was to create a schedule to ensure that all faculty in both programs being reviewed were able to attend one of the live ACEN Self-Study Forums. These forums, provided by the ACEN Directors, are offered throughout the year in a variety of locations. Forums provide faculty with an opportunity to dive deeper into the current ACEN Standards and Criteria. The forums are in a workshop format, and consist of a day-and-a-half activity where faculty prepare for a site visit. We intentionally started early in arranging for faculty to attend the Self-Study Forums to ensure that all faculty members would have an opportunity to attend and have background knowledge about the preparation for the visit. These Forums, along with the formation of committees and a timeline, helped jumpstart the effort to initiate the process. It was expected that all full-time faculty would play a role in writing the Self-Study Report and gathering documents of evidence concerning accreditation. I found it to be important to establish a culture within the school that both valued faculty input in the process and relayed the importance that each member plays in the success of continued accreditation.

Another point of advice that I would recommend in getting faculty involved is to harness the strengths that individual faculty members may have. It is important to consider what role best fits an individual faculty member. In other words, if someone’s strong suit is writing, then have that person play a role in writing or editing sections of the Self-Study Report. Another faculty member may be efficient and organized at compiling information for evidence. The overall goal is a successful visit. Take into consideration your team, their strengths, and their weaknesses as you put together committees and assignments for the visit preparation. I would also encourage nurse administrators to look at their faculty for expertise with the ACEN. Many programs will find that they have faculty that have served as peer evaluators or have played larger roles within ACEN. Challenge these individuals to be leaders in the preparation effort. Also, encourage faculty to consider becoming peer evaluators. The ACEN review process from the team perspective provides a wealth of knowledge when it comes to contributing to one’s own nursing program. I make it a priority to encourage faculty to be involved with the ACEN. In fact, Troy has many faculty members that are peer evaluators, team chairs, serve on the Evaluation Review Panel, and have held positions on the ACEN Board of Commissioners. Regardless of the role, experience with the ACEN is an invaluable asset for the nursing program.

Lastly, I would offer that the nurse administrator should set the team up for success in preparing for the visit. Make sure that you take into account the work that is involved with the visit. It may be necessary to consider work releases from your typical teaching or faculty duties. Remember a successful visit is the end result, and thus preparing is important. This is just as important as it is to make sure that the day-to-day operations continue. By forming committees and spreading the workload out among the faculty, you help to prevent the burden from falling on any single person. I also encourage nurse administrators to remain active in the overall process. Make sure to attend faculty meetings and committee meetings to talk about efforts and the progress that is being made. Moreover, set firm deadlines for progress and stick to those deadlines to ensure that progress is always being made.

In conclusion, I hope that this friendly advice may be helpful as you or your program engage in a deeper understanding of the accreditation process.

How the Self-Study Forum Prepares Faculty for a Site Visit


By Keri-Nunn Ellison, EdD, MSNEd, RN, CNE | Director | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

Self_Study Forum in Atlanta, March 2019When it comes to preparing for an accreditation site visit, the ACEN provides a number of resources for faculty. Many resources are available on the ACEN website; however, one of the most effective strategies for preparing faculty for a site visit is to attend a Self-Study Forum. The Self-Study Forum is an intensive, day-and-a-half continuing education workshop designed to facilitate understanding of the ACEN Standards and Criteria, give guidance on how to write the Self-Study Report, and prepare the governing organization’s faculty for the onsite visit. The Self-Study Forum also provides an opportunity for attendees to network with other ACEN-accredited program faculty and administrators as well as the ACEN Directors.

The Self-Study Forum is an excellent opportunity to interact directly with both the ACEN Directors and your nurse faculty colleagues to gain a deeper understanding of each Criterion within the ACEN Accreditation Standards. During the Self-Study Forum, the Directors give real-life examples and interactive guidance on how to write the Self-Study Report and prepare for an accreditation site visit. Common challenges and Criteria frequently cited as areas needing development or as in non-compliance are emphasized throughout the Forum.

The purpose of the Self-Study Forum is to help participants develop an understanding of the Standards and Criteria and how they can apply the Criteria to their own programs. The Forum provides detailed information about the 2017 Standards and Criteria and helps attendees learn how to tell more effectively the program’s story of compliance. The presentation style is interactive. Learning exercises for each Standard are included throughout the Forum, including activities designed to increase familiarity with the Criteria, identification of strategies for maintaining compliance, and demonstrating said compliance to peers. A special focus of the Forum is on Standard 6 Outcomes, and participants are asked to bring their own Systematic Plan of Evaluation (SPE) so the ACEN Directors can help attendees to evaluate their plan through comparison to the ACEN Criteria.

Self-Study Forums are beneficial for nurse administrators, faculty, staff of ACEN-accredited programs (or Candidate programs), and anyone considering ACEN accreditation. The Self-Study Forum is recommended for any program preparing for an initial or continuing accreditation site visit, or for programs on Conditions, Warning, or Good Cause. While attendance is beneficial for a program at any stage in the accreditation process, the most benefit can be gained by attending 2–3 years prior to the next scheduled site visit. Self-Study Forums are typically held 2–3 times each year in different locations around the United States. Please click here for the upcoming offerings. We hope to see you at a Self-Study Forum soon!

The ACEN and KABONE Announce a Partnership

ATLANTA, September 16 , 2019 – On Friday, July 19, 2019, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Korean Accreditation Board of Nursing Education (KABONE) signed a memorandum of understanding, which entered the organizations into a cooperative partnership. The signing parties were Dr. Hee Soon Kim, the President of the KABONE and Dr. Marsal P. Stoll, Chief Executive Officer of the ACEN. The document was signed during the Merging Accreditation and Innovation: 2019 ACEN Nursing Education Accreditation Conference, which took place at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis (as pictured).

KABONE is both an accrediting and a regulatory agency located in Seoul, South Korea that specializes in accrediting baccalaureate and associate nursing programs. As the ACEN and KABONE both agree that there is a recognized need for providing accreditation of nursing education programs in order to promote and ensure quality of nursing education, they also agree that an organization’s accreditation standards and criteria should reflect the values of the nursing profession and accountability to the public.

The agencies anticipate participating in activities of mutual interest regarding accreditation for nursing programs. The memorandum excerpt below details some potential future interactions:

  1. Exchange appropriate and relevant information and issues (e.g., standards and procedures’ revisions)
  2. Opportunity to observe the evaluation process (e.g., site visit process)
  3. Reciprocal visits for common interests and objectives (e.g., conference invitation as a speaker or participant, meeting between representatives)
  4. Other ongoing basis activities of mutual interest regarding accreditation for nursing programs

When KABONE established their standards and criteria in 2004, the framework, values, and mission greatly matched what the ACEN (then, the NLNAC) had established. The memorandum was a long time coming, as the ACEN has had ongoing communications and a relationship with KABONE as early as 2007. Finding themselves to be in solidarity, the ACEN and KABONE began in 2007 to have ongoing communications regarding nursing program accreditation. Dr. Sharon Tanner, who was CEO of the ACEN (then NLNAC) in 2007, and Dr. Grace Newsome both visited South Korea. During their trip, they gave presentations related to accreditation processes, peer review, and quality evaluation. They also met with South Korean universities and nursing leaders to discuss South Korea’s establishment of nursing program accreditation. KABONE representatives also visited the ACEN office in 2007, and the relationship dedicated to serving nursing program accreditation became more firmly established.

These interactions grew into invitations for the ACEN professional staff to speak at KABONE conferences held in South Korea during 2012, where Dr. Suzette Farmer, Associate Director of the ACEN, presented information related to accreditation and ACEN outcomes assessment practices. Dr. Farmer was also given the opportunity to discuss nursing program accreditation progress, student learning outcomes, and program outcomes with some of South Korea’s nursing leaders. In 2014, Dr. Nell Ard was also extended the invitation to give presentations regarding clinical nursing education for the enhancement in clinical competency as well as learning outcomes and quality management in nursing education.

The ACEN is delighted to enter this formalized collaboration with the KABONE, seeking the best nursing program accreditation practices and eager to serve nursing students on the international scale.

ACEN – Around the World


By Nell Ard, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF | Director | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 3, August 2019

Were you aware that the ACEN has nursing programs accredited around the world? The ACEN has a long history of accrediting nursing programs in the United States – since 1938. The ACEN also accredits nursing programs in United States territories, including: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. The first program in Puerto Rico accredited with the ACEN was in 1963; currently, there are over 20 accredited nursing programs in Puerto Rico with other programs pursing the accreditation process. The University of the Virgin Islands was initially accredited in Fall 1987, while the University of Guam was initially accredited in Fall 1996.

The ACEN has been recognized as an accrediting agency by both the United States Department of Education (USDE) since 1952 and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) since 2001. With the CHEA recognition, the ACEN has the opportunity to accredit nursing programs internationally, since the ACEN is the only nursing accrediting agency recognized by CHEA. It is the CHEA recognition that allows the ACEN to accredit international nursing programs.

The first international nursing program was accredited by the ACEN in 2000; however, it was not until 2010 that the ACEN initially developed and released a position statement regarding the accreditation of international nursing programs. Since then, the ACEN continues to seek to broaden the impact of accreditation by encompassing programs across the globe; this resulted in a revised position statement in August 2018.

Currently, there are six international nursing programs accredited, four programs with a Candidate Status, and four programs actively pursuing the Candidacy process. The countries with currently accredited nursing programs include Scotland, Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman, Turkey, and Jordan; countries having programs with a Candidate status include Jordan, Kuwait, and Columbia.

The ACEN Standards and Criteria are broad enough to enable all programs to demonstrate compliance in a variety of ways. Just as the domestic programs may differ in how they demonstrate compliance with the Standards and Criteria, the ACEN recognizes that some international programs may demonstrate Criteria achievement differently based upon nursing education in that country/region and as with some domestic programs, some of the Criteria may not be applicable.

International programs seeking and maintaining ACEN accreditation utilize the same Standards and Criteria; they follow the same peer-review process as the programs in the U.S. and its territories. International programs are also expected to adhere to all ACEN policies, including, but not limited to: reporting substantive changes, publishing program outcomes data to constituents, and submitting annual reports to the ACEN.

The ACEN provides the international nursing programs access to the same resources as domestic programs as well as access to resources specific to international programs. Additionally, the ACEN has also developed an Accreditation Manual Supplement for International Programs. The supplement provides the international programs with information regarding the candidacy process specific to international programs as well as international site visits. This supplement addresses the potential need for interpreter/translator services during accreditation visits, cultural sensitivity, and security needs during onsite visits.

The Candidacy process for an international program varies slightly with the process for domestic programs; these variations are to provide additional support and to promote success with the accreditation process. The International Candidacy Eligibility Application Form requires the program to provide additional information regarding the potential for the program to be successful with the accreditation process, including, but not limited to: information about the administration, faculty, curriculum, and finances.

Similar to domestic programs, when an international program is deemed eligible to pursue the international candidacy process, the program is assigned a professional staff member to be a mentor during the Candidacy process. The mentor works with the program during the candidacy period and assists the program faculty through the submission of the Candidacy Presentation; this presentation includes the same selected Standards and Criteria to be considered for Candidacy as the review for domestic programs. However, a variation in the international Candidacy Presentation process is the inclusion of an onsite Consulting Visit. The purpose of the onsite Consulting Visit is to verify that the program faculty and institutional administration understand the ACEN accreditation process and Standards and Criteria. Additionally, the consulting visit will verify that the program has the resources for a successful initial accreditation visit as well as maintaining accreditation once achieved. During the Consulting Visit, the professional staff members review all of the Standards and Criteria and provide the program with specific, detailed feedback to support the program in the accreditation process.

The benefits to international nursing programs to pursue the accreditation process with the ACEN include, but are not limited to:

  • Increasing the global reach of the program,
  • Helping students meet the U.S. undergraduate- and graduate-level nursing program admission requirements,
  • Facilitating the transfer of credits,
  • Providing recognition that the nursing program has been evaluated, and periodically reevaluated, by a qualified independent group of peers, and
  • Demonstrates the extent to which the program meets appropriate educational purposes and standards of educational quality specific to nursing education.

Having ACEN-accredited nursing programs around the world provides the ACEN to partner with those programs in ensuring quality nursing education is available globally. While there are many similarities in nursing education globally, having the opportunity to network with nurse educators and programs from around the world, the ACEN-accredited international programs provide depth and diversity to the ACEN and its constituents. The ACEN is the leading authority for nursing education accreditation in the United States, its territories, and around the world!

Mingle with Marcy, August 2019


Your CEO Answers Frequently Asked Questions

By Dr. Marcy Stoll, EdD, MSN | CEO | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 3, August 2019

Is a program pursuing candidacy and initial accreditation with the ACEN required to submit substantive changes?

A nursing program seeking initial accreditation must apply for Candidacy. The ACEN encourages all nursing programs to be accredited for graduates to have the maximum educational and career benefits of their education. Contrary to rumors, a nursing program does not have to have graduates or outcomes data before being accredited by the ACEN. All existing nursing programs should seek initial accreditation as soon as possible and all new nursing programs should seek initial accreditation so the first cohort of graduating students graduate from an accredited nursing program.

Programs pursuing Candidacy and initial accreditation with the ACEN must notify the ACEN of changes that occur in the program during the entire Candidacy process as both eligibility for Candidacy and Candidate status are based upon the information provided in the Candidacy Eligibility Application or the Candidacy Presentation. Changes that occur can affect the program’s eligibility to pursue the process and/or achieve initial accreditation with the ACEN. Therefore, programs must notify the ACEN of changes, which include, but are not limited to: changes in nurse administrator, change in status with the state regulatory agency or the accrediting body of the governing organization, changes in curriculum/options, potential addition of a new location, or implementation of distance education. Contact ACEN professional staff for guidance related to any change and the potential need to report a change. The ACEN must be notified of all changes no less than four months prior to the change, or as soon as possible for any unexpected changes. The notification should be in writing and should address the selected Criteria from the Candidacy Presentation related to the change (e.g., all of the Standard 4 Curriculum Criteria for a change in the curriculum and/or new option). Failure to notify the ACEN of changes may delay or jeopardize a nursing program from being approved for Candidacy, hosting an initial accreditation visit, or being granted initial accreditation by the Board of Commissioners.

Learn more about Candidacy here.

How often are programs reviewed by the ACEN after being granted initial accreditation?

Initial accreditation is the first peer review process for a candidate nursing program seeking accreditation with the ACEN. Once a nursing program is granted initial accreditation, continuing accreditation is the cyclical peer review process for an accredited nursing program to maintain accreditation with the ACEN.

The first continuing accreditation peer review process occurs five years after initial accreditation is granted, and then the continuing accreditation peer review process occurs every eight years thereafter.

There are two reasons why a continuing accreditation peer review process would occur sooner than between the customary cyclical review process.

    1. The nursing program made or will make a significant change in the nursing program. This is known as “substantive change” and the change is so significant that the ACEN Board of Commissioners authorizes a focused visit. The Focused Visit Report provides information related to the program’s compliance with a selected number of ACEN Standards and Criteria. The Standards and Criteria to be reviewed are based on the reason for the focused visit, such as the addition of a new off-campus instructional site (e.g., where the didactic component of the nursing courses are taught) or implementation of distance education. Note, the addition of a clinical site is not a significant change in the nursing program, thus not a substantive change. See the ACEN Glossary for helpful definitions.The Focused Visit Report differs from the Substantive Change Prospectus. While the Substantive Change Prospectus outlines a proposed substantive change or describes a substantive change that occurred (e.g., decline in program outcomes), the purpose of the Focused Visit Report is to demonstrate a nursing program’s continuing compliance with the Accreditation Standards approximately six months after implementation of the substantive change.

      Learn more about a focused visit here.


  1. The second reason there may be a visit between accreditation cycles is related to follow-up. If a program is found in non-compliance with one or more Accreditation Standards and placed on conditions, warning, or good cause by the Board of Commissioners, then a follow-up report is required.Learn more about a follow-up visit here.


Schedule of Fees

The ACEN continuously looks for ways to reduce costs in order to maintain a fair and reasonable fee structure. In fact, the fee schedule for nursing programs located in the U.S. and U.S. territories has remained the same for four consecutive years, and the fee schedule for international nursing program was significantly reduced in 2019.

Candidacy is the process the ACEN uses for nursing programs seeking initial accreditation regardless of geographic location. However, the Candidacy process differs for international nursing programs. Information regarding the process for international nursing program is available here.

Candidacy is an affordable process where fees are billed in portions depending on what part of the process a nursing program is in.

  • The fee schedule for nursing programs located in the U.S. and U.S. territories is available here.
  • The fee schedule for international nursing programs is available here.
  • An Illustration of Cost with Timeline was created to clarify the costs associated with candidacy and initial accreditation.

From Candidacy to Accreditation

Austin Community College’s Journey as the First in Texas to Offer an RN-to-BSN Program

By Nina Almasy, DNP, RN, CNE | Department Chair, Professional Nursing | Austin Community College; And Patricia Recek, MSN, RN | Dean of Health Sciences | Austin Community College
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 3, August 2019

In the summer of 2017, the professional nursing department at Austin Community College (ACC) embarked on the journey to develop and implement the RN-to-BSN program by August 2018. In alignment with the college mission, the program aimed to meet the local needs of preparing the nursing workforce at the baccalaureate level by offering an affordable and accessible program in the region.

The journey could be described as a two-step process with an intricate timeline, resembling the famous Texas Two-Step dance. The two major steps of this journey included (a) obtaining all necessary approvals from various regulatory entities and (b) obtaining accreditation. The program had to obtain approval of several regulatory entities, including the college’s Board of Trustees, The Board of Nursing, and the governing organization’s regulatory entities: the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

It was essential that at each step, the timeline for each entity’s needed approval was carefully considered. For example, for submission of the ACEN Candidacy Eligibility Application, ACC needed to include documentation that the program proposal was sent both to the state’s Board of Nursing and the governing organization’s regulatory entities, which are the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Achievement of these two essential steps required ongoing intricate partnership among various stakeholders and entities within and outside the college—and most importantly, keen attention to the timelines to successfully complete both steps.

Early in the program development stages, in order to better understand the local need, the department created the RN-to-BSN Advisory Committee, which is comprised of key area healthcare nurse leaders and nursing schools. In addition, several needs-assessment surveys and focus groups were conducted.

Program and curriculum development was guided by a review of the literature and best practices, as well as consideration of professional guidelines and baccalaureate essentials and competencies. The faculty worked diligently to ensure that the assessment and evaluation methodology for end-of-program student learning outcomes was carefully considered, as they developed the curriculum.

Obtaining nursing education accreditation that was effective for the first graduates of the program was one of the most important steps. We at ACC were committed to ensuring that our BSN graduates were eligible to apply to graduate schools, should they choose to do so. ACC’s associate degree program has been accredited by ACEN for several years, and the relationship with the ACEN had been a positive and collaborative one that allowed us to move forward to candidacy. ACC reached out to then ACEN and Dr. Nell Ard in August 2018 to determine if this aggressive timeline was achievable. Dr. Ard was so responsive from the very beginning, providing essential information to ensure we were progressing correctly.

The journey from ACEN candidacy to accreditation could be described as a collaborative, collegial process. Once the candidacy process began and the program applied for initial accreditation, an ACEN professional staff member, Dr. Ard, was assigned as a mentor and resource. The department chair of the program sought the expertise and supportive guidance offered by the mentor. This mentorship support was key in ensuring that the program not only met candidacy requirements, but also ensured that the program met the ACEN Standards and Criteria. Additionally, the ACEN website offered invaluable information and resources that were useful to the faculty and administrators throughout the entire accreditation process. It is safe to say that no stone was left unturned on the ACEN website!

The candidacy process involved ongoing review of the curriculum and the systematic plan for evaluation by a team of faculty and college leadership. Upon granting candidacy status, the ACEN also provided two comprehensive, independent reviews of the Candidacy presentation conducted by the ACEN professional staff. The faculty carefully examined the two reviews and staff input, then made necessary adjustments and revisions to the systematic plan for evaluation to ensure that the program is not only high quality, but also on track to meeting all ACEN Standards and Criteria for initial accreditation.

ACC was granted candidacy in June 2018, had the site visit in February 2019, and is awaiting action from the commission in September 2019, the final step in our accreditation journey.