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.