If you are considering an online nursing program, national accreditation is important. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes two national accrediting organizations for nursing education programs: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
The accreditation process involves a rigorous evaluation. Experts review a program’s curriculum, teaching, academic support, student achievement and other factors to confirm that a nursing program meets established professional standards. The philosophy underlying accreditation is that it contributes to the public good by guaranteeing the educational quality of nursing programs.
About ACEN Accreditation
ACEN accredits practical, diploma, associate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, and clinical doctorate nursing programs. The ACEN and CCNE use similar standards for accreditation, but the CCNE accredits only bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.
ACEN standards encompass the following:
- Mission and administrative capacity: Does the program have appropriate nursing leadership and governance?
- Faculty and staff: What are their qualifications, and are there enough of them?
- Student policies and services: Do they support the achievement of student learning outcomes and program outcomes?
- Curriculum: Do classes adequately cover standards of nursing practice?
- Fiscal, physical and learning resources: Are they adequate to support a successful program?
- Student outcomes: What is the graduation rate, NCLEX pass rate, etc.?
Each standard involves a set of criteria that accrediting agencies use to evaluate a program. These criteria are specific to the type of degree (BSN, MSN, etc.), and agencies update them as nursing practice evolves.
The Accreditation Process
Nursing programs seeking ACEN accreditation must go through the following process:
- Initial candidacy.
- A Self-Study report on faculty, curriculum and instructional resources.
- Onsite evaluation of the program.
- Site Visit Report.
- Corrections or additional information from the nursing administrator.
- Evaluation Review Panel.
- ACEN review and referral to the Board of Commissioners.
- Accreditation decision.
- Appeals (if necessary).
Accrediting agencies expect programs to perform ongoing self-evaluations. This process helps nursing schools strengthen the quality of their program and better prepare nursing students to meet the demands of patient care in a changing healthcare system.
The Value of Accreditation to You
National accreditation is your assurance that the nursing program you choose meets the highest standards of nursing education. The disadvantages of choosing a non-accredited program include the following:
- Possible ineligibility for financial aid.
- Non-transference of credits to an accredited program.
- Refusal by other programs for an invalid degree.
- Difficulty finding a job.
Choosing an accredited nursing program gives you more education and career options.
Accreditation vs. Approval
National accreditation and state approval are different. In addition to accreditation by the ACEN, the Lamar University RN to BSN program also has approval from the Texas Board of Nursing. (The Board does not evaluate MSN programs.) The Board sets the minimum standards a nursing school must meet for its graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to practice nursing.
Texas, like most states, does not require nursing programs to have national accreditation. However, Lamar University recognizes the importance of accreditation to nursing students and their future careers. By maintaining accreditation, Lamar University demonstrates its commitment to student success.
Learn more about the Lamar University online nursing programs.
(2013) Philosophy of Accreditation. Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
(2013) Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
Rosseter, R. (2014). Moving Ahead with Your Nursing Education: Why Accreditation Matters. Newsweek