CCNE and ACEN: Nursing School Accreditation

Introduction to Nursing School Accreditation: CCNE vs ACEN

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are two of the most recognized accrediting agencies in the nation. They’re also two of the most influential agencies – often determining eligibility for student aid or employment feasibility. Financial aid agencies simply won’t fund non-accredited nursing programs and employers aren’t comfortable hiring graduates from non-accredited nursing schools.

To ensure nursing students can secure sufficient financial aid and find employment, both the CCNE and ACEN impose strict requirements onto a wide variety of eligible programs. CCNE vs ACEN accreditation differs in the sense that the CCNE does not accredit LPN, Diploma, or ADN programs while the ACEN does.

All baccalaureate, graduate, and residency nursing programs operating under CCNE accreditation do so in accordance with nationally recognized standards. Nursing certificate, diploma, and professional degree programs operating under ACEN accreditation do so in accordance with the same standards as well. And participation in both is completely voluntary.
This article describes both programs, their importance, and some significant differences between the two.

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Online Nursing Schools with CCNE or NLNAC Accreditation

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Most nursing programs seek CCNE accreditation because it plays a critical role in the financial aid and employment process. But this status is more than just a name. To maintain an accredited status, nursing programs must comply with a number of specific rules. And in an effort to ensure nursing programs comply with those rules, the CCNE operates within a commitment to not only operate within a set of specific goals, but also expect specified results as well.

The AACN represents more than 592 schools of nursing at public and private universities and senior colleges nationwide, and which offer a variety of baccalaureate, graduate, and post-graduate programs.

CCNE accreditation is a voluntary, self-regulatory process, and the organization encourages and supports nursing education programs to perform self-assessments to grow and improve their collegiate professional education.

Schools operating under CCNE accreditation therefore are subject to following their own mission and goals. They’re additionally subject to periodic evaluation of performance and the scrutiny of prospective students all in an effort to increase the quality of nursing programs.

The CCNE not only monitors nursing programs. It additionally monitors the health industry so that it can determine what is and what isn’t required from new graduates. That’s why the organization uses information from the health community to review existing standards and formulate new policy when needed. The information helps the organization evaluate requirements and determine policy effectiveness. The end result ensures that schools provide a quality education and become accountable for results. It’s important to note that the CCNE isn’t a babysitter however.

Much of the responsibility of maintaining CCNE accreditation is placed onto the schools that acquire it. The CCNE sets the standards, but participating schools put those standards into action. All evaluation of school staff, development, planning, and procedures takes place within the school environment.

Although it may appear as though the CCNE places most of its focus on nursing institutions, it really exists and works for nursing students. Through this organization for example, students can access fairness and confidentiality among freedom from a conflict of interest.
The commitment to removing all conflict of interest (financial and political) gives the CCNE freedom to act independently – that is, by a set of its own bylaws, financial control, member selection, and general affairs – ultimately freeing nursing students from misleading information. All associations and activities that could potentially raise questions about the CCNE’s validity are completely avoided so that nursing students can entrust accreditation as an authoritative seal of approval.

Part of the CCNE’s quality assurance program therefore entails enforcing specific curriculums, study methodology, and testing procedures while ensuring these things are free from bias. But that doesn’t mean important educational virtues such as experimentation and innovation don’t have a place in nursing school. The CCNE encourages exploration, and it does so within the pursuit of quality education.

Is the CCNE perfect? Does the CCNE guarantee the schools it accredits? These are good questions that are warranted when so much is at stake. No system is perfect and the CCNE is diligent in making necessary corrections when necessary not only within the accreditation process, but within its own organization as well.

What Happend to the the NLNAC 

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) was the original subsidiary of the NLN and was responsible for all activities related to the accreditation of nursing programs. The NLNAC was based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The NLN and the NLNAC separated in late 2013. NLNAC has since been renamed as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and continues to accredit nursing programs.

Effective July 1, 2014, NLN's new accreditation division, the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (C-NEA)will begin accrediting programs under the direction of Judith A. Halstead, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF.[2]

How the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) Differs

The ACEN follows the same principles and procedures as does the CCNE so we won’t repeat them here. The organization accredits about 200 new nursing programs per year and monitors 1300 programs per year. However being the oldest accreditation program of the two, it offers a bit more than the CCNE. While the CCNE seemingly places most of its focus on enforcing standards for nursing institutions, the ACEN integrates the same educational standards with unique student provisions.

It also works much more closely with government standards than the CCNE does. For example, the ACEN is the gatekeeper to Title IV-HEA programs, which lets practical nursing and hospital diploma programs participate in DOE or other federal agency programs. With such a close relationship with various government agencies, the ACEN is capable of providing a wide range of nursing student assistance programs, not just financial aid programs. Examples include student counseling, student recruitment, and help with transferring credits.

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