NAICU Washington Update

Specialized Accreditor in NACIQI Crosshairs

August 06, 2015

During its Spring Meeting (June 25-26), the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) accepted a staff report from the Department of Education recommending that the U.S. Secretary of Education strip the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing’s (ACEN) status as a federally-recognized programmatic accreditor.

ACEN, which offers specialized accreditation to more than 1,200 nursing programs across the nation, has been seeking more freedom from the National League of Nursing (NLN) in order to comply with Education Department standards regarding accreditor independence. NACIQI concluded that the relationship between ACEN and NLN makes ACEN ineligible for recognition as a gatekeeper to Title IV funds because of a requirement in the Higher Education Act that accreditors be “separate and independent” from trade associations.

Secretary Arne Duncan will make the final determination concerning the federal government’s recognition of accrediting bodies. If the Secretary decides to strip ACEN of its federal recognition, students at the vast majority of colleges and universities will remain eligible for Title IV funds as long as the institution is accredited at the full institutional level. However, independent nursing programs without broader institutional accreditation, such as those affiliated with hospitals, will be in danger of losing access to the federal student aid programs.

NACIQI will keep the “record open” for three months to allow new evidence to be submitted by ACEN or NLN. This allows additional time to meet the separate and independent requirements before a final recommendation is submitted to the Secretary.

NAICU will continue to monitor this issue closely to ensure that high quality nursing programs remain accredited.