Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

The Accreditation Commission for Education Nursing (ACEN®) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national accreditation body for nursing education programs. ACEN has been safeguarding a standard baseline of quality among all nursing programs for over 80 years. Its roots reach back to 1893 when the first nursing organization was established in the US. While the organization has grown and evolved over the past century, it has always been dedicated to promoting excellence in nursing education and advancing healthcare standards and practices.

What is the Purpose of ACEN?

The purpose of ACEN is to identify and provide accreditation to educational institutions that emulate its commitment to excellence in all levels of nursing education.

What are ACEN's goals?

ACEN’s goal is to encourage peer review, cultivate equity and opportunity across the nursing profession, and continually update standards to meet the evolving realities of the healthcare industry. Each of these goals supports ACEN’s primary commitment to push nursing education forward, ultimately ensuring that patients receive optimal care from qualified nurses.

How are these goals met in practice? ACEN develops standards and criteria to assess an institution's ability to develop students’ aptitude for problem-solving and analytical thinking and their ability to pair good judgment with medical knowledge.

Why is ACEN Accreditation Important?

ACEN accreditation ensures that select nursing programs meet the rigorous educational requirements necessary to safeguard quality in the nursing profession. Programs granted ACEN accreditation are regularly reviewed to ensure that they continue to meet ACEN standards and criteria and produce qualified nursing students.

Furthermore, state boards of nursing typically mandate that students have graduated from accredited nursing programs to be eligible to take the NCLEX® exam. Students that attend non-accredited programs are put in a precarious professional position which may result in obstacles further down the road, especially when a student seeks admission to programs for advanced practice roles. ACEN accreditation ameliorates these concerns by ensuring students will receive a quality nursing education based on well-established principles. In short, educational institutions only stand to benefit from accreditation by emphasizing the rigor and quality of their curriculum.

*ACEN should not be confused with the role of the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE®), which accredits graduate programs and fellowships.

ACEN-Accreditation Process for Nursing Schools

Before a program can begin its process toward ACEN accreditation, it must submit a Candidacy Eligibility Application and Candidacy Presentation. ACEN accepts submissions for about 10 weeks during two accreditation cycles—July 1, to December 31, and January, 1 to June 30. If a program is deemed eligible, a four-step accreditation process begins as follows:

  1. Self-Study Report — A program must conduct a self-evaluation to identify how it conforms to ACEN Accreditation and Criteria.
  2. Site Visit — Peer evaluators visit the program site to weigh their first-hand observations against claims made in the self-study report.
  3. Evaluation Review Panel (ERP) — A program-specific ERP makes an independent judgment after evaluating documentation from steps 1 and 2.
  4. Commission Decision — The ACEN Board of Commissioners makes a final review of the entire process and comes to an independent decision regarding the program's qualifications for ACEN accreditation.

It’s important to note that students who have graduated from a program before it gained accreditation will not retroactively receive ACEN program status. Instead, a program’s initial accreditation status is effective from the date its candidacy was approved by ACEN (assuming its accreditation was granted).

How does ACEN accreditation differ from licensing?

ACEN plays no part in administering or renewing nursing licenses. Instead, ACEN works to ensure that certain standards and criteria are met by the nursing programs it accredits.

How long is the ACEN accreditation process?

ACEN accredited programs must be reviewed 5 years following accreditation approval. If they continue to meet ACEN standards and criteria, they will be granted continuing accreditation and reviewed every 8 years. Programs are also surveyed annually and may undergo additional review should any significant changes occur within the nursing program, such as a significant decline in NCLEX pass rates.

How much does it cost to have an ACEN accredited program?

Costs for ACEN accreditation include fees for both initial and continuing accreditation, along with a candidacy fee and a number of case-by-case service fees. The below tables detail fees for ACEN 2022 and 2023 accreditation.

Accreditation Fee Details 2022 2023
Candidacy One-time fee following eligibility confirmation via Candidacy Eligibility Application. $2,500 $2,500
Initial Accreditation One-time fee following submission of Information Form. $1,000 $1,250
Site Visit Per day, per evaluator (expect 3 minimum). Charged following the scheduling of a site visit. $825 $875
Accreditation for First/Only Nursing Program Charged as x% of the remaining calendar year from the date of accreditation. $2,875 $2,875
Each Additional Program Charged as x% of the remaining calendar year from the date of accreditation. $1,200 $1,200
*Accreditation fees for additional programs are for programs within the same nursing education unit.
Continuing Fee Details 2022 2023
Continuing Accreditation Review One-time fee charged one year in advance of the site visit. $1,000 $1,250
Site Visit Per day, per evaluator (expect 3 minimum). Charged following the scheduling of a site visit. $825 $875
Accreditation for First/Only Nursing Program Charged annually. $2,875 $2,875
Each Additional Program Charged annually. $1,200 $1,200
Service Fee Details 2022 2023
Focused Visit Site visit to review accreditation-related information following one or more program changes. $2,350 $2,350
Continuing Accreditation Review One-time fee charged in advance of a follow-up site visit. $1,000 $1,250
Site Visit Per day, per evaluator (expect 3 minimum). Charged following the scheduling of a site visit. $825 $875
Reprocessing/ Rescheduling Charged upon rescheduling any site visit. $1,250 $1,250
Notice of Intent to Appeal Charged for appealing a denial of initial or continuing accreditation. (per program) $5,000 $5,000
Appeal Process Charged for appealing a denial of initial or continuing accreditation. (per program) $10,000 $10,000
Administrative Appeal Charged for appealing a denial of initial or continuing accreditation. $2,500 $2,500
Binding Arbitration Fee Charged for appealing a denial of initial or continuation accreditation by the ACEN BOC. $35,000 $35,000
*Service fees are only charged when a service is used. They do not apply to all programs.

2023 ACEN Standards and Criteria

Section 3 of the 2023 ACEN Accreditation Manual details ACEN’s standards and criteria for accreditation. The 5 standards have been developed and agreed upon as a way to measure the quality of a nursing program. Criteria enumerate how each standard must be evaluated.

Standard 1 - Administrative Capacity and Resources

Nursing programs must have the ability to facilitate student learning outcomes while emulating the mission, goals, and values of the governing organization. Criteria to meet this standard include providing students and communities of interest the opportunity to participate in decision-making and employing a qualified nurse administrator to be responsible for leading the nursing program.

Standard 2 - Faculty

Faculty must have the ability to help students achieve optimal learning outcomes assigned by the governing body. Criteria to meet this standard include employing nurse and non-nurse faculty who are qualified and regularly evaluated.

Standard 3 - Students

Policies and services must align with student learning outcomes. Criteria to meet this standard include public access to nursing programs and governing body policies, ACEN accreditation status, and ACEN contact information. Furthermore, formal complaints must be resolved with evidence of due process and timely resolution, student records must be maintained, and students must be notified of policy changes.

Standard 4 - Curriculum

The curriculum must support student learning outcomes and maintain up-to-date safe practices. Criteria to meet this standard include ensuring that the curriculum is developed and regularly reviewed by qualified faculty, simulates laboratory environments where necessary, employs teaching strategies to accommodate various learning styles, and reflects evidenced-based nursing practices.

Standard 5 - Outcomes

Using a systematic plan for evaluation (SPE), program assessments must demonstrate that students have achieved, or are approaching, competency in student learning outcomes. Criteria to meet this standard include a faculty-developed SPE that describes its assessment of student learning outcome achievement, nursing program completion rate, exam pass rate and licensure, and job placement.

The 21st century has seen nursing education progress in leaps and bounds. High-quality ed tech resources are integrating cutting-edge pedagogical science with digital technology, allowing faculty to track student progress, predict exam performance, and manage classrooms more efficiently. Furthermore, the ability to hone in on a student’s weaknesses and introduce them to resources that provide detailed explanations for right and wrong answers improves cohort and individual student learning outcomes.

What is The ACEN Accreditation Manual?

The ACEN Accreditation Manual is broken down into the following three sections:

  • Section 1: General Information — 19 pages providing a general overview of ACEN’s organizational structure, accreditation standards and criteria, and accreditation processes and procedures.
  • Section 2: Policies — Details ACEN’s 38 policies. Currently, the 2017 version is available, the 2023 version is coming soon.
  • Section 3: ACEN Standards and Criteria — Details ACEN’s official standards and each of their corresponding criteria.
  • Glossary — Breaks down industry jargon and provides clear legal definitions.
Use advanced item-level reporting for additional insight into your program.
Screenshot of item level reports from UWorld’s Learning Platform for Nursing.


Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, ACEN nursing website, accessed 4 October 2022,

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