Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The US Secretary of Education officially recognizes the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) as the exclusive national accreditation agency for bachelor's and graduate-degree nursing education programs. In 1996, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) established the CCNE as an autonomous nursing accreditation arm to support the advancement of public health by facilitating quality standards in nursing education.

In April 2021, AACN significantly updated its professional nursing educational frameworks at the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. These updates, codified in the new Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education, have been designed to modernize nursing education for the 21st century and set in motion a critical shift toward competency-based learning with the explicit aim of qualifying students for practice. All four-year colleges and universities will gradually incorporate these changes over the next several years.

Below we detail the importance and purpose of CCNE accreditation for nursing programs, the accreditation process, CCNE standards, procedure, and guidelines, and the implications of the new AACN essentials.

Why Is CCNE Accreditation Important?

Quality, trust, and excellence in nursing professionals would quickly deteriorate if the programs that produce nurses were not held to rigorous educational standards. CCNE maintains quality standards of bachelor's and graduate-degree nursing education programs by encouraging ongoing self-assessment and improvement.

In short, CCNE accredited schools and programs signal that they not only hold themselves to high standards of quality and integrity but have also been officially recognized for doing so. Accreditation reassures a program's students that their diploma will be credible and their education will prepare them to excel in their careers. Furthermore, accreditation attracts quality educators who appreciate being held to higher standards and making a positive and quantifiable impact on public health.

Federal and state financial aid programs will not sponsor students who attend non-accredited programs. The same is typically true of scholarship programs. CCNE accreditation promotes diversity and inclusivity within a program's student body by providing individuals with a quality education who may not have otherwise had the opportunity.

What Is the Purpose of the CCNE?

The purpose of the CCNE is to identify nursing programs that meet accreditation standards and hold those programs accountable. They are held accountable through an honest evaluation of each program's ability to continually meet accreditation standards while realizing its mission, goals, and outcomes. Furthermore, the Commission seeks to improve the profession by facilitating ongoing improvement in nursing education and communicating the importance of such standards to the public.

What are CCNE goals?

To achieve its stated purpose, the CCNE has codified specific premises for developing accreditation standards. These premises, listed below as “goals”, are the criteria by which programs are evaluated.

  1. Developing and implementing accreditation standards that foster continuous improvement within nursing education programs.
  1. Enabling the community of interest to participate in significant ways in the review, formulation, and validation of accreditation standards and policies and in determining the reliability of the accreditation process. 
  1. Establishing and implementing an evaluation and recognition process that is efficient, cost-effective, and cost-accountable. 
  1. Assessing whether nursing education programs consistently fulfill their stated missions, goals, and expected outcomes. 
  1. Ensuring that nursing education program outcomes are in accordance with the expectations of the nursing profession to adequately prepare individuals for professional practice, life-long learning, and graduate education. 
  1. Encouraging nursing education programs to pursue academic excellence through improved teaching/ learning and assessment practices and in scholarship and public service in accordance with the unique mission of the institution. 
  1. Ensuring that nursing education programs engage in self-evaluation of personnel, procedures, and services; and that they facilitate continuous improvement through planning and resource development. 
  1. Acknowledging and respecting the autonomy of institutions and the diversity of programs involved in nursing education.  
  1. Ensuring consistency, peer review, agency self-assessment, procedural fairness, confidentiality, and identification and avoidance of conflict of interest, as appropriate, in accreditation practices. 
  1. Enhancing public understanding of the functions and values inherent in nursing education accreditation.  
  1. Providing to the public an accounting of nursing education programs that are accredited and merit public approbation and support.  
  1. Working cooperatively with other agencies to minimize duplication of review processes.

CCNE-Accreditation Process for Nursing Schools

The CCNE accreditation process for nursing schools begins approximately 12-18 months before the on-site evaluation. An institution must have been accepted for new applicant status to schedule an evaluation or already have a CCNE accredited program.

  1. Self-Study Document — Programs must begin the self-study process 12-18 months before the on-site evaluation and submit their self-study document to the CCNE Online Community at least 6 weeks prior to evaluation.
  2. On-Site Visit — An evaluation team audits the nursing program and submits a written report for review. Programs must schedule on-site evaluations at least 12 months in advance, whether they are seeking initial or continuing accreditation. Evaluations planned in the fall will be invoiced in July, and invoices for spring evaluations will be sent out in November.
  3. Accreditation Review Committee (ARC) — ARC makes a confidential recommendation to the CCNE Board of Commissioners after it evaluates the self-study document, the team report, and the program's response to the team report.
  4. Board of Commissioners (BOC) — BOC makes a final independent review of the program along with ARC's recommendation and determines whether the program meets the qualifications for CCNE accreditation.

How long is the CCNE accreditation?

CCNE accreditation is valid for 5 years following the approval of a nursing program. Programs must pay an annual fee to keep their accreditation valid.

How much does it cost to have a CCNE accredited program?

Costs for CCNE accreditation include fees for both initial and continuing accreditation. The below tables detail current CCNE accreditation-related costs.

CCNE Accreditation Fees 
Application  Details Fee
Evaluation  Per evaluator (expect 3-5). Must be paid before evaluation.  $1,750
New Applicant  For one-degree program.
Increases by $1,500 for each additional program (up to 3).Submit with application for initial accreditation. 
New Program  For institutions that already have a CCNE-accredited degree program and want to add another. Submit a letter of intent to request an accreditation review of the new program.  $2,000

Nursing programs must pay an annual fee to keep their CCNE accreditation valid. Invoices are sent in May and the payment deadline is in July.

CCNE Annual Fees 
# of Degree Programs Fee
1 $2,777
2 $3,350
3 $3,924

What Are the CCNE Standards, Procedures & Guidelines

The CCNE has formulated an official set of standards and key elements used for the accreditation of baccalaureate, master's, DNP, and post-graduate APRN certification programs. The following standards, procedures, and guidelines establish the basis for evaluating nursing programs for accreditation.

Standard I Program Quality: Mission and Governance 6

A program's mission, goals, and outcomes must be consistent with its parent institution's standards while continually meeting quality standards stipulated by the CCNE. Furthermore, program governance must include faculty and student involvement.

Standard II Program Quality: Institutional Commitment and Resources 10

Parent institutions must provide full support to accredited programs and their faculty and staff to maintain the capacity to achieve their mission, goals, and outcomes continually. This support includes fiscal, physical, and academic resources.

Standard III Program Quality: Curriculum and Teaching-Learning Practices 13

The program's curriculum must reflect its mission, goals, and outcomes while maintaining standards commensurate with the community of interest. This includes pedagogical methods and environments that cultivate cohort achievement. Curriculums should be developed, reviewed, and revised using CCNE standards and the program's goals.

Standard IV Program Effectiveness: Assessment and Achievement of Program Outcome

A program's efficacy must be measurable via data obtained from student and faculty outcomes and any other expected outcomes. These measurements include program completion rates, licensure pass rates, certification pass rates, employment rates, and aggregate faculty outcomes.

What Are the AACN Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education

The AACN Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education have been developed to bridge the gap between nursing education and practice and prepare students for a continually evolving field. The new Essentials outline ten broad domains that enumerate competencies and sub-competencies across the four spheres of healthcare, the lifespan, and diverse patient populations. The new Essentials divide sub-competencies between entry-level professional nursing education (Level 1) and advanced-level nursing education (Level 2).

In addition, there are eight professional nursing practice concepts, including:

Pre-licensure nursing programs must adopt a competency-based education framework with didactic laboratory and simulated and clinical learning experiences. Students of such programs must display proficiency in all requisite sub-competencies to meet program outcomes.

The New AACN Essentials has a more detailed overview of domains, sub-competencies, nursing practice concepts, and competency-based learning pedagogies.

Use advanced item-level reporting for additional insight into your program.
Screenshot of item level reports from UWorld’s Learning Platform for Nursing.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, AACN website, accessed 7 October 2022,

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education. American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2021, AACN website, accessed October 11 2022,

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, “Standards for Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs.” American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 2018,

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