What happened at ITT Technical Institute? Why are hundreds of nursing students suddenly in massive debt and with no school that will accept them? I call it fraud, or at best, misleading vulnerable, trusting and naive students. Shame on ITT.
In a nutshell, students thought they were attending a reputable, albeit, expensive nursing program. One that was even approved by their state Board of Nursing (BON). How could things go so wrong that ITT was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education, lost federal funds, and closed overnight?
For the students who are victims, it’s all about understanding nursing school accreditation. While I agree with many who are saying “Buyer, beware”…. keep in mind that accreditation is not simple to understand. If an applicant has never been to college, they may have no way of knowing what to look for in a program, or what questions to ask.
What does accreditation mean?
Much the same as the Joint Commission (JC) accredits hospitals and assures a certain standard for the public, U.S. Department of Education-approved educational accrediting agencies accredit nursing programs to assure academic standards. While accrediting agencies are not governmental entities, and accreditation is voluntary, the approval makes colleges and universities eligible for billions of dollars in federal funding each year.
There are two nationally recognized nursing program accrediting bodies:
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). CCNE accredits programs that offer only master’s and baccalaureate level nursing degrees.
- Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN). ACEN accredits all types of nursing programs including master’s, baccalaureate, associate’s and diploma.
What does approved by the state board of nursing (BON) mean?
Each state BON sets standards for nursing programs. Graduates of approved schools are then eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensing Exam (NCLEX).
Approved and accredited are two different endorsements for two different purposes. The BON only approves nursing schools, it does not accredit nursing schools.
What does accredited mean?
For one, accreditation ensures that credits earned are transferable, for example, to a BSN program. Credits earned from a non-accredited school may or may not be transferable.
Some nurses do not find out their credits are not transferable until they have graduated, passed the NCLEX, and have applied to a BSN or MSN program.
My ITT program counselor said they were accredited?
It’s possible that a college is nationally or regionally accredited but the accreditation does not extend to each specific program offered by the college.
Cal State Dominguex Hills (CSUDH) is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This is a regional accreditation. However, it has nothing to do with the nursing program accreditation.
CSUDH nursing program is accredited by CCNE.
It may take some clicking around to find this information but it’s important. Often the nursing program accreditation and accreditation logo are prominently displayed.
ITT was nationally accredited by Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) which has been under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education. ITT was not regionally accredited nor was the nursing program accredited.
But my state BON approved the school and then let me take the NCLEX? Isn’t that good enough?
Again, and to summarize:
- State BONs approve nursing programs
- Accrediting bodies accredit nursing programs
Two different functions.
Your program must be approved for you to sit for NCLEX. Accreditation assures that credits are transferable to another university.
Some good nursing programs are not accredited, right?
This is true. Some non-accredited ADN nursing programs are excellent and have a high pass rate. And some have established articulation agreements with universities that do permit seamless transfer of credit. Per a knowledgable Dean at a community college with an exemplary nursing program, “Ask questions”. Ask until you are satisfied that you understand.
Seek reputable programs in your community.
How do I know if my school is accredited?
Ask the school what accreditation the nursing program has. Ask when their accreditation expires. Accreditation is granted for specific lengths of time, much like JC hospital accreditation.
Be cautious of some for-profit schools. Hallmarks of for-profit schools include hefty tuition and short wait lists.
Don’t be taken advantage of by proprietary schools who do not have your best interest at heart.
Until next time friend,
Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at allnurses.com for all kinds of entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question