Although both approval and accreditation are important components of a successful educational institution; these two terms cannot be used interchangeably. Kentucky law dictates that the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) has the authority to approve programs of nursing within the state, but we do not accredit programs. So what is the difference between the two? Which is more important?
The term "approval" is defined as "official or formal consent, confirmation or sanction" (American Heritage Dictionary). In Kentucky the term "approval" indicates that a program of nursing has met standards established by Kentucky law. When a program of nursing is approved, this permits the admission of students and the beginning of classes. Graduation from a U.S. Board of Nursing approved program of nursing is required for a student to be eligible to take the NCLEX examination for RN's or LPN's. Approval also requires continued compliance with essential educational standards to protect both the students who are enrolled in the program and the public that will receive nursing care from the graduates of the program. Approval by the Board of Nursing is mandatory for all programs of nursing within the Commonwealth.
The term "accreditation" is defined as "recognition of an institution of learning as maintaining prescribed standards requisite for its graduates to obtain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice" (American Heritage Dictionary). Accreditation is an official authorization or status granted by an agency external to the KBN. Accreditation is considered a voluntary process that focuses on program excellence carried out by peers. It has often been quoted that should a student desire to continue their nursing education beyond entry level, graduation from an accredited nursing program may be required for admission to other nursing programs. There are three national accrediting bodies for nursing. The accrediting bodies for nursing are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).
In addition to nursing accreditation, the college or university that is the parent educational institution must also be accredited. This accreditation is essential for students to receive financial aid and accreditation impacts the ability to transfer credits to other educational institutions.
The links below will direct you to web sites that list the approval and accreditation status for Kentucky colleges/universities that operate a program of nursing.
Kentucky Board of Nursing:
The list of Kentucky Approved Nursing Programs
The U.S. Department of Education Accreditation Database
National Nursing Accrediting Bodies:
The CCNE (Baccalaureate and Higher)
The ACEN (All Levels of Nursing Education)
The CNEA (All Levels of Nursing Education)