NLN Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA) Gains Full Recognition from the U.S. Department of Education

Media Contact: Michael Keaton; 202-909-2544
NLN Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA) Gains Full Recognition from the U.S. Department of Education
Washington, DC — The National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA), which promotes excellence and integrity in nursing education globally, has now earned designation as an official accrediting agency of the U.S. Department of Education. With this recognition, CNEA joins other accrediting agencies deemed qualified to monitor the academic quality of postsecondary and educational programs for federal purposes. The recognition, approved this week by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, is for a five-year period.

The scope of CNEA’s accreditation activities include the pre-accreditation and accreditation of nursing education programs in the United States that offer a certificate, diploma or degree at the practical/vocational, diploma (RN), associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral levels, including programs offered via distance education. To date, 115 programs across 29 states representing all program types have been pre-accredited or accredited by CNEA. All those currently accredited by CNEA can now boast accreditation by a U.S. Department of Education recognized agency.

“By requiring all onsite program evaluators to be schooled in the National League for Nursing’s four core values – caring, diversity, integrity, and excellence – we have created an accreditation process guaranteed to shift the paradigm in nursing education,” said CNEA Board of Commissioners Chair Joan Darden, PhD, RN, ANEF, Professor Emerita at Darton State College in Albany, Georgia. “Our influence on quality nursing education will undoubtedly continue to grow as new applicants for CNEA accreditation will demonstrate how CNEA’s accreditation standards are incorporated into their program culture and content.”

The National League for Nursing has been in the accreditation business for almost 70 years. As part of this history, the League started a division of accreditation in 2013 and launched the commission the following year. Since then, CNEA has hit all milestones toward earning full U.S. Department of Education recognition.

Schools that are already CNEA accredited are among its biggest boosters. Program directors enthusiastically attest to the effectiveness of CNEA standards in raising the bar for student achievement and general program excellence, and of the collegiality of the CNEA professionals who supported them through the phases of pre-accreditation and accreditation.

“CNEA stood out among the other accreditation bodies as our choice, without question. Our decision was based on their obvious efforts to uphold caring, diversity, excellence, and integrity in all types of nursing programs, including distance education, which was most important to our institution,” said Stephanie Holaday, DrPH, MSN, CNE, Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences for Salem University in West Virginia.

“CNEA staff and executive director herself were so helpful during the initial accreditation process for our program. Questions were answered in a timely manner, and personnel were friendly and eager to assist in any way they could. I always knew what the next step was, from the beginning of the process to completion of the site visit,” said Dorinda Sorvig, MS, RN, Practical Nursing Director, Northland Community and Technical College in Minnesota.

CNEA Executive Director Teresa Shellenbarger PhD, RN, CNE, CNEcl, ANEF said, “This is thrilling news, the culmination of a process initiated over seven years ago by calls we received from nursing programs across the spectrum of higher education that were long seeking an alternative values-driven accreditation service for nursing education. All of us at CNEA are pleased that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized that CNEA is in full compliance with the department's recognition criteria. This is a tremendous victory that not only benefits CNEA but the entire programmatic accrediting community.”

Shellenbarger added, “Thanks to Dr. Judith Halstead, founding executive director of CNEA, Dr. Cathleen Shultz, founding commission chair, and our dedicated commissioners, committee members and on-site program evaluators, we have achieved this important goal. The entire community of nurse educators, deans and directors, and most of all students, are now in a position to benefit from their fine work guiding nursing programs to meet the rigorous standards of excellence that CNEA accreditation represents.”

For more information about the CNEA, visit

About the National League for Nursing
Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN offers professional development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its nearly 45,000 individual and 1,100 institutional members, comprising nursing education programs across the spectrum of higher education and health care organizations. Learn more at
Events  |  News Release Archive  |  NLN Press  |  NLN Vision Series (Position Statements)