Owens Community College's registered nursing program is nationally accredited again this year, four years after the program lost the designation.
The program now has the stamp of approval from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN, through 2018. The ACEN, then known as the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission, voted in July, 2009, to deny accreditation to Owens for its failure to have enough faculty with master's degrees and use data to track program effectiveness.
The school was officially notified in August it had received accreditation, which is retroactive to the previous semester. Owens received an initial accreditation, and hopes to eventually receive continual accreditation, which lasts for eight years, school of nursing Dean Dawn Wetmore said.
The accreditation ends a period of turmoil for Owens' nursing program. While the school always kept full approval of the Ohio Board of Nursing, which regulates nursing programs in the state, accreditation is an important mark of quality for degrees.
Students weren't told about the accreditation loss until fall, 2009. Some students filed lawsuits, claiming the loss of accreditation would damage graduates' ability to find jobs or transfer credits, and litigation is still pending over the matter. Top administrators resigned, retired, or were fired in the wake of the accreditation loss.
To regain accreditation, the school hired staff, and there are 44 full-time faculty members, and all have at least a master's degree. Of the 48 part-time faculty, 32 staff members — about 68 percent — have at least a master's degree; Owens needed 50 percent to get accreditation, Ms. Wetmore said.
Owens now has a full-time adviser for nursing students and an associate vice president charged with overseeing accreditation of the college. It converted its former nursing “department” into a “school” of nursing, and the nursing school got renovated clinical space.
Program enrollment has slowly increased. New student admissions were capped at 80 a semester on the Toledo-area campus and 35 on the Findlay campus by fall, 2010. The cap was raised to 90 in Toledo last fall, and this semester to 97.
Owens also created an assessment plan that allows it to monitor student learning, student satisfaction, and employer satisfaction.
College officials pointed to the more than 95 percent passage rate of the National Council Licensing Exam by students in the first two quarters of 2013 as evidence of the program's quality, and said that of the fall, 2011, and spring, 2012, graduates that responded to Owens inquiries, 100 percent had found employment.
“Program accreditation is just another layer to say you have a really good program,” Ms. Wetmore said, “and we think we've always had a really, really good program.”