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FAQs About Accreditation of Dietetics Education Programs

Dietetics education programs voluntarily apply to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for accreditation by submitting applications demonstrating compliance with the Accreditation Standards. Here are answers to questions frequently asked of ACEND®.

What is the accreditation process?

Basically, accreditation includes self-analysis, preparation of a self-study report, and an on-site evaluation visit by a team of professional peers. Dietetics educators and practitioners, appointed by the ACEND board, participate in the peer review process to determine if a program is achieving its own educational objectives and meeting the accreditation standards. The ACEND board accredits programs that are able to meet these standards.

What are the Accreditation Standards?

The Accreditation Standards are the threshold criteria that higher education programs preparing graduates to be RDNs and DTRs must meet to be accredited by ACEND. The Accreditation Standards state the organizational requirements and resources the program must have to provide quality education, and the expectations for knowledge and competencies students must have attained upon graduation. There are Accreditation Standards for both the RDN and DTR level of practice. Each set defines broad-based foundation knowledge and competencies essential to dietetics practice at the respective level.

ACEND continually evaluates all of its policies and practices, including the Accreditation Standards. Since 1987, there has been a systematic process for measuring whether the accreditation standards are reliable and valid indicators for entry-level dietetics practice and assessing whether the accreditation process is meeting the programs' and professions' expectations. View the current Accreditation Standards.

What is a self-study report?

A self-study is a written report of the self-analysis conducted by a program to determine its strengths, plans to address its areas in need of improvement and how well it complies with the Accreditation Standards. The self-analysis process should focus on program and student learning, outcomes assessment and goal achievement. Institution administrators, program faculty, staff and/or preceptors, students and other appropriate stakeholders should be included in the process. The self-study report provides basic information about the program for the ACEND board and its reviewers.

How does a program that is not accredited begin the process for ACEND accreditation?

Programs not currently accredited by ACEND may apply for candidacy for accreditation. Candidacy status is awarded after review of an eligibility application, self-study report and an on-site evaluation that indicate the program is progressing toward compliance with the Accreditation Standards and demonstrates institutional readiness to implement the proposed program. After candidacy for accreditation is granted, the program may enroll students. Students on premises and enrolled after candidacy is granted will be considered graduates of an accredited program on successful completion of the program.

This is a three-step process. The eligibility application must be submitted at least 12 months in advance of the planned enrollment of the first class of students. Upon review, approximately four weeks after submission of the eligibility application, the program will be notified and directed to schedule a site visit. The self-study report will need to be submitted three months before the site visit.

Candidacy for accreditation status is limited to the completion of two classes but no longer than four years after candidacy is awarded. At that time, if the program wishes to continue to have ACEND-recognition, the program must submit a self-study report and schedule an on-site visit for full accreditation. Candidacy status does not ensure full accreditation by the ACEND board.

  • To protect prospective students from misleading information, ACEND policy prevents programs seeking candidacy for accreditation from publishing statements about a possible ACEND-accreditation status not yet granted with the exception of ACEND-approved language that is available for all programs seeking candidacy. If students begin a program before candidacy is granted by the ACEND board, they will not be considered to be enrolled in, or graduates of, an accredited program.
  • It is highly recommended that any institution considering development of a new dietetics education program for ACEND-accreditation consult with ACEND staff early in the development process, complete all ACEND web-based education courses and attend an ACEND®-sponsored Program Directors workshop.

How long is full accreditation granted and what are the requirements during this period?

Full accreditation is granted for 7 years. During this period, a program maintains accreditation by ongoing monitoring of outcomes assessment and goal achievement, submission of an annual report, and payment of annual accreditation maintenance fees. Prior to the end of the 7-year accreditation period, if the program wants to continue accreditation, it must submit a self-study report and host an on-site site evaluation.

Do programs pay fees for accreditation?

Yes. An annual fee applies to all programs that hold accreditation (regardless of status). Additional fees apply for self-study/site visits, new programs seeking candidacy, and extraordinary activities. Review the current accreditation fee schedule for more details.

Source - ACEND/April 2020

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