Here’s what led to Fresno State’s nursing master’s program accreditation loss

Fresno State’s troubled nursing master’s program — which had its accreditation revoked last month — failed to meet a dozen standards needed to operate in good standing, according to a report obtained by the Fresno Bee this week.

The report, issued by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), sheds new light on the reasons why the program, which is not accepting new students for the fall, lost its accreditation.

Some of the highlights of the findings include the program’s failure to demonstrate it had enough faculty to accomplish its mission, goals, and expected outcomes.

The report indicated the program failed to show certain documents and publications were accurate.

Additionally, the report states the program fell short in demonstrating individual student performance is evaluated by faculty and accurately reflects expected student outcomes.

Plus, the report said the program failed to show its curriculum and teaching-learning practices are evaluated regularly for improvements.

CCNE officials conducted an on-site visit to assess the program last fall.

CCNE’s board of commissioner’s decision to revoke the accreditation was made in early May, taking effect May 23, according to the board’s list of actions. That was just a few days after the spring commencement.

Jody Hironaka-Juteau, dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State, which houses the masters nursing program, said she wasn’t expecting the accreditation to be revoked.

She said as part of the process, CCNE’s evaluation team verbally summarized their major findings. “The verbal summary did not lead us to believe the program’s accreditation was in jeopardy,” she said.

Once CCNE completed its report, the nursing program was able to provide written responses on what steps it had taken — or would take — to address concerns. That was one of the documents the CCNE board reviewed before making its decision.

“In our response, we felt we had adequately addressed concerns they had raised,” she said. “…We were genuinely surprised regarding their decision to withdraw accreditation.”

The university decided not to appeal the CCNE’s board’s decision.

Hironaka-Juteau said officials determined the most timely option to restore accreditation to the master’s program — and have the least impact on students — is “to seek approval for an accreditation visit in September 2019 with the goal of restoring accreditation by May 2020.”

Students in limbo

The accrediting findings were made public, upon request, on Monday when CCNE notified the U.S. Department of Education, among other agencies, about its action to withdraw the program’s accreditation.

Thus far, only five out of the 23 students enrolled have decided to continue in the program. The students have until July 15 to report whether they will stay. Those students have the option to continue in the program, take a leave of absence, or withdraw.

Fresno State officials on Wednesday said they are planning on hiring additional staff for the program.

Hironaka-Juteau wouldn’t say when CCNE first raised concerns about the program, but acknowledged exchanges with the accrediting body “over the past couple of years.”

Regarding the key element in the report about not having sufficient faculty, Hironaka-Juteau said “Based on the educational criteria for nurse practitioner programs, the faculty-to-student ratio for clinical supervision was not maintained appropriately. This was done in error and has since been corrected.”

In the fall of 2018, seven full-time faculty members taught in the nursing master’s program, and six full-time faculty taught in the spring. Full-time faculty are not only specifically assigned to the master’s program as they teach across program levels, which includes the bachelor programs as well, she said.

Jennifer Butlin, executive director of CCNE, said the earliest the program could regain its accreditation would be May 2020. If successful, the decision would be retroactive to the on-site evaluation scheduled for Sept. 9-11.

“The overall institution continues to be accredited by the (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) and that is the most important link for federal funding and student financial aid,” she wrote in an email.

Hironaka-Juteau said university officials are not aware of any loss of funding or penalties, but they are still checking with the Department of Education to see whether there will be any impact on the program from any federal funding sources.

The master’s nursing program isn’t the only nursing program facing accreditation problems at Fresno State. In March, it came to light that the Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program was not accredited due to an “administrative misunderstanding with the application process and requirements.”

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Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.