College will fight nursing accreditation denial
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | April 03,2013
Patrick McArdle/Staff Photo
Southern Vermont College, seen in Bennington on Monday, is set to lose the accreditation for its nursing programs but Karen Gross, president of the independent college, promised to fight the decision of the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.
BENNINGTON — The president of Southern Vermont College promised Monday to fight a decision by a national organization to deny continuing accreditation for the college’s nursing degree programs and assured students that accreditation would continue one way or another.
Karen Gross, president of the college, said Monday that the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, or NLNAC, voted to deny continuing accreditation for Southern Vermont College’s associate and bachelor degree nursing programs. Gross said the decision was “disappointing” for Southern Vermont College.
But Gross pointed out that NLNAC’s accreditation will continue through the current academic year and that Southern Vermont had approval from the Vermont State Board of Nursing which allows students to take the national nursing licensing exam.
“Our nursing graduates, current, past and future, have a degree that is recognized by the state and valued by health care providers and let me say this as a president: I am disappointed by this decision and I will do everything in my power to ensure that the SVC nursing programs get the recognition and accreditation they deserve,” she said.
College officials are fighting the NLNAC decision. Jeff Nolan, an attorney with the Burlington law firm Dinse, Knapp, and McAndrew. P.C., said the college planned to appeal the decision announced Monday.
The appeal has the benefit that as long as it remains active, the denial of accreditation will be stayed. Nolan said the appeal, which would be based on the college’s position that NLNAC failed to follow its own procedures and that the decision was unreasonable and arbitrary, will be filed within 30 days.
Nolan estimated the appeal would be considered during the summer and said he thought there would be no decision until the fall.
Gross said the college would also file comments within 30 days to the U.S. Department of Education.
Investigators with NLNAC visited the college for two days in October and issued a draft report in December. College officials took part in a hearing in Atlanta, Ga., where NLNAC is based, in January but Gross said they were not able to make comments before a vote on whether or not to recommend the report’s findings to the commission which makes the ultimate decision on accreditation.
Gross also complained that there were 40 factual errors in the draft report but only about half a dozen of them were corrected in the final report.
College officials are also considering a lawsuit against NLNAC that would challenge the commission’s decision. Nolan said that lawsuit, which would be filed in the U.S. District Court of Vermont, would be based on their belief that NLNAC denied the college’s right to due process.
Gross said the college wasn’t opposed to NLNAC or its site visits but believed there were a number of flaws in October’s visit.
“We believe that if they came back and did the review process anew, done properly, with due process and compliance with their own rules and compliance with the Higher Education Act of 1965, there would be a different outcome. ... We would welcome their return to campus to do the process right,” she said.
Attempts to contact NLNAC officials late on Monday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Gross has written more about the college’s position on the accreditation decision on the college’s website at blogs.svc.edu/president.