Following is from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT):
Accreditation of physical therapist and physical therapist assistant education programs is a quality-assurance process by which an external organization evaluates programs to determine if objective standards are met. If the program meets the standards, the accrediting body grants accredited status. Since 1983, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is the only agency nationally-recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit entry-level education programs for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Typically, state regulatory boards approve a credentialing agency in statute or rule to evaluate education programs.
On July 1, 2020, Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education final rule 84 FR 58923 went into effect. This regulation recognizes academic degrees earned from programs in pre-accreditation status as being from an accredited program.
§602.23 Operating procedures all agencies must have.
(2) All credits and degrees earned and issued by an institution or program holding preaccreditation from a nationally recognized agency are considered by the Secretary to be from an accredited institution or program.
To maintain recognition by USDE, CAPTE must comply with the new regulation. According to CAPTE Interim Director Candy Bahner, PT, DPT, MS, CAPTE voted at its spring 2020 meeting to change Rule 7.2 of its Rules of Practice and Procedure to comply with the USDE regulation and will continue making additional changes as needed. (Bolded sentence below denotes current change made.)
7.2 Definition of Candidate for Accreditation. Candidate for Accreditation is a preaccreditation status, awarded prior to enrollment of students in the technical (PTA programs) or professional (PT programs) phase of the program, which indicates that the physical therapy education program is progressing toward accreditation. All credits and degrees earned and issued by a program holding candidacy are considered to be from an accredited program.
Bahner describes the process and requirements for candidacy as “similar to those for initial accreditation and reaffirmation of accreditation. The same rigor of the review occurs, and candidacy programs are expected to be making satisfactory progress toward compliance with the Standards and Required Elements.”
CAPTE’s Rules of Practice and Procedure outline the strict requirements for the granting of candidacy; this multi-step process takes more than a year for program development. A program is cited and given a specified amount of time to submit a required progress report when there is a lack of progress.
Additionally, the expectation is for the program to come into compliance within the period denoted in CAPTE’s rules. According to Bahner, “based on CAPTE’s Rules of Practice and Procedure and the rigor of the processes outlined in those rules, CAPTE doesn’t feel that the change in Rule 7.2 should cause alarm.”
Jurisdiction licensing boards take assurance that individuals completing an accredited program of study meet a consistent standard and quality of education to safely practice physical therapy. The CAPTE website is a resource for jurisdiction licensing boards, providing:
Jurisdictions with questions and/or concerns should reach out to CAPTE for clarification and answers.
Read a FAQ about the difference between CAPTE and. ACAPT here.