A First for HBCUs: Accreditation for North Carolina A&T’s BS in Bioengineering Program

Achievement date: 

North Carolina A&T University (NCAT) worked for and achieved accreditation for its Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the first of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) to earn this distinction. This effort was spearheaded by the University and the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB), headquartered at NCAT.


Bioengineering is the application of engineering principles and techniques to the medical field. It combines the design and problem-solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to improve healthcare diagnosis and treatment. A degree in this field prepares a student for careers in engineering design, management, research, consulting, sales, teaching, and product development in governmental agencies (federal and state), industries, and foreign services. The bioengineering education program at NCAT is providing members of a truly interdisciplinary student body with learning and research experiences to instill in them a lifelong sense of scholarship, social responsibility, and commitment to improving the quality of life for all people. The program serves as a human resource pipeline, with BS and MS graduates proceeding to industry, medical school, and graduate research programs on a national level. The strong diversity of the programs is reflected in the demographic data: high enrollment of U.S. nationals (about 100% at the BS and 90% at the MS level) and high levels of gender diversity (~60% female at BS level, ~70% at MS level) and underrepresented minority participation (~80-90% African-American in the two programs).


As part of its education/outreach initiatives, the ERC-RMB and NCAT initiated planning and implementation of MS and BS programs in Bioengineering in 2009, just one year after the ERC-RMB was established. This included obtaining university and UNC-system-level approval for the programs and recruitment of faculty. ERC-RMB partner institution the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) provided knowledge and shared resources in curriculum and lab development.  Enrolling their first students in 2010 and 2011, respectively, enrollments continue to grow steadily. After graduation of their first cohort of BS students, the biomedical engineering faculty hosted an ABET accreditation visit in the 2015-16 academic year. Following modification based in ABET feedback, ABET sent NCAT an official letter of accreditation in the fall of 2016 for the BS in Bioengineering program, retroactive to October 2013. In addition to being the first HBCU having an ABET-accredited BS program in Bioengineering, it also has the nation’s first seamless BS-MS Bioengineering program offerings at an HBCU.

Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of post-secondary educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. ABET is a not-for-profit, non-governmental accrediting agency for programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology and is recognized as an accreditor by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.