Process and Standards
Reaffirmation Process and Standards
Accreditation in the United States is a voluntary and self-regulatory mechanism of the higher education community. It plays a significant role in fostering public confidence in the educational enterprise, maintaining standards, enhancing institutional effectiveness, and improving higher education by establishing a common set of requirements with which accredited institutions must comply.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
The SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in eleven southern states - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The commission also accredits international institutions of higher education. SACSCOC strives to enhance educational quality by ensuring the institutions meet standards established by the higher education community to address the needs of society and students. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions that award associate, baccalaureate, master, or doctoral degrees.
The adoption in 2001 of The Principles of Accreditation by the SACSCOC introduced significant changes in its approach to accreditation. The institution's effectiveness and its ability to create and sustain an environment that enhances student learning became the focus of a process designed to determine the quality of an institution within the framework of its mission, its goals, and an analysis of the response to crucial institutional issues.The success of the reaffirmation process depends upon four paramount concepts:
- The belief that the accreditation of institutions should be determined through a system of peer review whereby institutional effectiveness and quality are evaluated primarily by individuals from institutions of higher education, professional educators whose knowledge and experience enable them to exercise professional judgment,
- Institutional integrity evidenced by all information disseminated by institutions seeking reaffirmation being truthful, accurate, and complete, and all institutional interactions with constituencies and the public being honest and forthright,
- Commitment to quality enhancement and continuous improvement, and
- Focus on student learning and on institutional effectiveness in supporting and enhancing student learning.
- Comply with the Principle of Integrity (PR), Core Requirements (CR), Comprehensive Standards (CS), and Federal Requirements (FR) contained in The Principles of Accreditation and with the policies/procedures of the SACS Commission on Colleges.
- Enhance the quality of its educational programs.
- Focus on student learnin.
- Ensure a "culture of integrity" in all of its operations.
The reaffirmation process also assumes that all participants in the process - not just institutional personnel, but also off-site and on-site reaffirmation committee members, Commission staff, and SACSCOC trustees - will conduct their responsibilities with integrity, objectivity, fairness, and confidentiality. The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement is the Commission's primary source document for the reaffirmation review process. Its four sections contain:
- The Principle of Integrity
- Core Requirements
- Comprehensive Standards, and
- Federal Requirements.
Core Requirements are "basic, broad-based, foundational requirements."Documentation of compliance with Core Requirements 1-11 is necessary for reaffirmation, however, compliance with Core Requirements alone will not result in reaffirmation. Institutions must also document compliance with the standards in Sections 3 and 4, the Comprehensive Standards and Federal Requirements, and the Principle of Integrity in Section 1.
More specific than the Core Requirements, the Comprehensive Standards "establish a level of accomplishment expected of all member institutions" in four specific areas:
- Institutional mission, governance, and effectiveness;
- Resources; and
- Institutional responsibility for Commission policies.
Federal Requirements reflect several of the criteria outlined in the U.S. Secretary of Education's Criteria for Recognition that are not addressed elsewhere in the standards.
Documents of the Reaffirmation Process
Institutional Summary Form
Quality Enhancement Plan
Steps in the Reaffirmation Process
Phase 1: Preparation
- The Orientation Meeting
- Advisory Visit
Phase 2: Off-Site Review
- Compliance Certification
- Off-Site Review and Report
- Review of the Report
Phase 3: On-Site Review
- Materials for the Committee
- On-Site Visit and Report
Phase 4: Board of Trustees Review
- Response to the Visiting Committee Report
- Board of Trustees Action