Overview: Description of the Process
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. The Commission's mission is to assure the educational quality and improve the effectiveness of its member institutions. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices primarily among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications for membership from domestic institutions in the other 39 states, as well as international institutions of higher education around the world.
Here’s an overview of the current reaffirmation process:
Components of the reaffirmation:
- Compliance Certification report addressing standards for accreditation
- Off-site and on-site reaffirmation review
- Preparation of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)
- Review by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees
The Compliance Certification is a report completed by the University that includes narrative arguments and appropriate documentation to demonstrate compliance with the standards of the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation. These standards reflect foundational expectations, such as those relating to the following examples:
- Degree granting authority
- Governing board and chief executive officer
- General education requirements
- Faculty qualificiations
- Student support
- Financial, physical, and learning resources
The standard format for a response to SACSCOC standards includes a narrative statement followed by a list of evidence files to document the University's compliance with the standard. Here’s an abbreviated example:
2.1 The institution has a clearly defined, comprehensive, and published mission specific to the institution and appropriate for higher education. The mission addresses teaching and learning and, where applicable, research and public service. (Institutional Mission) [Core Requirement] 1. _X_ Compliance ___Non-Compliance
... The Appalachian State University mission statement reads as follows:
Appalachian State University, a constituent member of the University of North Carolina System sustained by the generous support of North Carolinians, is a long-established public institution that honors our founding commitment to educational access and excellence and our rural mountain heritage through teaching, research and service. ...
Quality Enhancement Plan
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is the second report that SACSCOC requires for reaffirmation of accreditation. The QEP describes a focused, well-defined activity to be undertaken by the institution and address a topic or issue(s) related to enhancing student learning and/or student success. The QEP process ensures broad participation among faculty, staff, and students throughout the university to identify and select a topic. After the reaffirmation process, the University oversees the development and implementation of the QEP.
Whereas Compliance Certification looks at the past and present of the University, the Quality Enhancement Plan addresses the University's future: where we go from here and how we will continue to improve over the next five years.
Overall, SACSCOC is looking for:
- Institutional integrity: Honesty in our dealings with the Commission and with others and (2.) fulfillment of our stated mission.
- Quality enhancement as a concept – the process of assessing and improving. Evidence that the institution pursues continuous improvement in both academic and administrative areas through assessment in order to achieve its institutional and program-level goals and outcomes.
- Focus on student learning outcomes with evidence that students know what we taught them and are prepared to demonstrate what they know. Assessment of student learning outcomes in all majors at the program level, as well as in all educational support programs.
- A Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that focuses on student learning and has broad-based support across the institution.
- Qualified faculty with documentation (Faculty Rosters) showing they have the preparation to teach the courses to which they are assigned.
- Financial health and other resources to support the educational programs and mission of Appalachian State University.