Accreditation Facts

 Frequently Asked Questions

1.   What is SACSCOC?

2.   What is accreditation?

3.   What are the SACSCOC requirements?

4.   How is this SACSCOC reaffirmation different from previous self-studies?

5.   How can I be involved in EPCC’s reaffirmation process?

6.   What does EPCC have to do for SACSCOC?

7.   I’ve still got questions. How do I ask questions about EPCC and SACSCOC?

8.   What is the point of the QEP?

9.   When do these QEP initiatives begin?

10. What will the Off-site Committee do?

11. What will the On-site Committee do when it comes to EPCC?

12. What happens after the On-site Committee leaves EPCC?

13. Is it unusual for a college to receive recommendations?

14. Do recommendations threaten accreditation?

15. What happens to the college’s response to the recommendations?

16. What options does the Commission on Colleges have in regard to accreditation?

17. When will the Commission on Colleges announce a decision about the accreditation of EPCC?

 

1. What is SACSCOC?

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is the recognized regional accrediting body in the eleven U.S. Southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) and in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees. The Commission on Colleges is the representative body of the College Delegate Assembly and is charged with carrying out of the accreditation process.


2. What is accreditation?

Accreditation is intended to assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs, and to help those institutions and programs improve. These outcomes are achieved through rigorous internal and external review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards.


When accreditation is awarded to an institution of higher education by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, it means that the institution has (1) a mission appropriate to higher education, (2) resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain its mission, (3) clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that it is (4) successful in achieving its stated objectives. Accreditation is a statement of the institution’s continuing commitment to integrity and its capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed-upon accreditation standards.


3. What are the SACSCOC requirements?

The SACSCOC requirements are called the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. They are a list of principles that we need to meet in order to be in full compliance with SACSCOC and receive our reaffirmation of accreditation. Access to the list of principles and standards is found at http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/2010principlesofacreditation.pdf


4. How is this SACSCOC reaffirmation different from previous self-studies?

When EPCC was last reviewed (2003), a large number of SACS external reviewers visited campus and primarily were involved with EPCC’s self-appointed campus SACS team. Also, faculty participated in scores of committees that required much time and effort throughout the process. Not so this time. To summarize the differences:

  • There is no self-study document per se this time. Instead EPCC will submit two major reports – a Compliance Certification, to be submitted first, and a Quality Enhancement Plan, to be submitted several months later.
  • The QEP is a much more focused report that outlines a major initiative tied to student learning.
  • There will only be one site visit, and it will occur in 2012. Between six and eight reviewers will be on campus for three days. They will review any areas of concern raised by the off-site team. Their chief purpose, however, is to talk to EPCC faculty, staff and students about the QEP. They will write a report about EPCC compliance with all of the SACS Commission on Colleges reaffirmation criteria.

SACSCOC wants EPCC to provide clear-cut objectives, ways to measure the outcomes of those objectives and proof that those objectives are being continued into the future – all focused on the primary desired outcome of quality education for the student.


SACSCOC

Then

Now

The Criteria for Accreditation

The Principles of Accreditation

Compliance with 475-plus detailed

and prescriptive “must” statements

Compliance with about 75 “Core Requirements,” “Comprehensive Statements,” and “Federal Requirements”

Completion of an extensive and

evaluative Self-Study report

Submission of a concise Compliance Certification Report

A self-study steering committee and a dozen or more Self-Study Committees

A small leadership team overseeing Compliance Certification reporting

Coordination by the institution’s Self-Study Director every 10 years

Continuous annual coordination by the institution’s Accreditation Liaison

Faculty-dominated Self-Study evaluations and report preparation

Administrator-dominated compliance certification with a faculty dominated Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)

An on-site peer review committee’s validation of institutional compliance with the Criteria

An off-site peer review committee’s validation of institutional compliance with the Principles

An on-site committee that reviews voluminous hard copy documentation (a physical documents room)

An off-site committee that accesses an electronic archive of focused documentation and interactive reference data (a virtual documents room)

An on-site peer committee’s validation of institutional compliance that is independent of other institutions’ reviews

The simultaneous validation of compliance for a half-dozen institutions by the same off-site peer review committee

Self-study orientations, preparations and peer reviews that are conducted on a schedule that is unique to each institution

Compliance orientations, preparations and peer reviews that are conducted on a common schedule for Track A institutions and separately for Track B institutions each year

Campus-wide involvement that focuses on institutional compliance with “must” statements

Campus-wide involvement that focuses on Quality Enhancement Planning (QEP) for improved student learning and on the environment supporting student learning

An on-site peer review that involves a large visiting committee comprised of many different specialists examining all operations

An on-site peer review that involves a small visiting committee comprised of specialists focused primarily on the QEP

A project in which IT personnel play minor roles in Self-Study preparation and technical support for the on-site visit

A project in which IT personnel play major mission-critical roles in designing and activating electronic information centers needed for offsite access and validation of compliance

 

5. How can I be involved in EPCC’s reaffirmation process?

Be involved with the QEP! Contact the Office of the Vice President of Instruction or Grace Haddox, QEP Coordinator.

 

6. What does EPCC have to do for SACSCOC?

EPCC must prepare a report that shows that EPCC is in compliance with the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation. This report is due to SACSCOC by March 15, 2012. In addition, EPCC must prepare a Quality Enhancement Plan for submission in summer 2012.

 

7. I’ve still got questions. How do I ask questions about EPCC and SACS?

Please send an email to Compliance.SACS@epcc.edu

 

8. What is the point of the QEP?

The QEP is a five-year plan designed to enhance the quality of student learning by focusing on a theme and specific student outcomes.

 

9. When do these QEP initiatives begin?

If our plan is approved, the QEP Initiative begins in 2013.


10. What will the Off-site Committee do?

The Off-Site Peer Review Committee, composed of a chair and normally eight to ten evaluators, meets in Atlanta, Georgia, and reviews Compliance Certifications of a group of institutions to determine whether each institution is in compliance with all Core Requirements (except Core Requirement 2.12), Comprehensive Standards, and Federal Requirements. The group of institutions evaluated, called a cluster, normally will consist of no more than four institutions similar in governance and degrees offered. At the conclusion of the review, the Off-Site Peer Review Committee will prepare a separate report for each institution, recording and explaining its decisions regarding compliance. The report is forwarded to the respective institution’s On-Site Review Committee which makes its final determination on compliance.

 

11. What will the On-site Committee do when it comes to EPCC?

Following review by the Off-Site Committee, an On-Site Review Committee of peers will conduct a focused evaluation at the campus to finalize issues of compliance with the Core Requirements, Comprehensive Standards, and Federal Requirements; provide consultation regarding the issues addressed in the QEP; and evaluate the acceptability of the QEP. At the conclusion of its visit, the On-Site Review Committee will prepare the Report of the Reaffirmation Committee, a written report of its findings noting areas of noncompliance, including the acceptability of the QEP. The Report of the Reaffirmation Committee, along with the institution’s response to areas of non-compliance, will be forwarded to the Commission for review and action.


12. What happens after the On-site Committee leaves EPCC?

The On-Site Committee submits its report to the Commission. The institution prepares a response to the On-Site Committee’s report and submits it to the Commission. The Commission reviews the findings included in the report of the On-Site Committee and the institution’s response and takes action on the institution’s reaffirmation.


13. Is it unusual for a college to receive recommendations?

No. In fact, recommendations are common. The Commission staff communicates to the institution the findings of the report prepared by the Off-Site Review Committee. The institution may choose to submit a Focused Report in response to the committee’s findings. The On-Site Committee receives a written copy of the Off-Site Committee’s report and the institution’s Focused Report, if one is submitted.


14. Do recommendations threaten accreditation?

Yes, they will if the institution does not take appropriate and acceptable action to come into compliance with the criteria.


15. What happens to the college’s response to the recommendations?

The Commissions’ Compliance and Reports (C&R) Committee will receive and review the report of the On-Site Review Committee, the response of the institution to the committee’s report, the institution’s Compliance Certification, and its Quality Enhancement Plan. The full Commission will receive the C&R Committee report and will make a decision regarding the reaffirmation of the institution’s accreditation and any follow-up activities that it requires of the institution. The Commission makes decisions regarding accreditation status twice each year – in June for Track A institutions and in December for Track B institutions.


16. What options does the Commission on Colleges have in regard to accreditation?

The Commission on Colleges (COC) can reaffirm an institution’s accreditation with or without requiring additional follow-up reports. It can grant reaffirmation but place an institution on Notice for a maximum of a year or defer reaffirmation until the next COC meeting while awaiting compliance reports. The COC can deny reaffirmation and place a college on either Warning or Probation for up to two years. Lastly, the COC can deny an institution reaffirmation and remove it from membership in the Commission on Colleges. The status of an institution’s accreditation becomes public knowledge when accreditation actions are read in open session at the College Delegate Assembly and published in the Proceedings of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


17. When will the Commission on Colleges announce a decision about the accreditation status of EPCC?

The Commission on Colleges will make a decision about the accreditation status of EPCC at its June 2013 meeting and announce its findings at College Delegate Assembly.


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