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SACSCOC 2016 REAFFIRMATION

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What is SACSCOC?

SACSCOC stands for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which is the accrediting body for educational institutions within Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Latin America. The Commission on Colleges is the division of SACSCOC that oversees accreditation of higher education within the region.

Dr. Belle Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges, offers an alternate meaning for the SACS acronym that conveys the essence of higher education: Students Are Central to Success.

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Why is SACSCOC accreditation important?

Accreditation by the SACS Commission on Colleges means that a university has:

  1. A mission appropriate to higher education.
  2. The resources, programs and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that mission.
  3. Clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers.
  4. Success in achieving its stated objectives.

According to the Commission on Colleges, the "product of accreditation is a public statement of an institution's continuing capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed upon requirements. The statement of an institution's accreditation status with the Commission on Colleges is also an affirmation of an institution's continuing commitment to the Commission's principles and philosophy of accreditation." (See the Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement.)

Being accredited and in good standing with SACSCOC assures our constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of CAU and its programs. It also allows CAU students to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid and ensures transfer of credits between CAU and other institutions.

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What is reaffirmation of accreditation?

Every ten years, colleges and university accredited by SACSCOC must demonstrate that they comply with the standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation and with the policies and procedures of the Commission on Colleges. This process is called reaffirmation of accreditation. It is a two-year process of rigorous self-evaluation that culminates in two stages of peer review conducted by senior level faculty and administrators at other institutions accredited by SACSCOC.

CAU is beginning the current reaffirmation process in fall 2013, leading up to submission of our Compliance Certification Report in September 2015 and our Quality Enhancement Plan in early 2016. A team of peer evaluators visits the campus in spring 2016 and the Commission votes on whether to reaffirm CAU’s accreditation in December 2016.

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What happens if CAU doesn't get reaffirmed?

Anything less than full reaffirmation potentially means:

  • loss of federal funding
  • loss of prestige and reputation
  • loss of admissions applicants
  • loss of ability of CAU graduates to secure jobs

If the peer evaluators working on behalf of the Commission on Colleges find that CAU is deficient in some area, they can offer recommendations with penalties that range from requiring Monitoring Reports to public sanction, denial of reaffirmation and even removal of membership. While CAU does not anticipate major problems with reaffirmation, it is important for everyone to understand how serious the consequences are - and just how important the process is.

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How is this SACSCOC review different from the one in 2006?

Shortly after CAU’s last reaffirmation in 2006, the Commission on Colleges revised the first edition of the Principles of Accreditation.

This time we operate according to the "new" SACSCOC Principles. The main differences are:

  • CAU will be required to submit two major documents: 1) Compliance Certification Report due in September 2015; and 2) Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) due in spring 2016 (six week prior to on-site visit) rather than a "self-study" document.
  • The "old" SACSCOC emphasized inputs and outputs. The "new" SACSCOC focuses on goals and outcomes with continuous, systematic improvement as the cornerstone.
  • Instead of a print report responding to over 475 "must" statements required in the former "self-study", we must complete a Compliance Certification Report that demonstrates our compliance with approximately 90 standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation. This report combines a clear and concise narrative with analysis of reliable, relevant and representative supporting evidence to make the case that CAU complies with the more general Principles to fulfill our mission.
  • The QEP is a new requirement that outlines a major initiative tied to student learning or the environment supporting student learning. Faculty will be heavily involved in the development, and subsequent implementation, of the QEP.
  • An off-site team of peer evaluators will review the Compliance Certification Report and issue its findings before the on-site visit in 2016. We will have approximately six weeks to respond to any off-site findings in a Focused Report.
  • A different group of peer evaluators will conduct the on-site visit in spring 2016. They will review any areas of concern raised by the off-site team. However, their chief purpose is to talk with CAU faculty, staff and students about the QEP.

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Who is involved?

Everyone at CAU is ultimately involved in SACSCOC reaffirmation. You may serve on a committee, offer input about the QEP, help a Compliance Team member locate information or give directions to a peer evaluator. But it's what you do every day - setting goals and making changes based on assessment results, following policies and procedures, documenting what you do, acting with integrity, and simply doing your job - that makes the reaffirmation process run smoothly and successfully.

The formal committees for the reaffirmation process include:

  1. The SACSCOC Leadership Team: This team is composed of the President (Chair), Provost/VP for Academic Affairs, Executive Vice President/VP for Business Services, VP for Student Affairs, VP for Institutional Advancement, VP for Research & Sponsored Programs and Assistant VP for Planning, Assessment & Institutional Research/SACSCOC Liaison (Co-Chair).
  2. The Compliance Certification Report Team: Narendra Patel (Chair), Eric Mintz, Georgianna Bolden, Susan Wright, Sandra Foster, Christopher Hickey, Joy Osorio, Loretta Parham, O’Leary Sanders, and Theresa Scales
  3. The Quality Enhancement Plan Team: James Perkins (Chair), Tia A. Minnis (Co-Chair), Danielle Gray-Singh, Marjorie Spencer Campbell, Obie Clayton, Eric Mintz, Margaret Counts-Spriggs, Kurt Young, Daniel Teodorescu

Other Ancillary Committees:

  1. Resource Team: Robert Clark, Jeff Phillips, Lance Dunnings, Tia Minnis, Maggie Yan, and Robert Bailey
  2. Writing Team: Narendra Patel, Tia Minnis, Susan Wright, Moses Norman
  3. Technical/Web Support: Donna Brock, Reggie Brinson, Robert Bailey
  4. On-site Hospitality Team: Susan Gibson, James Hunter, Erica Heyward

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How is CAU evaluated?

Accreditation is a process founded on peer review. The off-site and on-site peer evaluators come from member institutions that are accredited by SACSCOC. The trustees of the Commission on Colleges, elected by the member institution presidents, have the final vote on our reaffirmation of accreditation.

There are three review and response phases in the reaffirmation process.

  1. An Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee composed of 8 or more peer evaluators will review our Compliance Certification Report in November 2015. When we receive their report, we will have approximately six week to prepare a Focused Report that addresses any areas of concern raised by the reviewers.
  2. An On-Site Reaffirmation Committee composed of 7 or more peer evaluators plus a QEP lead evaluator nominated by CAU will review the QEP and Focused Report. After their on campus visit in spring 2016, they will issue a final report that will include any recommendations and a date for submitting a Response Report.
  3. One of the standing Compliance & Reports Committees composed of Commission on Colleges trustees will review the final report of the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee and the institutional response before taking action on our reaffirmation in December 2016.

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What is the timeframe for the reaffirmation process?

In 2013-14, we will conduct a compliance audit, which involves reviewing institutional policy documents and gathering and analyzing data related to each of the standards in the Principles of Accreditation. The Compliance Steering Committee and Leadership Team will address any issues that need attention. In 2014-15, we will write the Compliance Certification Report, select a QEP topic and develop the QEP. In 2015-16, we will submit the final Compliance Certification Report and prepare the final QEP and Focused Report. In spring 2016, we will have an on-site visit of peer evaluators. A more detailed timeline is available on this site, and there will be updates as we progress.

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What happens during the On-Site Visit?

Clark Atlanta University is responsible for arranging all transportation, meals and housing for the on-site campus visit. This includes technology support, working space in the hotel and on campus, and detailed schedules for each peer evaluator.

An on-site visit Hospitality Team will manage all of these logistical arrangements.

  • Day One usually focuses on compliance issues noted by the off-site review, the Focused Report, and all federal requirements. It usually consists of interviews as requested by the chair of the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee and assembling additional documentation when requested.
  • Day Two focuses on the QEP. It usually includes a presentation to the Committee about the QEP and group interviews with a variety of constituencies.
  • Day Three focuses on the Exit Conference, where the Committee presents its finding to the Leadership Team.

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What are the Principles of Accreditation?

The Principles of Accreditation went into effect in January 2004, and there have been several revisions since that time. The Commission on Colleges expects integrity to govern CAU's operation and for the university to make reasonable and responsible decisions consistent with the spirit of integrity in all matters. There are 12 broad-based Core Requirements, 14 Comprehensive Standards with a large number of more specific requirements, and 9 Federal Requirements. We are expected to comply with the approximately 90 standards in the Principles.

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What is the Compliance Certification Report?

The Compliance Certification Report includes an institutional summary to introduce the peer evaluators to Clark Atlanta University and narratives for each of the standards in the Principles of Accreditation.

Each section will include:

  1. The wording of the standard
  2. Our determination of the level of compliance (compliance, partial compliance, non-compliance)
  3. A clear, succinct narrative that presents a convincing justification of compliance based on analysis and appropriate links to reliable, current, verifiable, coherent, objective, relative and representative evidence
  4. A list of all supporting evidence documentation referenced in the narrative

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What is TracDat?

TracDat is the online web-based software Clark Atlanta University uses for assessment and planning. The Office of Planning, Assessment and Institutional Research maintains assessment reporting schedules and offers training and support for TracDat.  The Institutional Effectiveness Reports (expected outcomes, assessment tools and method, analysis and interpretation, and use of results) stored in TracDat will be used as supporting documentation for parts of the Compliance Certification Report.

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How can I help?

You can help by responding to requests for documentation, providing input about the QEP, acknowledging and supporting the work of the reaffirmation teams and committees, staying informed through this website, and asking questions about anything you don't understand. Our success depends on collective dedication to this important endeavor.

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Who can answer my questions about SACSCOC?

  1. For general OR questions about Compliance Certification, contact Mr. Narendra Patel, npatel@au.edu, X8064
  2. For questions about the QEP, contact Dr. James Perkins, jperkins@cau.edu, X6994 OR Dr. Tia Minnis, tminnis@cau.edu, X6294

For questions about meetings or TracDat, contact Dr. Tia Minnis, tminnis@cau.edu, X6294 OR Ms. Michelle Allen, mallen@cau.edu, X8655

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