What is accreditation?
In most countries, oversight of colleges and universities is conducted directly by a government ministry. In the United States, the states and the federal government rely on a number of private (usually regional) accrediting agencies to fulfill part of that function.
U.S. colleges and universities apply for accreditation or, periodically, re-accreditation to these accrediting agencies, which are supported by member institutions. The institutions spend some time putting together "self-studies" which are then reviewed by peer "site teams" put together on an ad hoc basis by the accrediting agency. The site teams and the accrediting agency staff review whether the colleges and universities applying for accreditation have the resources, procedures and programs in place to deliver high-quality education. The accrediting agencies, in turn, are certified by the federal government to perform this function.
Because colleges and universities usually cannot get state licenses or participate in federal programs without accreditation, the accrediting agencies hold a great deal of power today. It hasn't always been this way. The accreditation system emerged more than 100 years ago to "protect public health and safety" and to "serve the public interest." Approval was (and still is, to some extent) premised on the idea that if a college or university has the shared governance structure and physical resources that allow for quality education, and if the institution employs credentialed and qualified faculty members, then it deserves to present itself to the public as an accredited institution. The system is premised on the notion that the faculty should be in charge of teaching, student assessment, and research.
Today, some would say the system is designed to rely less on faculty assessment and more on external measures of quality and student success. In this system, accreditors have become, to a considerable extent, the gatekeepers of accountability.
There are six regional accrediting organizations that accredit the vast majority of higher education institutions; the remaining accrediting organizations fall under "specialized accrediting organizations" and "national accrediting organizations" and typically accredit institutions that are faith-based, career-related, for-profit and programmatic. For further information about how accreditation works, please visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's web site, which is the leading organization concerning accreditation in Washington, DC.
Student Learning Outcomes
In recent years, accrediting agencies have been criticized sharply by a growing number of politicians and policymakers for basing their accreditation decisions too much on institutional "inputs" rather than focusing on "outputs." For example, accrediting agencies are often criticized for focusing on factoids like the number of books in the library or the number of faculty with doctorates rather than what students are learning, how often are they graduating, etc. In response, accrediting agencies have been, to varying degrees, aggressive in pushing their member institutions to adopt quantifiable "output" measures of one sort or another.
This issue reached its height during the Bush Administration, when Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wanted to require accrediting agencies to insist that participating institutions develop what amounted to standardized student testing. Opponents, saying that such a requirement would overstep the boundaries of acceptable federal intervention, inserted a legislative ban on implementing this particular proposal but the federal mandate that accrediting agencies examine student learning outcomes remains in the law.
Accreditation Site Teams
For an institution to become accredited and maintain its accredited status, regional accrediting agencies typically conduct site visits. These visits, usually preceded by an institutional self-study based on the accrediting agency's established criteria for review, are designed to assess how institutions comply with an agency's standards for quality and success.
Typically, the site team is composed of faculty and staff representing various campus constituencies. Depending on the organization, review teams may include members of the general public, representatives of comparable institutions or programs located in another region or representatives from an altogether different sector of higher education. Site team members talk with faculty, students, staff and administrators about any issues or concerns that may have arisen during the self-study. Ideally, site teams would also meet with local union representatives, and at least one union rep would serve on a site team.
For our purposes, we are concerned with two main issues:
1. Who is on the site teams? How do faculty and staff who are interested in being on site teams signal their interest and gain a seat?
2. Which constituencies are the site teams required to engage? To what degree are faculty, professional staff, faculty senates and local union representatives consulted during the site team visits?
Use the links below to learn more about student learning outcomes and the makeup of accreditation site teams, organized by regional accreditation organization. For information about accreditation standards for contingent faculty please see our Academic Staffing section.
- Middle State Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Founded in 1919, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (commonly referred to as "Middle States") is the body responsible for accrediting degree-granting colleges and universities in the states and territories of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The twenty-seven elected commissioners profess a commitment to the values of effective teaching, student learning, peer review and self-regulation.
Page numbers refer to Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education.
Standards for Student Learning Outcomes
Middle States' criteria regarding how institutions should address student learning outcomes:
Assessment is not an event but a process that is an integral part of the life of the institution, and an institution should be able to provide evidence that the assessment of student learning outcomes and use of results is an ongoing institutional activity...While the Commission expects institutions to assess student learning, it does not prescribe a specific approach or methodology. These may vary, based on the mission, goals, organization, and resources of the institution. Whatever the approach, effective assessment processes are useful, cost-effective, reasonably accurate and truthful, carefully planned, and organized, systematic, and sustained. (Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning)
References to student retention, persistence, and attrition are in this document, but are not made to be the primary focus for institutional assessment.
Effective statements of student learning outcomes are developed with the involvement of the institution's community and their review of existing learning goals. Just as educational curricula are designed, maintained, and updated by faculty and other professionals who are academically prepared and qualified, as discussed under Standard 10 (Faculty), faculty should be influential in the substantive determination of key learning outcomes at all levels: institutional, program, and course. (Standard 11: Educational Offerings)
This part of Standard 11 establishes a primary role for faculty in the development of student learning outcomes. Middle States cites rigor, responsiveness to new research, information literacy, and linkages between specific courses and larger programs as necessary elements of curricula.
By allowing institutions to develop their standards for student learning outcomes based on their mission and goals, Middle States demonstrates that they meet CHEA's standards–that the utilization of student learning outcomes in assessment should be developed with the mission of the institution in mind, and institutions deserve autonomy in developing criteria for assessment of student learning outcomes. Middle States sets some standards for student learning, but does not mandate certain types of information to be provided.
Accreditation Site Teams
Middle States' Team Visits handbook briefly addresses site team selection:
"Institutions may provide suggestions regarding evaluation team composition as part of their self-study design. Although the final decision about team membership remains with the Commission and its staff, the staff liaison will consider carefully the institution's suggested team profile." (Middle States' Team Visits Handbook pg 15)
On Middle States' Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, the question "How are evaluators chosen to serve?" is answered with: "Evaluators come from colleges and universities that are similar to the institution being evaluated, and they usually have expertise in the specific areas that will be the focus of an institution's evaluation."
In addressing the degree to which Middle States mandates site team members' interaction with faculty and other constituency groups in the review process, the handbook provides a list of people the chair should meet with: "representatives of the institution's governing board, key administrative officers; the self-study steering committee, and student and faculty representatives."
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by Middle States for candidates. Also, contact Middle States directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and Middle States how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.
The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (commonly referred to as New England) is the agency serving six states in the New England area—Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont—as well as several international institutions.
Page numbers refer to Standards for Accreditation.
Standards for Student Learning Outcomes
New England focuses heavily on student learning outcomes, paying particular attention to graduation and retention rates.
6.6 The institution measures student success, including rates of retention, graduation and other measures of success appropriate to institutional mission. The institution's goals for retention and graduation reflect the purposes of the institution, and the results are used to inform recruitment and the review of programs and services. Rates of retention and graduation are separately determined for any group that the institution specifically recruits, and those rates are used in evaluating the success of specialized recruitment and the services and opportunities provided for the recruited students. (21-22 Standards)
New England provides sample measures of student achievement (including graduation rates) for various demographics, sectors of employment, and graduate school acceptance rates. More than half of the document is dedicated to examining graduation and retention rates.
New England does respect differences in institutional missions when considering student learning outcomes, by mandating that retention and graduation rates be reported. New England does not adhere to recommendations from CHEA, which state that accrediting institutions should not demand specific evidence and institutions should be autonomous as they address student learning outcomes. New England does recognize that student learning outcomes are only one feature of the accreditation process.
Accreditation Site Teams
According to New England's publication Selection of Chairpersons and Evaluators, there are four categories of personnel that should be included on a site team.
1. At least one experienced administrator
2. Specialists whose expertise is related to the known areas of concern of the institution, (e.g. library and learning resources, student personnel, finance, facilities, etc.)
3. Representatives from institutions of the type to be evaluated, (e.g. community college, four-year liberal arts institution, large university)
4. At least one faculty member, who typically will represent one of the types of teaching disciplines at the institution being visited
[Evaluators] are usually recommended by the heads of institutions, colleagues who have themselves participated in the evaluation process, Commission members, and the Commission staff. (2)
The list of proposed members is then sent to the chief executive officer of the institution and to the chairperson of the team for any comments or observations they may choose to make concerning the proposed team. (2)
As for the evaluation process conducted by the site team, New England offers instructions for the visit in Chapter Three: Steps for the Evaluative Process of their Evaluative Manual, but does not specify which constituency groups should be consulted:
"On the previously scheduled dates, the team visits the campus; it conducts its evaluation, develops a rough draft of a report with its findings, including a list of the institution's significant strengths and the team's concerns based on the degree to which the institution fulfills Commission standards, and prepares a confidential recommendation to the Commission; before leaving campus, the chair gives an exit interview, i.e., an oral report of the team's evaluation."
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by New England for candidates. Also, contact New England directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and New England how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.
The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (commonly referred to as "North Central") is the largest accrediting body in the United States, with more than 1,000 members and serving nineteen states: Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The Higher Learning Commission is the independent body that is a member of North Central and is responsible for accrediting institutions of higher education.
In an effort to make the accreditation process more useful for schools that are already accredited, North Central recently unveiled a revision of the process that includes two parallel pathways to accreditation: a "compliance" pathway whereby schools build a portfolio of data that document their compliance with the association's standards, and an "improvement" pathway for schools to identify projects and themes that they would like to build upon and improve.
Standards for Student Learning Outcomes
North Central's standard for student learning outcomes and Statement on Assessment of Student Learning can be found in Criterion 3 of their Handbook of Accreditation.
Criterion Three: Core Component 3a: The organization's goals for student learning outcomes are clearly stated for each educational program and make effective assessment possible.
Statement on Student Learning Assessment: The Commission appreciates that effective assessment can take a variety of forms and involve a variety of processes. However, faculty members, with meaningful input from students and strong support from the administration and governing board, should have the fundamental role in developing and sustaining systematic assessment of student learning. Their assessment strategy should be informed by the organization's mission and include explicit public statements regarding the knowledge, skills, and competencies students should possess as a result of completing course and program requirements; it also should document the values, attitudes, and behaviors faculty expect students to have developed. Moreover, while strong assessment should provide data that satisfy any externally mandated accountability requirements, its effectiveness in improving student learning relies on its integration into the organization's processes for program review, departmental and organization planning, and unit and organizational budgeting.
North Central provides examples of evidence that demonstrate effective assessment of student learning in their handbook. While North Central does indicate that "faculty are involved in defining expected student learning outcomes and creating the strategies to determine whether those outcomes are achieved," it also mentions graduation rates, passage rates on licensing exams, placement rates, and transfer rates as examples of effective measurements that should be made available for the purpose of external accountability.
North Central addresses student learning outcomes in the context of institutional mission, and concession to institutional autonomy seems adequate.North Central does demand specific evidence of student learning outcomes, which is not in accordance with CHEA recommendations. North Central does respect that student learning outcomes are only a part of the much more comprehensive process of accreditation.
Accreditation Site Teams
Pages 97-101 of North Central's accreditation handbook discuss the assembly of the evaluation team and protocols for institutions to host team members. North Central also encourages institutions to offer their own feedback on the evaluation team's professionalism and overall effectiveness.
On choosing the evaluation team members, North Central states:
"Several months before the visit is to take place, the Commission staff liaison proposes to the CEO a roster of consultant-evaluators to serve on the evaluation team. Professional Data Forms that provide information about each person's current institutional affiliation and position, areas of professional expertise, and experience with the Commission accompany the roster. The team is carefully selected by the Commission staff liaison, mindful of the organization being visited as well as the Commission's commitment to equity and diversity in the composition of teams. The organization may express concerns or reservations about proposed team members and definitely should indicate any potential conflicts of interest. The Commission makes every effort to alleviate serious organizational concerns about a proposed team member, but the Commission reserves the right to make the final choice of all team members. The organization is consulted on subsequent changes to an approved team caused by scheduling conflicts and emergencies."
North Central's guidance on the evaluation team's interaction with key players on campus indicates that the decision rests with the CEO of the institution in determining who shall be interviewed—and makes no mention of a requirement for the involvement of individual faculty, members of the faculty senate, or representatives from local union organizations.
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by North Central for candidates. Also, contact North Central directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and North Central how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (commonly referred to as Northwest) accredits higher education institutions in the seven-state Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. It fulfills its mission by establishing accreditation criteria and evaluation procedures by which institutions are reviewed.
Northwest oversees regional accreditation for 163 institutions. Its decision-making body consists of up to twenty-six Commissioners who represent the public and the diversity of higher education institutions within the Northwest region.
Page numbers refer to Accreditation Handbook.
Standards for Student Learning Outcomes
In Northwest's description of how student learning outcomes should factor into the accreditation process, there is an explanation of the shift in focus from assessing inputs to outputs that has evolved over the last few decades.
Assessment of educational quality has always been at the heart of the accreditation process. In earlier times, this assessment tended to focus more upon process measures and structural features; hence, there was considerable emphasis placed upon resources available to enhance students' educational experiences such as the range and variety of graduate degrees held by members of the faculty, the number of books in the library, the quality of specialized laboratory equipment, and the like. More recently, while still stressing the need to assess the quantity and quality of the whole educational experience, the communities of interest served by the accreditation enterprise have come to appreciate the validity and usefulness of using output evaluations and assessment as well as input measures.
On pages 47-48 of their Accreditation Handbook, Northwest provides a list of assessment measures including student information, end of program assessments, alumni satisfaction and loyalty, and dropouts/non-completers. These measures focus exclusively on gathering quantitative evidence from which Northwest expects policies to be developed. There is no mention of a role for faculty in the development of assessing student learning outcomes.
Northwest does acknowledge and appreciate of differing institutional missions, in accordance with CHEA standards. By encouraging a shift from input measures to output evaluations, Northwest does not sufficiently respect the importance of institutional autonomy. While Northwest does not demand specific outcomes data (something discouraged by CHEA), it does provide an extensive list of possible measures. Such an increased focus on output measures could eclipse other importance features of accreditation.
Accreditation Site Teams
Northwest describes is standards for the composition of the evaluation committee as follows:
Committee Make-Up: The number of reviewers that comprise an evaluation committee depends upon the characteristics of the institution and the scope of its programs and services. Every principal area of the institution must be examined. Evaluators are assigned from peer out-of-state member institutions. In some cases, evaluators represent appropriate agencies and peer institutions from other accrediting regions. All evaluators will have completed evaluator training by the Commission and the committee chair will be an experienced evaluator. In selecting evaluators, care is taken to avoid a real or perceived conflict of interest. The evaluation committee roster is sent to the institution six to eight weeks in advance of the visit, and the CEO is requested to notify the Commission office of any concern about the composition of the committee" (page 18 Accreditation Handbook)
There is no mention of whether or not faculty should be included on the evaluation team. However, Northwest does address the need for a balance of academic and administrative personnel in the evaluation process toward the end of their handbook, in Policy B-10. There is still no mention of including constituency groups (faculty, local union representatives, etc.) in the evaluation process.
Policy B-10: Selection and Representation of Commissioners and of Evaluation Committees
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities shall include representation of both administrative and academic personnel. Procedures will be followed that are designed to achieve a balance of both institutional type and institutional role. The Commission endeavors to achieve an appropriate balance of both administrative and academic personnel through a periodic, systematic review of its selection procedures in an effort to ensure the representation of both administrators and academicians. In addition, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities shall include representation of both administrative and academic personnel on its evaluation committees.
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by Northwest for candidates. Also, contact Northwest directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and Northwest how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.
The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (commonly referred to as Southern) is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. Southern serves as the accrediting body for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and other international sites that award associate's, baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral degrees. Southern also accepts applications for accreditation from other international institutions of higher education.
Page numbers refer to Southern's Principles of Accreditation.
Standards for Student Learning Outcomes
In the document titled "Strategies for Direct and Indirect Assessment of Student Learning," Southern provides direction on the assessment of student learning outcomes. It contains an analysis of various published tests (MAPP, CLA, CAAP, etc.) and an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of student testing.
In their Principles of Accreditation, Southern also outlines expectations for student learning outcomes:
2.12 The institution has developed an acceptable Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that (1) includes a broad-based institutional process identifying key issues emerging from institutional assessment, (2) focuses on learning outcomes and/or the environment supporting student learning and accomplishing the mission of the institution, (3) demonstrates institutional capability for the initiation, implementation, and completion of the QEP, (4) includes broad-based involvement of institutional constituencies in the development and proposed implementation of the QEP, and (5) identifies goals and a plan to assess their achievement. (page 19)
Southern does address differences of institutional missions when considering the assessment of student learning outcomes, which is in line with CHEA recommendations. Though they provide information on student testing options in the form of a pro vs. con list, Southern does not mandate use of these tests in order to gain accreditation, which respects CHEA's standards. Southern's language demonstrates that student learning outcomes to be part of the broader process of accreditation.
Accreditation Site Teams
Southern assembles an Off-Site Peer Review committee that conducts a preliminary review to ensure that institutions are in compliance with established core requirements. The On-Site Peer Review Committee is described as follows:
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 finalize 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 noncompliance, will be forwarded to the Commission for review and action on reaffirmation. (page 7)
This statement provides no guidelines for faculty involvement in the On-Site Review Committee nor does it provide guidelines for the committee's interaction with faculty, staff, and labor union representatives.
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by Southern for candidates. Also, contact Southern directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and Southern how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredits institutions of higher education in the states and territories of California, Hawaii, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa, Republic of Palau, as well as various international schools. This accrediting agency has two separate accrediting institutions for higher education: The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and The Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (ACSCU). Western also has a process by which a two-year degree-granting institution that would like to have one four-year degree program can be accredited by both agencies. While their policies on student learning outcomes, standards for part time faculty, and composition of site teams are similar we will be addressing each agency separately.
ACCJC's criteria for student learning outcomes:
"The institution relies on faculty expertise and the assistance of advisory committees when appropriate to identify competency levels and measurable student learning outcomes for courses, certificates, programs including general and vocational education, and degrees." (6)
b. A capability to be a productive individual and life long learner: skills include oral and written communication, information competency, computer literacy, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical analysis/logical thinking, and the ability to acquire knowledge through a variety of means." (7)
"General education has comprehensive learning outcomes for the students who complete it, including the following:
a. An understanding of the basic content and methodology of the major areas of knowledge: areas include the humanities and fine arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. (7)
ACCJC's criteria for student learning outcomes respects CHEA's recommendations: analyzing student outcomes in the context of the institution's mission, recognizing institutional autonomy, setting standards without mandating specific evidence, and looking at student learning outcomes as only one feature of the broader accreditation process.
Page numbers refer to Accreditation Standards.
ACCJC Accreditation Site Teams
[ACCJC] Commission staff develops the teams from a roster of experienced educators who have exhibited leadership and balanced judgment. Typically, a team has several faculty members, academic and student services administrators, a chief executive officer, a trustee, a business officer and individuals with expertise and/or experience in learning resources, distance/electronically mediated education, and planning, research and evaluation. Each evaluator is chosen to bring perspective to the task, but not as a "representative" of an organizational constituency. Teams represent the Commission.
Each team is selected to provide experienced, impartial professionals appropriate for the institution being evaluated, and to address any special concerns the college may have expressed. Colleges may ask for special expertise, but they may not request specific individuals. Teams are reflective of the diversity of the college and the region. The size and complexity of the institution being evaluated will determine the number of persons on the team. The Commission seeks a balance of experienced and first time evaluators, and each team includes persons with experience at institutions similar to the college being evaluated. (Team Evaluator Manual, 5-6)"
While ACCJC does specifically mention that faculty typically serve on a site team, they emphasizes that the perspective of a "representative of an organizational constituency" has no place in the evaluation process.
With regard to faculty interaction during the site visit, ACCJC states:
Although efforts are made for team members to attend a number of classes, it is not possible to visit every class or meet with every member of the faculty. Since most members of the faculty will have shared in the preparation for the evaluation visit, all should be aware of the presence of the evaluation team and have opportunities to communicate with team members. (Team Evaluator Manual, 9)
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by ACCJC for candidates. Also, contact ACCJC directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and ACCJC how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.
In outlining their expectations of student learning outcomes, ACSCU requires that they be "clearly stated at the course, program, and as appropriate, institutional level." (2.3, page 15) In standard 2.2a, ACSCU provides some expectations for baccalaureate institutions:
2.2a Baccalaureate programs engage students in an integrated course of study of sufficient breadth and depth to prepare them for work, citizenship, and a fulfilling life. These programs also ensure the development of core learning abilities and competencies including, but not limited to, college-level written and oral communication, college-level quantitative skills, information literacy and the habit of critical analysis of data and argument. In addition, baccalaureate programs actively foster an understanding of diversity, civic responsibility, and the ability to work with others, and the capability to engage in lifelong learning. Baccalaureate programs also ensure breadth for all students in the area of cultural and aesthetic, social and political, as well as scientific and technical knowledge expected of education persons in this society. Finally, students are required to engage in an in-depth, focused, and sustained program of study as a part of their baccalaureate programs. (page 14 Handbook of Accreditation)
ACSCU's criteria for institutional assessment of student learning goals and outcomes are very much in line with CHEA recommendations. Their criteria display a respect for differences in institutional mission, and respect the principle of institutional autonomy. ACSCU's Handbook of Accreditation indicates that the agency understands that student learning outcomes are but one feature of the accreditation process.
ACSCU Accreditation Site Teams
Staff consider a number of criteria in selecting team members, including role within an institution (e.g. administrator, faculty member, trustee); geographical location; gender; ethnic background; expertise; and types of institutions represented (e.g., public, private, church-related, freestanding, etc.). Special care is taken to compose an evaluation team in the light of each institution's specific needs. Staffs also work for a balance between experienced and new evaluators on a team. Institutions may also nominate or request team members. The team generally consists of four to seven members. (Chair and Evaluator Manual and Logistics Guide)
While there is guidance to compose a review committee that is both new and experienced, there is no guidance with regard to whether or not faculty should sit on a review committee.
Western does have more detailed specifications about how review committees should involve the campus community:
Open Meetings for Faculty, Students, and Staff
Normally during both the Capacity and Preparatory and Educational Effectiveness Reviews, open meetings are scheduled for students, staff and others who would like to attend. These meetings are usually attended by at least two team members. If the chair is unable to attend, the chair should select a team member to chair and serve as initial spokesperson for the meeting. These meetings have two primary purposes: 1) to briefly explain the nature of the visit and the accreditation process; and 2) to listen to the faculty, students and staff.
Open E-mail Account for Further Comments
As a supplement to the open meeting, the team arranges in advance with the WASC staff liaison and institution to maintain an e-mail account, which the campus community may use to contact the team confidentially. Generally, the assistant chair/team writer monitors this account and share emails of any consequence with the team chair and staff liaison for possible consideration by the team.
Campus communications about the availability of this e-mail account should include the visit dates, the confidential e-mail address and explain that the account may be used by the visit regarding the quality of their experience on campus. Team members need not respond individually to emails, but should consider them as appropriate, along with other information.
We suggest that faculty and staff who are interested in serving on a site team first contact their faculty senate, which may have already been consulted by ACSCU for candidates. Also, contact ACSCU directly to express interest in serving on a site team.
As a higher education affiliate, it is important to have your views heard by members of the site team. If it is not an option for the site team to meet with a local union representative, then ask your administration and ACSCU how to submit documentation to site team members for their review.