Seven months until SACSCOC visits the Plains: The Role of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness in Reaffirmation

Published: August 16, 2022

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The Auburn University community has just under 7 months to prepare for SACSCOC’s on-site visit Feb. 27-March 2, 2023, but work is nearing completion for the Compliance Certification Report, or CCR, due Sept. 8, 2022. The CCR includes Auburn’s response to 73 unique standards and will be the initial basis for SACSCOC’s judgement of Auburn’s strengths and areas for improvement. While most of the CCR focuses on academics, Section 7: Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, gives Auburn an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of its strategic planning efforts and the integration of strategic planning goals through every domain of the University—both academic and not. Here are 7 things you should know about Section 7.

ONE: Standard 7.1, the Core Requirement that serves as the cornerstone of this section, focuses on institutional planning. The central component of this narrative is Auburn’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan. SACSCOC reviewers will be evaluating the extent to which Auburn’s institutional planning and evaluation processes are grounded in research of ourselves, peer institutions, and national trends; address of all three aspects of the university’s mission—research, teaching and outreach; integrate all levels and areas of the institution from the Board of Trustees through academic colleges, auxiliary units, and off-campus instructional sites; “focus on institutional quality and effectiveness”; and “include a systematic review of goals and outcomes consistent with [Auburn’s] mission.” Ultimately, Standard 7.1 is one of the more complex Principles of Accreditation we must comply with.

TWO: Capital Planning and Budget Planning are also a major factor in how Auburn will be assessed on Standard 7.1. Auburn must demonstrate how strategic planning efforts include a long-term vision for space utilization and expansion and how campus leadership manages fiscal resources to support the continued achievement of its mission. In essence, we have to show that we have the physical and fiscal resources to reach each goal outlined in the Strategic Plan.

THREE: This section of the CCR is best known for including Standard 7.2, the Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. This standard asks universities to commit the resources necessary to initiate, implement, and complete a project targeted at improving student learning outcomes and/or student success. The focus of the QEP should align with the university’s other ongoing institutional planning and evaluation processes—in other words, the university’s Strategic Plan. Ultimately, the goal is for the QEP to become an “ingrained part of the institution’s activities and culture.” Ten years ago, Auburn’s QEP was the e-Portfolio Project, which is still used as a major project in departments across campus.

FOUR: This year’s QEP is being championed by the Office of Academic Insight and is focused on using data to improve students’ post-graduation outcomes. To learn more about how your program can work with the Insight Lab to make data-informed improvements in the career outcomes of your students, be sure to check out the Bright Idea seed grant application.

FIVE: Section 7 also asks us to demonstrate the operational effectiveness of administrative units across campus (Standard 7.3). Just like academic degree programs, administrative units like the Registrar, Campus Safety & Security, and Enrollment Management all must submit assessment reports for SACSCOC review. Every unit—big or small—is expected to set goals for each academic year, have a meaningful way to measure progress toward those goals, and to track results and use that information to inform the next year’s goal-setting. SACSCOC reviewers will be looking for a culture of continuous improvement across the entire Auburn campus.

SIX: The program evaluation requirements for 7.3 are aligned with similar requirements in section 8, which focus on academic programs and student services units. Auburn is required to assess academic degree programs (8.2.a), general education outcomes (8.2.b), and academic and student support units like Academic Advising, the Veteran’s Resource Center, and Greek Life (8.2.c) In total, 4 of the 73 Standards are focused on some kind of assessment, all with the goal of demonstrating consistent, meaningful planning and high-quality offerings and services for Auburn’s students.

SEVEN: Section 7 ultimately gives SACSCOC reviewers one of the more comprehensive views of Auburn’s aspirations and operations of any of the 14 sections of the Principles of Accreditation. This section will give reviewers a clear representation of Auburn’s strategic planning, its plan for improving student success over the next five years, and the effectiveness of the units that support these collective efforts.

To learn more about Auburn’s institutional accreditation efforts, please visit our website.

To learn more about Auburn Achieve, Auburn’s next QEP, visit their website.

Submitted by: Mark DeGoti