Four months until SACSCOC visits Auburn: Four things you might not know about SACSCOC

Published: November 18, 2022

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There’s less than four months remaining until Auburn University’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC, arrives for its on-site visit. As the Accreditation team prepares for the on-site phase of the reaffirmation process, we want to share four things you might not know about SACSCOC:

1. SACSCOC is self-governed by the accredited institutions

SACSCOC’s Principles of Accreditation requires a model of shared governance of its member institutions and holds itself to the same standards. The Commission on Colleges is operated by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. The 77 Board members are elected by the College Delegate Assembly, or CDA, which is comprised of one voting representative from each of the 780 SACSCOC-accredited institutions. Each representative is the president or other chief executive of their respective college or university. In other words, the election of SACSSCOC’s leadership is in the hands of its member institutions. The Board in turn elects a 13-member Executive Council to serve as a leadership team, which includes a chair, a public member and 11 respective representatives from each of the states under SACSCOC. The Executive Council selects, supervises and annually evaluates the work of the SACSCOC President who in turn oversees the hiring and duties of SACSCOC organization staff.

2. Reaffirmation and accreditation is a peer-review process

In the spirit of self-regulation, SACSCOC employs a peer review process that relies on the participation of institutional representatives to review institutions and to make decisions about their accreditation status. Evaluators are volunteers from peer SACSCOC institutions. For each college or university under review, SACSCOC staff select Peer Evaluators from the registry. The goal is to match institutions under review with peers from similar institutions. To ensure independent oversight, SACSCOC works hard to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. In the reaffirmation process Auburn is currently undergoing, evaluators are assigned to either the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee or the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee. The Off-Site Committee reviews the Compliance Certification Report, or CCR, which Auburn submitted in September, while the On-Site Committee visits the institution seeking reaffirmation of accreditation to complete the review and to review the Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. The On-Site Committee’s visit is what we’re counting down to and will be Feb. 28 through March 2, 2023.

3. SACSCOC accreditation is a five-to-10-year cycle

We have mentioned before that the reaffirmation process happens every 10 years, but SACSCOC also requires a Fifth-Year Interim Report. This extra layer of accountability is designed to confirm an institution’s continued compliance with SACSCOC’s standards, and the success of the QEP through an Impact Report. Fifth-Year Interim Reports are reviewed by a Committee on Fifth-Year Interim Reports and may include an additional on-site visit. While briefer and less intensive than the 10-year CCR report, it is a vital part of the accreditation cycle. The Fifth‐Year Interim Report was developed as a result of the U.S. Department of Education’s requirement that accrediting bodies continuously monitor institutions to ensure compliance.

4. SACSCOC has to go through a similar reaffirmation process for “Recognition” by the Department of Education

While accreditation in the United States is primarily handled by non-governmental accrediting organizations like SACSCOC, these organizations work with federal and state government agencies (these three entities are known as the Triad). Under the Higher Education Act, or HEA, of 1965, which authorizes federal aid for students and higher-education institutions, requires that institutions be accredited by a "nationally recognized" accrediting agency. The “recognition” (i.e., approval) is determined by the U.S. Department of Education, or DOE. An accrediting agency like SACSCOC seeking recognition have to meet the DOE's criteria. The recognition process requires reviews by the DOE's Accreditation Group staff and the National Advisor Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, or NACIQI. Just like the Compliance Certification Report, or CCR, Auburn submits to SACSCOC every 10 years, SACSCOC (and all accreditors) must provide a similar narrative statement demonstrating how they comply with the regulatory criteria with supporting documentation. There is also an on-site observation conducted by the Accreditation Group.

For more about Auburn’s accreditation efforts, visit our website.

Submitted by: Ashley Ludewig