Overview of Process
Document submission and visits for SACS accreditation reaffirmation will begin in FY 2008. In order to be ready for these activities, the University of Houston has begun planning for this process as well as laying the groundwork that will drive the decisions behind document submissions. Anticipating that this will be a two year process, work for SACS accreditation began in the fall of 2005. The process of reaffirmation requires two written submissions, the Compliance Certification document and the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).
The first scheduled submission—the Compliance Certification—will consist of the University’s documentation and demonstration of compliance in four areas:
- Integrity and commitment to quality enhancement as outlined in the Principles of Accreditation
- Fifteen core requirement statements
- Over 50 comprehensive standards statements
- Eight federal requirements
Circumstances for which there is non-compliance must also be explained.
Quality Enhancement Plan
The second document submission will be the Quality Enhancement Plan, a narrative of no more than 75 pages describing a focused course of action that addresses an issue directly related to improving student learning (and that involves a large student population). The QEP must be a project of five years duration. SACS will require progress and effectiveness reports on the plan at intervals during the five-year period. The QEP topic must be a result of the identified priorities of the institution.
The reaffirmation process will require broad involvement of the university community. To oversee this process, SACS recommends the creation of a Leadership Team that includes the chief executive officer, the chief academic officer, an accreditation liaison and a representative faculty member. The team’s responsibilities will include coordinating the internal review process, attending an orientation session with SACS, overseeing the development of the two report submissions, ensuring community engagement, overseeing arrangements for the on-site visit, and ensuring follow-up activities are in place to address compliance and monitor progress on the QEP.
In addition to the Leadership Team, several committees will be needed to conduct the reaffirmation process. The responsibility for developing the Compliance Certification Report will fall to a Compliance Certification Committee made up of academic, research and administrative leaders from the University. Appointed by the Leadership Team, the Compliance Certification Committee will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the process. It is anticipated that the committee will assemble working groups (consisting of faculty, staff and students) to address specific certification topics. Two areas that may require additional committee appointments are faculty qualifications and institutional effectiveness. These areas will require the most effort to demonstrate compliance. In fact, when other universities have struggled with the reaffirmation process, it has been largely due to these two areas. In particular, institutional effectiveness has been given more importance in the review process. Ten years ago, UH’s major challenge in reaffirmation was demonstrating a valid institutional effectiveness process. Our success with the 2008 reaffirmation will greatly depend on our demonstrated competence in institutional effectiveness.