FAQ about Reaffirmation

What is SACS?

SACS is an acronym for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Commission on Colleges of SACS is a regional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education. SACS Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) manages the accreditation of higher education institutions in 11 southern states and Latin America which award associate, baccalaureate, master's or doctoral degrees.

What does accreditation mean?

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

  • a mission appropriate to higher education
  • the resources, programs and services to accomplish and sustain that mission
  • clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and that are appropriate to the degrees it offers
  • success in achieving its stated objectives.

According to the Commission on Colleges, accreditation is “intended to assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs, and to help those institutions and programs improve. These outcomes are achieved through rigorous internal and external review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards."

What are the consequences for Appalachian State if we chose not to be accredited?

Accreditation is important because of the following:

  • Eligibility for receiving federal and state funds hinges on accreditation status. Non-accredited universities cannot receive any federal funds.
  • To allow for transfer of credits between Appalachian State and other institutions;
  • To gain recognition from other colleges and universities;
  • To gain recognition from business, government, and industry, which equates to jobs for our graduates.

Colleges and universities do choose to participate in this process of self-regulation through accreditation, and all those of any quality choose to do so. From this perspective, every institution of higher education should welcome the opportunity to self-evaluate and self-correct in its ongoing commitment to quality education for its students.

What happens if Appalachian State University doesn't get reaffirmed?

It cannot be overstated how important reaffirmation of accreditation is to Appalachian State University and its future. Anything less than full reaffirmation potentially means:

  • loss of federal funding
  • loss of prestige and reputation in academia
  • loss of admissions applicants
  • loss of ability for Appalachian graduates to secure jobs

If our peer reviewers working through SACSCOC find that Appalachian State is deficient in some area, they can offer recommendations, with penalties ranging from sanctions up to denial of reaffirmation and removal from membership. Appalachian State University is nowhere close to having these kind of serious problems with reaffirmation. But it’s important for everyone to understand how serious the consequences are – and just how important this process is.

How is this SACS review different from the one 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, when Appalachian was last reviewed, a large number of SACS external reviewers visited campus. Also, faculty participated in scores of committees that required much time and effort throughout the process. To summarize the differences:

  • There is no self-study document per se this time. Instead, we will submit two major reports - a Compliance Certification, to be submitted first, and a Quality Enhancement Plan, to be submitted several months later.
  • Instead of a report responding to 475 detailed “must” statements (the former “self study”), we will complete a Compliance Certification that demonstrates our compliance with approximately 80 federal requirements, core requirements, and comprehensive standards.
  • The QEP is a much more focused report that outlines a major initiative tied to student learning.
  • There will only be one site visit, and it will occur in spring 2013. A small group of reviewers will visit campus for three days. They will review any areas of concern raised by the off-site team. Their chief purpose, however, is to talk to faculty, staff and students about the QEP. They will write a report about Appalachian State’s compliance with all of the SACS Commission on Colleges reaffirmation criteria.

Who's involved?

A SACS Leadership Team began meeting in Spring 2010. This leadership team is currently comprised of:

  • Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock, Chancellor
  • Dr. Lori Gonzalez, Provost
  • Dr. Robin T. Byerly, Associate Professor of Management
  • Dr. Bobby H. Sharp, Director of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning and SACS Accreditation Liaison

There are also two leaders for the different aspects of the SACSCOC review:

  • Dr. Tony G. Carey, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, is leading the Quality Enhancement Plan process. A large committee is leading the campus with the development of a Quality Enhancement Plan.
  • Georgie Donovan, associate professor and associate dean of libraries, is leading the SACS Compliance Certification process. There are 13 sub-committees working on various parts of the Compliance Certification.

The committee lists, not surprisingly, will grow in the next two years.

What credentials are required for faculty under SACSCOC guidelines?

The SACSCOC neither evaluates individuals, résumés, or transcripts, nor does it certify individuals. Yet institutions are required to document and justify that each faculty member is qualified to teach assigned courses. Documentation and justification may be accomplished by using only traditional academic credentials, by using a combination of traditional academic credentials and “other” qualifications. Essentially, Appalachian State must “make its case” for why the faculty member is qualified to teach courses assigned.

If the traditional academic credential approach is used, then following the Faculty Credential (PDF) guidelines will prove very helpful. When the qualifying credential aligns with the courses being taught, no justification is normally required as the credential speaks for itself, e.g. Ph.D. in English teaching English. However, if the Ph.D. is in Business Administration and the faculty member is teaching Accounting, then a written justification is normally necessary.

If a combination of traditional credentials and “other” credentials is used, or if the “other” qualifications only approach is used, then a portfolio approach for qualifications is suggested. This approach normally requires a careful and thorough justification that demonstrates the linkage between the various components of the portfolio of qualifications to the courses being taught.


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