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What is SACSCOC?

SACSCOC stands for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which is the accrediting body for educational institutions within Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Latin America. The Commission on Colleges is the division of SACSCOC that oversees accreditation of higher education within the region. (For more information, see www.sacscoc.org.)

Dr. Belle Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges, offers an alternate meaning for the SACS acronym that conveys the essence of higher education: Students Are Central to Success.

Why is SACSCOC accreditation important?

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

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

According to the Commission on Colleges, the "product of accreditation is a public statement of an institution's continuing capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed upon requirements. The statement of an institution's accreditation status with the Commission on Colleges is also an affirmation of an institution's continuing commitment to the Commission's principles and philosophy of accreditation." (See the Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement at http://www.sacscoc.org/principles.asp.)

Being accredited and in good standing with SACSCOC assures our constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of Longwood University and its programs. It also allows Longwood students to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid and ensures transfer of credits between Longwood and other institutions.

What is reaffirmation of accreditation?

Every ten years, colleges and university accredited by SACSCOC must demonstrate that they comply with the standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation and with the policies and procedures of the Commission on Colleges. This process is called reaffirmation of accreditation. It is a two-year process of rigorous self-evaluation that culminates in two stages of peer review conducted by senior level faculty and administrators at other institutions accredited by SACSCOC.

Longwood is beginning the current reaffirmation process in fall 2011, leading up to submission of our Compliance Certification Report in September 2013 and our Quality Enhancement Plan in early 2014. A team of peer evaluators visits the campus in spring 2014 and the Commission votes on whether to reaffirm Longwood's accreditation in December 2014.

What happens if Longwood doesn't get reaffirmed?

Anything less than full reaffirmation potentially means:

  • loss of federal funding
  • loss of prestige and reputation
  • loss of admissions applicants
  • loss of ability of Longwood graduates to secure jobs

If the peer evaluators working on behalf of the Commission on Colleges find that Longwood is deficient in some area, they can offer recommendations with penalties that range from requiring Monitoring Reports to public sanction, denial of reaffirmation and even removal of membership. While Longwood does not anticipate major problems with reaffirmation, it is important for everyone to understand how serious the consequences are - and just how important the process is.

How is this SACSCOC review different from the one in 2003?

Shortly after Longwood's last reaffirmation in 2003, the Commission on Colleges changed the process and issued the first edition of the Principles of Accreditation. We had our first exposure to the Principles when we submitted our,Fifth-Year Interim Report a new requirement, in March 2010. Under the "old" SACSCOC at Longwood, 13 committees made up primarily of faculty produced a lengthy self-study that was reviewed by a large group of peer evaluators during an on-site visit.

This time we operate according to the "new" SACSCOC. The main differences are:

  • There is no "self-study" document per se. Instead, Longwood will submit two major reports: a Compliance Certification Report due in September 2013 and a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) due several months later.
  • The "old" SACSCOC emphasized inputs and outputs. The "new" SACSCOC focuses on goals and outcomes with continuous, systematic improvement as the cornerstone.
  • Instead of a print report responding to 475 detailed "must" statements (the former "self-study"), we will complete a Compliance Certification Report that demonstrates our compliance with approximately 80 standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation. This report combines a clear and concise narrative with analysis of reliable, relevant and representative supporting evidence to make the case that Longwood complies with the more general Principles to fulfill our mission. A Compliance Steering Committee and 7 Compliance Teamscomposed of faculty and staff will produce the report in electronic format.
  • The QEP is a new requirement that outlines a major initiative tied to student learning. Faculty will be heavily involved in the development, and subsequent implementation, of the QEP.
  • An off-site team of peer evaluators will review the Compliance Certification Report and issue its findings before the on-site visit. We will have an opportunity to respond in a Focused Report.
  • A different group of peer evaluators will conduct the on-site visit in spring 2014. They will review any areas of concern raised by the off-site team. However, their chief purpose is to talk with Longwood faculty, staff and students about the QEP.

Who is involved?

The SACSCOC Leadership Team began meeting in fall 2011. This team is composed of the President, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Director of SACS Compliance Certification, the QEP Director, and a faculty representative appointed by the President.

There are two leaders for the different aspects of the reaffirmation process:

  • Dr. Mc Amoss, professor of French, is leading the Quality Enhancement Plan process. Two committees are addressing the selection of a QEP topic and the development of the plan.
  • Ms. Virginia Kinman, associate professor and Electronic Resources Librarian, is leading the Compliance Certification process. A Steering Committee, seven Compliance Teams, and several other groups are working on the preparation of the Compliance Certification Report and the on-site visit.

Everyone at the institution is ultimately involved in SACSCOC reaffirmation. You may serve on a committee, offer input about the QEP, help a Compliance Team member locate information or give directions to a peer evaluator. But it's what you do every day - setting goals and making changes based on assessment results, following policies and procedures, documenting what you do, acting with integrity, and simply doing your job - that makes the reaffirmation process run smoothly and successfully.

How is Longwood evaluated?

Accreditation is a founded on peer review. The off-site and on-site peer evaluators come from institutions that are accredited by SACSCOC. The Commission trustees who vote on our reaffirmation are elected by the presidents of the accredited member institutions.

There are three review and response phases in the reaffirmation process.

  1. An Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee composed of 8 or more peer evaluators will review our Compliance Certification Report in November 2013. When we receive their report, we will have several months to prepare a Focused Report that addresses any areas of concern.
  2. An On-Site Reaffirmation Committee composed of 7 or more peer evaluators plus a QEP lead evaluator nominated by Longwood will review the QEP and Focused Report. After their three-day campus visit in spring 2014, they will issue a final report that will include any recommendations and a date for submitting a Response Report.
  3. One of the standing Compliance & Reports Committees composed of Commission on Colleges trustees will review the final report of the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee and the institutional response before taking action on our reaffirmation in December 2014.

What is the timeframe for the reaffirmation process?

In 2011-12, we will select a QEP topic and conduct a compliance audit, which involves gathering and analyzing data related to each of the standards in the Principles of Accreditation. The Compliance Steering Committee and Leadership Team will address any issues that need attention. In 2012-13, we will develop the QEP and write the Compliance Certification Report. In 2013-14, we will submit the final Compliance Certification Report and prepare the final QEP and Focused Report. The on-site visit of peer evaluators will take place in spring 2014. A more detailed timeline is available here, and there will be updates as we progress.

What happens during the On-Site Visit?

Longwood is responsible for arranging all transportation, meals and housing for the three-day campus visit. This includes technology support, working space in the hotel and on campus, and detailed schedules for each peer evaluator. A Hospitality Team will manage all of these logistical arrangements.

  • Day One usually focuses on compliance issues noted by the off-site review, the Focused Report, and all federal requirements. It usually consists of interviews as requested by the chair of the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee and assembling additional documentation when requested.
  • Day Two focuses on the QEP. It usually includes a presentation to the Committee about the QEP and group interviews with a variety of constituencies.
  • Day Three focuses on the Exit Conference, where the Committee presents its finding to the Leadership Team.

The Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee may visit a representative sample of off-campus sites that offer 50% or more of a program on the morning of Day One or the day before arrival on campus.

What are the Principles of Accreditation?

The Principles of Accreditation went into effect in January 2004, and there have been several revisions since that time. The Commission on Colleges expects integrity to govern Longwood's operation and for Longwood to make reasonable and responsible decisions consistent with the spirit of integrity in all matters. There are 12 broad-based Core Requirements, a large number of more specific Comprehensive Standards, and a small set of Federal Requirements. We are expected to comply with the approximately 80 standards in the Principles.

What is the Compliance Certification Report?

The Compliance Certification Report, which will be submitted in September 2013, includes an institutional summary to introduce the peer evaluators to Longwood and narratives for each of the standards in the Principles of Accreditation. Each section includes:

  • the wording of the standard
  • our determination of the level of compliance (Compliance, Partial Compliance, Non-Compliance)
  • a clear, succinct narrative that presents a convincing justification of compliance based on analysis and appropriate links to reliable, current, verifiable, coherent, objective, relative and representative evidence
  • a list of all supporting documentation referenced in the narrative.

You can get an idea of what the report will look like by viewing Longwood's Fifth-Year Interim Report, which covered 14 of the standards.  We will use the Compliance Assist! software to produce the report.

What is Compliance Assist!?

Compliance Assist! is the hosted software that we are using to produce and submit the Compliance Certification Report and the QEP. It allows us to upload and easily link to all of the supporting documentation that will be referenced in the reports and it provides a framework to populate the online faculty roster documenting that faculty are qualified to teach the courses to which they are assigned. When the reports are submitted, they will be available on the web.

What's the difference between Compliance Assist! and WEAVEonline?

WEAVEonline is the software that Longwood uses for assessment and planning. The Office of Assessment and Institutional Research maintains assessment reporting schedules and offers training and support for WEAVEonline. Assessment reports and other documents stored in WEAVEonline will be used as supporting documentation for parts of the Compliance Certification Report. We are using Compliance Assist! for three years (July 2011 through June 2014) to support the production and electronic submission of the Compliance Certification Report, the Focused Report, and the QEP.

How can I help?

You can help by responding to requests for documentation, providing input about the QEP, acknowledging and supporting the work of the reaffirmation teams and committees, staying informed through this website, and asking questions about anything you don't understand. Our success depends on collective dedication to this important endeavor.

Who can answer my questions about SACSCOC?

What's the difference between SACSCOC and SCHEV?

SACSCOC is one of five agencies that accredit colleges and universities in the United States. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) is the state's coordinating body for public higher education. Longwood operates under the policies and requirements of both SCHEV and SACSCOC.

This FAQ is adapted from frequently asked questions on the reaffirmation websites of Baylor University and Appalachian State University.