The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is a commission dedicated to higher education in the southern region of the United States and American schools in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Sea, and South America. It has jurisdiction over thousands of schools and is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Educational Accreditation (CHEA).
Accreditation indicates that an institution meets and exceeds quality standards and is committed to continuous improvement. Having a respected association like SACS extend accreditation to your college or university speaks to the standards upheld by your institution and your dedication to providing the best educational experience for your students.
What Is SACS Accreditation?
SACS extends accreditation to institutions that meet the educational standards set by the association's Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This commission is the body for the accreditation of institutions that are degree-granting and within the jurisdiction.
Having SACS accreditation signifies the following about a higher education institution:
- They have a mission suitable for higher education.
- They provide the resources, programs, and services to support and maintain that mission.
- They sustain outlined educational objectives that complement the mission and indicate its success in achieving its stated goals.
Colleges and universities must be eligible and meet the criteria set forth by SACSCOC's standards to receive accreditation. They must meet the prerequisites and then submit an application.
What Schools Are Eligible for SACS Accreditation?
To be eligible for SACS accreditation, a higher-education institution must be degree-granting and located in one of the following states in the U.S.:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The association also evaluates U.S. schools located in Latin America.
In addition, the institution needs to comply with the standards noted in the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. In this resource, you can learn more about SACSCOC and its requirements. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees assesses each school and makes accreditation decisions using this document.
SACS Accreditation Process Overview
Obtaining accreditation from SACSCOC requires following a procedure that includes four phases. The following outlines the process:
1. The Pre-Application Workshop
Before becoming eligible to submit an application for membership, prospective applicants must partake in two different virtual events, the Pre-Applicant Workshop and the Pre-Applicant Institutional Effectiveness Workshop.
Each workshop has two parts. The first is for watching slide presentations, and the second is a conference call where prospective applicants can discuss and address questions. Institutions can register only two people to participate in these workshops. There is a fee per participant for each workshop.
2. Preparation and Submission of an Application for Membership
The next phase is for preparing the Application for Membership document. On average, preparing the application requires anywhere from several months to a couple of years. SACSCOC shares additional information and documents to help applicants gather their information and prepare their forms.
When preparing the application, SACS accreditation standards require faculty credentials. Your faculty's degrees establish their credibility as experts in their fields, and the Association accounts for this when reviewing your application.
The application is just under 40 pages long with submission instructions, and the applicant must also provide an application fee at the time of submission.
3. The Candidacy Committee Visit and Candidacy Status
If the applicant successfully filled out the Application for Membership document and met all standards, a Candidacy Committee visit takes place.
The Candidacy Committee travels to an institution's main campus and off-campus sites at the institution's cost. With the information accrued from the visits, the Committee creates a detailed report. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees reviews these reports during one of two meetings in either June or December. Using this report, the Board will either grant or deny Candidacy status.
4. The Accreditation Committee Visit
In instances where the SACSCOC Board of Trustees bestows Candidacy onto a school, the next step is a visit from the Accreditation Committee. For the visit, the institution completes a Compliance Certification in preparation.
The Accreditation Committee will visit the main campus and any additional off-campus instructional sites at the institution's expense. They create the Report of the Accreditation Committee for the SACSCOC Board to review in either June or December at their meeting.
If the Committee grants accreditation, it is good for five years before needing reaffirmation.
SACS Reaffirmation Process
In addition to Candidacy Committee reviews of potential candidates and Accreditation Committee reviews of institutions seeking membership, the SACSCOC Board of Trustees performs reviews for a few additional reasons after granting accreditation, including the following:
- Reaffirmation Committee reviews: After five years of membership, SACS requires member institutions pursuing continued accreditation to complete a comprehensive review to reaffirm.
- Special Committee reviews: The Board completes a Special Committee review of member institutions looking for continued accreditation after evaluating accreditation-related institutional circumstances.
- Substantive Change Committee reviews: This review involves a member institution seeking approval and continued accreditation following a significant modification or expansion to the institution.
The reaffirmation process involves two main phases. The first phase is preparation by the institution. Members must complete and submit the Compliance Certification 15 months in advance of the scheduled affirmation. Six weeks in advance of the On-Site Reaffirmation Review Committee, members must submit their Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).
For the second phase, the Commission on Colleges has committees conduct off- and on-site reaffirmation reviews, followed by a review from the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. The Association shares final decisions at the annual business session in December.
How Watermark Can Help You Prepare?
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- Comprehensive program review reporting
- Part of the Watermark Product Suite
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