Accreditation is both a status and a process. As a status, accreditation provides public notification that an institution or program meets standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency. As a process, accreditation reflects the fact that in achieving recognition by the accrediting agency, the institution or program is committed to self-study and external review by one's peers in seeking not only to meet standards but to continuously seek ways in which to enhance the quality of education and training provided.
In preparation for our on-site accreditation visit, we would like to provide you with updates and answers to frequently asked questions.
1. What is SACSCOC?
SACSCOC is the acronym for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACSCOC is one of six regional accrediting associations in the United States and the accrediting body for 11 Southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) and Latin America. You may visit the SACSCOC home page at http://sacscoc.org/genaccproc.asp for more information.
COC is the acronym for Commission on Colleges, the entity of SACSCOC which oversees Florida SouthWestern State College. The Commission on Colleges is responsible for the accreditation of public and private universities, senior colleges and two-year colleges. It is comprised of approximately 1,200 colleges and universities.
2. What does SACSCOC do?
SACSCOC accredits educational institutions at all levels from early childhood centers through universities.
3. What are the accrediting standards used by SACSCOC?
The accrediting standards used by the Commission on Colleges are contained in the handbook, Principles of Accreditation.
4. What must a college do to be reaccredited?
There are 2 major tasks:
A. Compliance Certification: Document that Florida SouthWestern State College is in compliance with every standard in the Principles of Accreditation.
B. Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): Select and develop a major improvement project which addresses student learning and success.
5. Why is accreditation important to students?
Accreditation allows our students to have access to federally-subsidized financial aid and ensures that the courses and degrees our students received will be recognized by other institutions. Attending an accredited institution ensures the student that the College’s programs and courses are creditable and of good quality, making them more competitive to employers.
6. Is accreditation permanent?
SACSCOC requires that an institution's accreditation be reviewed every 10 years, with 5-year interval reporting requirements.
7. What is a QEP?
QEP stands for Quality Enhancement Plan, which is a long-term (5-year) improvement project, identified through an institution-wide process that is focused on improving student learning outcomes in one domain. Florida SouthWestern State College has developed the Cornerstone Experience.
8. Are there different kinds of accreditation?
There are three types of accrediting agencies or commissions used in the United States. In addition, the Florida Department of Education offers specific program accreditation in select areas.
- Regional Accreditation: The most highly regarded form of institutional accreditation, and that sought by most academic institutions with comprehensive missions, is conducted by accrediting agencies that have chosen to organize themselves into six broad geographic regions of the country. This is the site visit Florida SouthWestern State College is preparing for November 8-10.
- The commissions in these six regions, which have standards that cover the entire institution, require that a component of general education be included in all degree programs. These commissions issue a periodic report on the quality of the entire institution according to processes and procedures established by each commission. The regional accrediting commissions set a very high standard for the performance of the entire institution.
- Programmatic Accreditation: Programmatic accrediting agencies provide quality assurance for individual degree programs that may be offered within accredited institutions but that require special review because their graduates become licensed practitioners (for example, nursing, medical, culinary programs or law schools). The programmatic accrediting agencies assure that the quality of the educational program meets the national and state standards and that graduates are prepared to pass licensure examinations.
- National Accreditation: National accrediting agencies accredit institutions with specialized missions (for example, businesses colleges or colleges of art and design). These are referred to as the specialized or national accrediting commissions. Unlike programmatic accreditation, national accreditation is not required for licensure. It is an additional level of scrutiny and status afforded to those programs that undergo this process and are found to meet the standards of excellence.