Frequently Asked Questions

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.

What is SACSCOC?

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications from other international institutions of higher education.

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.

What must a college do to be reaccredited?

There are 2 major tasks:

  1. Compliance Certification: Document that Florida SouthWestern State College is in compliance with every standard in the Principles of Accreditation.
  2. Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): Select and develop a major improvement project which addresses student learning and success.

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.

Is accreditation permanent?

SACSCOC requires that an institution's accreditation be reviewed every 10 years, with 5-year interval reporting requirements.

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. In 2011, Florida SouthWestern State College developed the Cornerstone Experience. During it’s recent reaffirmation, Florida SouthWestern State College developed the CREATIVE Capstone.

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.
  • 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.

Questions or comments concerning Florida SouthWestern State College's reaffirmation of accreditation process may be directed to Dr. Martin McClinton, Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs and SACSCOC Liaison, at 239-432-6798 or