Accreditation and SACS

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In the United States, accreditation is a non-governmental, peer-review process that assures the quality of the postsecondary education students receive. Educational institutions or programs volunteer to undergo this review periodically to determine if certain criteria are being met.

It is important to understand, however, that accreditation is not a ranking system. It is simply assurance that a program or institution meets established quality standards. The States assume varying degrees of control over education, but, in general, institutions of higher education are permitted to operate with considerable independence and autonomy. As a consequence, American educational institutions can vary widely in the character and quality of their programs. In order to ensure a basic level of quality, the practice of accreditation arose in the United States as a means of conducting non-governmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs.

There are two types of accreditation: institutional and specialized.

  • Institutional accreditation evaluates overall institutional quality. One form of institutional accreditation is regional accreditation of colleges and universities.

  • Specialized accreditation examines specific programs of study, rather than an institution as a whole. This type of accreditation is granted to specific programs at specific levels. Architecture, nursing, law, medicine, and engineering programs are often evaluated through specialized accreditation.

The Commission on Colleges (COC) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. The Commission’s mission is the enhancement of educational quality throughout the region and it strives to improve the effectiveness of institutions by ensuring that institutions meet standards established by the higher education community that address the needs of society and students. 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, and Virginia as well as Latin America and other international sites approved by the Commission on Colleges that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications from other international institutions of higher education.