Adventures with 3.1.a-c; to write or not to write?

SACSCOC standards 3.1.a-c present an interesting question and involve some ambiguity. I was working with a client on these standards last week and that interaction served as the seed for this post.

SACSCOC accredited institutions that have not had any changes in the structure of their degree granting authority since their previous review are not required to construct a narrative for 3.1.a. Don’t misunderstand, you do need to write something, but a simple, “The College of Doug has not experienced any changes to its degree granting authority since the last review” will suffice.

The same thing goes for 3.1.c. A SACSCOC accredited institution that has been in continuous operation since the last review does not need to write a narrative showing that they are in operation and have students enrolled in programs. Like 3.1.a, the institution needs to write a simple, “The College of Doug is in operation now and has been in operation since the last review”.

The Resource Manual provides guidance for 3.1.a and 3.1.c that is clear regarding an institution’s need to respond to those two standards. However, 3.1.b is a bit different. Or is it? It depends on who you ask.

3.1.b An institution seeking to gain or maintain accredited status offers all coursework required for at least one degree program at each level at which it awards degrees. (For exceptions, see SACSCOC policy Core Requirement 3.1.b: Documenting an Alternative Approach.) (Coursework for degrees) [CR]

The Resource Manual guidance for this standard says, “Institutions already holding SACSCOC accreditation with an approved alternative approach…do not need to address this standard unless…conditions have changed.” (emphasis added) Taken literally, institutions with a traditional approach, ones that offer all courses required for programs they offer, will need to construct a narrative that demonstrates this. It appears that some institutions receive guidance not to write the narrative unless there have been changes since the last review regardless of their approach to the standard. Other institutions that don’t use the alternative approach have been advised to write a complete narrative. Reportedly, some institutions have been found compliant on 3.1.b when offering the “we have had no changes” narrative and some institutions have been found non-compliant when using that narrative.

Hopefully the SACSCOC Principals Review Committee will provide some clarification regarding 3.1.b. Until that happens, my advice to my client, and to anybody else who takes the time to read this, is to write a full narrative for 3.1.b. It is not difficult to write.

At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation and strategic planning efforts. From reviewing narratives to building your documentation, we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.

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