Every 10 years, Texas Tech undergoes an accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The Office of Planning and Assessment is responsible for creating documentation to send to SACSCOC in order to be accredited.
Catherine Parsoneault, associate vice provost for planning and assessment, acts as the liaison for the university and SACSCOC.
“The goal of accreditation is for institutions of higher education to meet a standard of quality and to demonstrate continuous improvement,” she said.
There are six regional accreditors that split the U.S. All Texas public universities and community colleges are accredited through SACSCOC, Parsoneault said. There are 803 members across 11 states.
The SACSCOC is a peer review process, according to SACSCOC’s website, meaning universities within SACSCOC’s region accredit each other.
“Altogether the institutions are the accrediting body,” she said, “and the representatives then help determine the high standards of performance for every aspect of the academic programs, the operations, the procedures of each member institutions and those are captured in 95 different standards that address every aspect of the university’s operation.”
Each institution must send a Compliance Certification Report that demonstrates the university has complied with each of the core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal regulations, according to the website.
Six months later, a group of professional peers from universities of SACSCOC will visit Tech to assess educational strengths and weaknesses of the university, according to the website.
The visiting committee sends a report back to SACSCOC, and the responses from the visit and the Compliance Certification Report are sent to and reviewed by the Committee on Compliance and Reports, which is a standing committee of the Commission, according to the release. The committee then sends a recommendation for affirmation to the Executive Council of the Commission. Finally, the Executive Council recommends action to the Commission on Colleges, which make the final decision.
Tech Health Sciences Center and San Angelo State, both individual institutions, are separately accredited even though they are a part of the Tech System, Jennifer Hughes, director of the Office of Planning and Assessment, said.
If standards are not met, the university will receive a focus report, where Tech will be asked to provide more evidence on the area of concern, Hughes said. Then more data will be provided to support evidence that the area of weakness is being strengthened.
“The stakes are pretty high. If we don’t rectify (areas of concern), then we go into what’s called a monitoring period, and I think that’s unlikely to happen,” Hughes said. “It could effect our institutions academic reputation, and that can have some really serious effects for faculty and students if we lose our accreditation.”
However, not only reputation can be lost, federal financial aid money for students could potentially be lost as well if the university is not accredited.
Craig Morton, associate director for planning and assessment, said he believes this is unlikely to happen.
“Rarely does a school get to that level,” he said.
Morton said the onsite visit will take place in February, and the Compliance Certification Report will be sent in September. By 2015, the university will be announced accredited or not.
“An institution doesn’t have to be perfect to be reaffirmed,” Parsoneault said. “We have to show improvement.”