August Meeting Active with Initial, New Grants
Sixteen institutions with campuses in Florida, Washington State and many places in between received initial grants of accreditation from ACICS at the August meeting in Washington, D.C. The Council also reviewed 70 institutions requesting new grants of accreditation, approving grants to 52 and deferring decisions on 18, pending the receipt of more information and analysis. Two institutions were denied grants by the Council.
A summary of all actions from August will be posted at www.acics.org shortly.
Council Focuses on Multi-Campus Processes
The structure and methods of career colleges accredited by ACICS have evolved significantly in recent years, while the fundamental unit of accreditation remains the individual campus. That dichotomy has received attention from the Council, which appointed an ad-hoc committee to develop ways to better align ACICS standards and practices with centrally-managed, multi-campus college systems while preserving the integrity of accreditation standards and practices. The ad-hoc committee chaired by Commissioner Gary Carlson is reviewing, among other factors, accreditation criteria, team visitations, new programs, self-studies, catalog policy, distance education, deferrals, staff training, technology, re-designation of campuses and annual institutional reports. The ad-hoc group will provide an update to the full Council in December.
Strategic Planning Anticipates Centennial Year
Senior leadership, including the Council and directors, has initiated a new strategic planning process with an eye toward ACICS' 100th Anniversary in 2012. The planning effort is reviewing all aspects of the organization's operations and structure, including accreditation systems and standards, professional qualifications of peer evaluators and staff, communications and reputation, and opportunities to grow and enhance ACICS' standing as a post-secondary education accreditor. ACICS now accredits more than 760 institutions, serving more than 600,000 students; it is expected to accredit at least 800 institutions when it marks its Centennial year. The agency will also complete and submit its application for re-recognition to the U.S. Department of Education in the next 12 to 18 months.
Council Hosts CHEA Leadership
The Council hosted a discussion with Dr. Judith Eaton, President of the Council of Higher Education (CHEA) and Jan Friis, Vice President for Government Affairs regarding the future of accreditation and accountability for post-secondary education. Dr. Eaton emphasized that CHEA's priorities include ensuring accountability through accreditation, while maintaining a balanced relationship with the federal government. Dr. Eaton spoke to the issue of transfer of academic credit, and emphasized CHEA's position that all institutional accrediting bodies be treated equally when academic credit is evaluated for possible acceptance in transfer.
Topics chosen for Systematic Review of Criteria
As part of the on-going effort to maintain relevant and effective accreditation standards, the Council has reviewed and approved criteria to be evaluated in 2010. In the next six months, staff will develop information for the Council regarding issues of consistency, clarity, relevance, completeness, comparability and compliance on the topics of Classification of Campuses, Gaining and Maintaining Accreditation, and Institutional Changes. The review will be used as the basis for modifications and updates of the ACICS Criteria.
Opportunities to Strengthen Student Learning Outcomes
ACICS continues to review ways to make measures of student outcomes stronger, more effective and better indicators of institutional performance. The Council is considering revisions to ACICS student learning standards after reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the five outcomes that are required as part of the Institutional Effectiveness Plan (IEP). Staff is researching how to provide more structure for the required student learning outcomes by focusing on applied, program-level measures of job-specific learning in core courses and foundational learning in general education courses. Staff is also investigating best practices for improving the response rates of satisfaction surveys. Many of the findings will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of ACICS' monograph, "Institutional Effectiveness: A Guide to Implementation."
Contingency Plan for Retention & Placement
In light of current economic conditions, Council is reviewing how retention and/or placement issues at member institutions might be addressed. The recession has impacted most states, but the particular effect on job markets related to programs at member institutions varies. A contingency plan is under consideration that would address mitigating circumstances that may impact an individual institution as well as overall changes in the average retention or placement rates of all ACICS accredited institutions. More information will be available for Council review later this year.
Workshop Slots Available
ACICS has enrollment openings for two upcoming workshops. They are the Accreditation Workshop, Oct. 29 and the Evaluator Training Workshop, Oct. 30. Both will be hosted at ACICS offices in Washington, D.C. Go to www.acics.org for more information or to register. Member institutions are encouraged to provide qualified evaluators for the peer review process; candidates should submit their resumes to Jeanine Ford at email@example.com.