Standards Century Volume 3, No. 1

The Journal of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
Volume 3, No.1
January 2015


From the President 

Among expectations of post-secondary education in general, and of private, independent colleges and schools in particular, is a high degree of efficiency regarding the enrollment and completion of students. The expectation has been expressed by policymakers, funding sources, and the accreditation community in various forms; at the federal level, the expectation is manifest as "on-time graduation rate" as reported through the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

ACICS recognizes the value of measuring and reporting the efficiency of member institutions in enrolling students and keeping them enrolled through completion or graduation. ACICS codified that recognition when it added "graduation rates" to the list of institutional effectiveness elements required of all institutions. The Council also recognized that because the IPEDS definition applies only to first-time, full-time students, it creates an incomplete analysis of efficiency by institutions that primarily enroll part-time students, many of whom have had a post-secondary education experience before.

One of the issues raised during the President's Town Hall in November was the persistence of the "graduation rate, when available" element of the published Campus Effectiveness Plan (CEP). Members want to know if ACICS will develop a definition that is more applicable to students enrolled at private, independent institutions, when it will be available, and how it will be benchmarked, such as a required minimum graduation or completion rate.

ACICS remains committed to measuring and evaluating the enrollment-to-completion efficiency of member institutions, partially as a proxy of quality and effectiveness, and partially to respond to expectations from the broader community.

In the first case, available literature establishes a direct link between "deeper learning" or student engagement in the instructional process and stronger graduation and completion rates. ( See more)

In the second case, low graduation and completion rates are frequently cited as indications of poor quality by policy advocates and critics. They assume that students do not persist or graduate because the educational experience lacks quality.

The Council has clearly articulated its focus on enhancing the student experience through the ACICS accreditation program. ( See ACICS Mission and Value Statements) One important opportunity to directly apply that focus is by tracking, reviewing, and holding institutions accountable for efficiency in graduating a majority of the students they enroll.

Devising a comprehensive graduation metric that will appropriately capture the outcomes derived from a diverse student population is a work in progress. Unlike the IPEDS metric, no alternative, comprehensive graduation metric is currently in wide use by the higher education community. Emerging student demographic trends simply do not align with IPEDS. ACICS is working to develop an original measuring stick.

The scope of institutional effectiveness metrics applied to ACICS institutions is robust and relevant to the experience of students. In aspiring to establish standards for completion and graduation efficiency, the Council is fortifying that scope with a new metric that matters.

Albert C. Gray, President and CEO


 AWARE Webinar Reminder 
Important changes and clarifications to the Council's definitions and thresholds for student achievement performance are described in the January Memo to the Field. The published guidance also elaborates on the due process protections afforded institutions with retention, placement or licensure exam pass rates (program level only) that are below standard. The changes to policy will be discussed in greater detail during the AWARE Webinar scheduled for 2:00 p.m. EST Thursday, February 5, 2015. Register for the webinar.


Call for Proposals: ACICS 2015 Annual Conference 
ACICS is seeking proposals for breakout session presentations at the 2015 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, May 27 through 29. Categories of topics include enhancing student success, making that international connection, engaging military veterans, information technology - central to your success, and investing in your teachers. Proposals,on these or other topics of your choosing, may be submitted on the ACICS Annual Conference website. All proposals are due by Friday, February 27, 2015.


WIA/WIB Research: Your Participation Requested 
ACICS has commissioned research regarding participation by member institutions in training programs funded by the Workforce Investment Act and local Workforce Investment Boards. The research will guide ACICS in reviewing short-term, non-credit programs and developing better ways to evaluate program effectiveness. A targeted survey of institutions currently offering short-term programs has been completed; soon all ACICS colleges and schools will be asked to complete the brief on-line survey to better inform the final report. The survey is completely voluntary, but member institutions are encouraged to participate. (Read detailed information

 1st Quarter 2015 Workshops

Friday, February 13

Deferral Workshop
Washington, DC 

Thursday, March 5

Initial Accreditation Workshop
Washington, DC 

Friday, March 6

Renewal Accreditation Workshop
Washington, DC

All workshops are scheduled from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Go to to register.