Frequently Asked Questions about SACS
What is SACS?
SACS is an acronym for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Commission on Colleges of SACS is the regional body for the accreditation of higher education institutions in 11 southern states and Latin America that award associate, baccalaureate, master's or doctoral degrees. Baylor University is accredited by this body to award bachelor's, master's, specialist and doctor's degrees.
What does accreditation mean?
Accreditation by the Commission on Colleges means that a university has:
- a purpose appropriate to higher education
- the resources, programs and services to accomplish that purpose
- clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and that are appropriate to the degrees it offers
- success in achieving its stated objectives.
According to the Commission on Colleges, accreditation is:
[b]oth a process and a product, [it] relies on integrity, thoughtful and principled judgment, rigorous application of requirements, and a context of trust. It provides an assessment of an institution's effectiveness in the fulfillment of its mission, its compliance with the requirements of its accrediting association, and its continuing efforts to enhance the quality of student learning and its programs and services. Based upon reasoned judgment, the process stimulates evaluation and improvement, while providing a means of continuing accountability to constituents and the public.
- The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement, 2001,p. 3.
In other words, a SACS' stamp of approval says Baylor makes the quality education of its students a top priority at all times.
What is reaffirmation of accreditation?
To maintain accreditation with the Commission on Colleges, an institution must comply with the standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement and with the policies and procedures of the Commission on Colleges. The Principles apply to all applicant, candidate, and member institutions, regardless of type of institution (public, private for-profit, private not-for-profit).
Every 10 years, colleges and universities accredited by SACS participate in a rigorous self-examination according to SACS guidelines. This is a two-year process that culminates in two stages of peer review conducted by senior level faculty and administrators at other institutions. These reviewers write reports and make determinations as to whether a school is in compliance with the SACS Commission on College's Core Requirements, Comprehensive Standards and Federal Mandates. The reviewers submit their reports and recommendations to the SACS Commission on Colleges. The Commission determines reaffirmation of accreditation.
Is the SACS review just something Baylor has to do?
No. Colleges and universities may choose to participate in this process of self-regulation through accreditation, and all those of any quality choose to do so. From that perspective, every institution of higher education should welcome the opportunity to self-evaluate and self-correct in its ongoing commitment to quality education for its students.
What happens if Baylor doesn't get reaffirmed?
It cannot be overstated how important reaffirmation of accreditation is to Baylor and its future. Anything less than full reaffirmation potentially means:
- loss of federal funding
- loss of prestige and reputation in academia
Does SACS have anything to do with Baylor 2012?
Not technically. The SACS overview process is broad-based in order to be applicable to many colleges. The procedure is regimented and rigorous with a concrete timeline.
Baylor's SACS review, however, falls near the mid-point of the 10-year Baylor 2012 timeline, which was endorsed by the Board of Regents in fall 2001. Therefore, it provides a perfect opportunity for Baylor constituencies to compare and evaluate Baylor 2012 in conjunction with the SACS review requirements, many of which complement and reinforce one another.
Also, at this juncture when Baylor welcomes a new president, it makes sense to assess the progress and future application of the 2012 Vision. Let's see where we are so we'll know how to get where we want to be!
How is this SACS review different from the one 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, when Baylor was last reviewed, a large number of SACS external reviewers visited campus and primarily were involved with Baylor's self-appointed campus SACS team. Also, faculty participated in scores of committees that required much time and effort throughout the process.
Not so this time. For a chart that explains the differences, click here. To summarize the differences:
- There is no self-study document per se this time. Instead, Baylor will submit two major reports - a Compliance Certification, to be submitted first, and a Quality Enhancement Plan, to be submitted several months later.
- The QEP is a much more focused report that outlines a major initiative tied to student learning. Work on Baylor's QEP begins in fall 2005 and will require intense faculty involvement until it is submitted to SACS around the first of February 2007.
- There will only be one site visit, and it will occur in spring 2007. Between six and eight reviewers will be on campus for three days. They will review any areas of concern raised by the off-site team. Their chief purpose, however, is to talk to Baylor faculty, staff and students about the QEP. They will write a report about Baylor's compliance with all of the SACS Commission on Colleges reaffirmation criteria.
SACS wants Baylor to provide clear-cut objectives, ways to measure the outcomes of those objectives and proof that those objectives are being continued into the future - all focused on the primary desired outcome of quality education for the student.
A SACS Reaffirmation Task Force has been working together since early fall 2004. The members of that team are:
- Larry Lyon, Accreditation Liaison
- Tiffany Hogue, Director of Reaffirmation of Accreditation
- Tom Bohannon, Financial/Physical Resources
- Robyn Driskell, Academic Assessment
- Van Gray, Administrative Assessment
- Gina Green, Faculty Credentials
- Tim Logan, Technology
- Vicki Marsh Kabat, Public Relations
- Tricia Tolbert, Administrative Assessment
- Stephanie Kilgore, Administrative Assessment
- Sarah Kirksey, Administrative Support to SACS Team
There also are four major committees to date:
The committee lists, not surprisingly, will grow in the next two years. Check the SACS Web site often for updates.