Longwood University was originally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1927 and was last reaffirmed in 2003. Accreditation by SACS allows our students to have access to federally subsidized financial aid and ensures that Longwood courses and degrees will be recognized regionally and nationally. A successful reaffirmation is essential to our ability to function as an institution of higher education, and it is also an opportunity to engage in a campus-wide self-assessment.
Changes Since Longwood's Last Reaffirmation
The reaffirmation process has changed significantly since our 2003 SACS visit. The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement, which went into effect in January 2004, require institutions to demonstrate compliance with fewer and less prescriptive standards that focus on goals and outcomes as measures of effectiveness. The Principles are based on four key elements:
- Peer review
- Institutional integrity
- Continuous improvement
- Focus on student learning
Our first exposure to the Principles was the Fifth-Year Interim Report submitted in 2010. For reaffirmation, which occurs every ten years, we will submit a Compliance Certification Report addressing all of the 80+ standards as well as a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The Compliance Certification Report will be reviewed by an off-site committee so that most of the three-day on-site visit in the spring of 2014 can focus on the QEP.
In the Compliance Certification Report, we will present a clear and compelling case for compliance with each of the standards based on analysis of reliable, relevant and representative supporting data. Members of the seven Compliance Teams will gather documentation from each administrative and academic unit. This collaborative effort will need everyone's help and assistance to assure our success.
As you review the goals and outcomes of your area, keep in mind the following six "tenets" of compliance certification:
- Continuous assessment and improvement is the cornerstone.
- Policies must be in place and followed.
- Standards apply to all locations and learning modalities.
- Multiple measures and patterns of evidence are helpful.
- If it's planned for the future, it doesn't count.
- If it's not documented, it didn't happen.
The report follows a standard format that includes a narrative statement with links to supporting documents, but it's up to us to "make the case" for compliance based on Longwood's mission and strategic plans. We will prepare and submit our report in electronic format using the Compliance Assist! hosted software.
Quality Enhancement Plan
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) will describe a focused, well-defined activity to be undertaken by Longwood over a three to five year period and that addresses a topic or issue related to enhancing student learning. The QEP process ensures broad participation throughout the university in the identification and selection of a topic. After the reaffirmation process, Longwood will oversee the implementation of the plan and will report on it in the next Fifth-Year Interim Report.