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SACSCOC and Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We’re here to answer common questions about SACSCOC and the reaffirmation of accreditation process.

Accreditation seeks to ensure constituents and the public that the quality and integrity of higher educational institutions meet acceptable levels of quality. These outcomes are achieved through rigorous internal and external peer review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards.When accreditation is awarded to an institution of higher education by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), it means that the institution has (1) a mission appropriate to higher education, (2) resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain its mission, (3) clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that it is (4) successful in assessing its achievement of these objectives and demonstrating improvements. Accreditation by SACSCOC is a statement of the institution’s continuing commitment to quality and integrity as well as its capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed-upon accreditation standards.

Accredited status with an institutional accreditor recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) enables institutions to seek access to federal financial aid funds for students.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices primarily among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications for membership from domestic institutions in the other 39 states, as well as international institutions of higher education around the world.

In July 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) redefined the various entities that it recognizes. Institutional accrediting bodies conduct comprehensive reviews of institutions of higher education. The accreditation granted encompasses the entire institution including reported branch campuses, other instructional sites, online programs, and distance learning modalities. Such accrediting bodies typically accredit a wide range of institutions offering associate, baccalaureate, masters and/or doctoral degrees.

There are numerous accrediting associations in the United States, recognized by the USDE. (For a list of accrediting agencies, please see

Regional accreditors have served a “gate-keeper” function for access to Title IV funds. Historically, the scope of recognition for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and some institutions in Latin America and other international sites . Since our institutions often have branch campuses outside of these 11 states, USDE has decided to refer to SACSCOC as an institutional accreditor now instead of a “regional” accreditor. Each accrediting agency’s governing board must decide whether or not it will accept applications from institutions outside of its traditional region. SACSCOC accepts applications from international institutions that meet its accreditation standards.

National accrediting bodies conduct comprehensive reviews of institutions and operate primarily throughout the United States. USDE has decided to refer to these bodies as an institutional accreditor now instead of a “national” accreditor. The accreditation applies to the entire institution. Most of the accredited institutions are private and have missions focused either on career education or religious education.

Specialized or programmatic accrediting bodies conduct focused reviews of a single educational program and operate primarily throughout the United States, although a few operate internationally. Many are recognized by the USDE to conduct accreditation activities.

There are numerous accrediting associations in the United States, recognized by the USDE. (For a list of accrediting agencies, please see

Any specialized accreditor is required to submit its sanctions of member institutions to the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC personnel review the sanctions to determine if the institution violated SACSCOC standards of accreditation. If the sanctions from specialized accreditors relate to SACSCOC standards, SACSCOC staff will contact the member institution. The institution may need to submit a response about the sanction by the specialized accreditor and may be sanctioned by SACSCOC also.

Reaffirmation is every ten years with an interim report at the fifth year. NC State’s next decennial is 2024.

The decennial reaffirmation of accreditation is the largest, comprehensive review of an institution. There are 79 standards in the decennial report. During the decennial reaffirmation report process, NC State submits a Compliance Certification report in September that is reviewed by an off-site committee (institutions have no input on the members of the off-site committee) later in the fall. Since NC State is eligible for and will participate in a differentiated review process, we will complete a modified Compliance Certification report consisting of 40 core requirements and standards.

The Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee’s charge is to review the Compliance Certification. Each Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee is typically responsible for a cluster of three institutions, grouped as much as possible by similarity in level (highest degree offered) and type of control (public/private). The Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee’s role is to make a preliminary determination of compliance for each of the standards addressed in the Compliance Certification.

Following the off-site review, NC State learns the outcome and any necessary follow-up to items deemed non-compliant. Any follow-up is completed prior to an on-site visit which happens the next spring (usually March).

The On-Site Reaffirmation Committee’s responsibilities are more varied than the singular duty of reviewing the Compliance Certification and the Preliminary Report completed by the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee. Like the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee is expected to examine and evaluate, as appropriate, the institution’s mission, policies, procedures, programs, resources, services, and other activities as they support compliance with these remaining standards. The On-Site Reaffirmation Committee also reviews specific standards as referenced in federal regulation and associated with USDE recognition of accreditors. In addition, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee is charged with review of Standard 7.2 (Quality Enhancement Plan). Where applicable, this Committee performs two additional tasks: (1) visiting all branch campuses, visiting a sample of off-campus sites approved to offer fifty percent or more of a program, and reviewing distance education; and (2) reviewing issues stemming from ThirdParty comments. Finally, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee will review the Principle of Integrity (Core Requirement 1.1). Unlike the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee presents its findings to the institution verbally during an Exit Conference and in writing in the finalized Report of the Reaffirmation Committee.

Institutions also do not have input over members of the on-site committee’s membership although effort is made to choose folk from similar institutions. Preliminary results of the on-site visit are presented to the Leadership Committee prior to the on-site committee’s departure. During the subsequent June SACSCOC Board of Trustees meeting, reaffirmation is finalized and decisions are announced at the following December SACSCOC Annual Meeting. In January, following the Annual Meeting where results are announced, a letter is received documenting official results of the decennial process.

Please refer to the Handbook for Institutions Seeking Reaffirmation for more information.

  • Most recent Reaffirmation of Accreditation: 2014
  • Next Reaffirmation of Accreditation: 2024

While maintaining the rigor associated with the reaffirmation of accreditation process, member institutions may participate in a differentiated review process if they meet eligibility requirements. The differentiated review process will include compiling and submitting a modified Compliance Certification, documenting compliance with the Principles of Accreditation, and submitting a Quality Enhancement Plan for review by evaluation committees. The Differentiated Review Process includes offsite and on-site reviews, and institutions document fewer The Principles of Accreditation standards during the initial process (institutions may need to address additional standards based on reports or supplemental information discovered). Institutions may not participate in the Differentiated Review process for two consecutive decennial reaffirmation of accreditation processes.

Please refer to the Differentiated Review Process policy and procedures document for more information.

Institutions accredited by SACSCOC must demonstrate compliance with the standards for accreditation as contained in The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement and with the policies and procedures of the Commission. (For additional information about policies and procedures, please see either “Accrediting Standards“, or “Index of SACSCOC Documents” for a list of policies and procedures that are listed in alphabetical order by title.)

Institutions that do not demonstrate that they meet accreditation standards may be asked for monitoring reports, placed on the public sanctions of “Warning”, “Probation” or “Probation Good Cause,” or dropped from status as a candidate or an accredited institution. (For additional information, please see Sanctions, Denial of Reaffirmation, and Removal from Membership.)

A Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is an integral component of the SACSCOC reaffirmation of accreditation process. It reflects and affirms a commitment to enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness by focusing on an issue that NC State considers important to improving student learning outcomes and/or student success

Per SACSCOC requirements, a QEP has: 

  • a topic identified through an institution’s ongoing comprehensive planning and evaluation processes; 
  • broad-based support of institutional constituencies; focuses on improving specific student learning outcomes and/or student success; 
  • commits resources to initiate, implement and complete the QEP; and 
  • includes a plan to assess achievement.

Student learning and student success will be the focus of NC State’s new QEP. NC State characterizes student success as the ability to succeed academically, professionally and personally, to embrace a commitment to lifelong learning, and to become informed, engaged, job-ready and productive members of society.

NC State has a steadfast commitment to graduating students — from all backgrounds and walks of life — who are empowered for a lifetime of success and impact.

Student Success at NC State

There are many aspects of student success. Nationally, institutions of higher education track student success outcomes like matriculation, retention and graduation. For more information about student success at NC State, please consult the resources below.

Packways: Learning by Doing has been selected as the university’s 2024-29 Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) topic and was announced to the NC State community in March 2023.

Important dates in the QEP proposal development timeline include:

  • October 2021: Call for pre-proposals sent to the NC State community.
  • November and December 2021: Pre-proposal informational workshops held.:
  • Friday, January 28, 2022: Pre-proposal submissions due by midnight.
  • June 2022: QEP Planning Team notifies finalists and schedules consultation meetings.
  • August – November 2022: Proposal teams prepare full proposals.
  • End of November 2022: Full proposal submissions due.
  • November 2022 – January 2023: Finalists present their proposals to the university community.
  • February 2023: QEP Planning Team reviews proposals with SACSCOC Steering Committee.
  • March 2023: Final QEP project is selected and announced to the NC State community.

Students, faculty, and staff all play a role – from suggesting potential QEP topics, to submitting a proposal, to participating in feedback on the top proposals.

Three committees oversee the topic review and selection process.

QEP Planning Team

The QEP Planning Team guides the overall QEP process from pre-proposal guidance to topic selection, proposal development and QEP implementation.

  • Fashaad Crawford, Vice Provost for Assessment and Accreditation
  • Don Hunt, Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Services
  • Duane Larick, Consultant and Retired Senior Vice Provost for Strategy, Analysis and Resource Management
  • Kaitlyn Mittan, Director of Assessment and Accreditation
  • Doneka Scott, Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs
  • Katharine Stewart, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs

QEP Proposals Review Team

The QEP Proposals Review Team evaluates QEP pre-proposals and full proposals for appropriateness, alignment to university mission and strategic plan, and feasibility of implementation.

  • McKinney Austin, Assistant Vice Provost for Institutional Analytics and Data Governance
  • Pamela Bunce, University Program Specialist, Biochemistry – METRIC and Staff Senator
  • Jajhayra Fonceca-Roque, 2nd Year Undergraduate Student
  • Deveshwar Hariharan, President, Graduate Student Association
  • Stephanie Helms Pickett, Associate Vice Provost, Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
  • Courtney Hughes, Director, University Fellowships Office
  • David Jackson, Director, Data Analysis, Institutional Strategy and Analysis
  • Herle McGowan, Associate Teaching Professor, Statistics and Faculty Senator
  • Kaitlyn Mittan, Director of Assessment and Accreditation, Office of Assessment and Accreditation (non-voting member)
  • Alan Porch, Business Officer, Department of Mathematics and Staff Senator
  • Kyle Pysher, Associate Registrar, Registration and Records
  • Walter Robinson, Professor, Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Faculty Senator
  • Hilton Stallworth, 3rd Year Undergraduate Student
  • Katharine Stewart, Senior Vice Provost, Faculty and Academic Affairs (non-voting member)
  • Zach VanHekken, 4th Year Undergraduate Student

SACSCOC Steering Committee

The SACSCOC Steering Committee, which provides strategic assistance for completing SACSCOC reaffirmation narratives and meeting with external reviewers, selects the final QEP topic.

NC State’s previous QEP, TH!NK, was implemented from 2014-2019. TH!NK defined six specific student learning outcomes to improve students’ higher-order skills in critical and creative thinking and self-reflection. In Phase I of TH!NK, 15 faculty engaged in professional learning to enhance their pedagogical practices for building first-year students’ critical and creative thinking skills. Phase II scaled up the effective pedagogical practices as determined by multiple assessment measures, including pre- and post- semester critical thinking assessments, Metacognitive Awareness Inventory and Epistemological Beliefs Survey, pre- and post-semester use of a faculty-designed classroom activity scored against a common rubric, and a post-semester faculty self-assessment.

The NC State QEP Impact Report from NC State’s SACSCOC fifth-year report was submitted in March 2020. (Unity ID and password required). Explore TH!NK videos, faculty scholarship and other historical content by visiting the Office for Faculty Excellence website .

The Reflective Educational Design (RED) TH!NK certificate program through the Office for Faculty Excellence is the continued institutional integration of this QEP.