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Ensuring Institutional Quality

Belltower in the spring

At a university as large as NC State, many people must come together to promote strategic growth in all areas of campus life, and especially to ensure students receive a world-class education.

The Office of Assessment and Accreditation (OAA) supports NC State’s strategic mission by promoting continuous improvement, student success and commitment to effectiveness and excellence through campus-wide assessment and accreditation processes. OAA leads the academic and administrative outcomes assessment processes, and works collaboratively with university stakeholders to coordinate comprehensive external program reviews.

The office is responsible for leading data collection and reporting for accreditation, as well as facilitating the substantive change process for the institution. OAA guides these efforts in alignment with NC State’s expectations for continuous improvement and excellence as well as with the compliance standards of specialized accreditors and our institutional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Taking the Lead

Fashaad Crawford serves as NC State’s vice provost for accreditation and assessment, directing the Office of Assessment and Accreditation, and serving as the university’s liaison to SACSCOC. In this role, he works to ensure that NC State complies with SACSCOC rules, regulations and policies. All correspondence to and from SACSCOC is routed through OAA and the Chancellor’s Office. 

SACSCOC accredits an institution as a whole and requires member institutions to undergo a review for reaffirmation of accreditation every ten years. Currently, Crawford is working to prepare NC State for the upcoming SACSCOC Reaffirmation of Accreditation process, which will take place during the 2023-24 academic year. 

In addition to the focus on quality assurance, accountability and student achievement, this process allows for university researchers to apply for federally-funded research grants and for students to have access to federal financial aid if they work at or attend institutions accredited by accreditors such as SACSCOC that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education,” said Crawford. “It also signals to prospective employers that an educational program or institution has met widely-accepted standards.” 

The Importance of Assessment and Accreditation

SACSCOC’s reaffirmation process has a key focus on educational quality. One way the commission evaluates this is by requiring member institutions to undergo a rigorous self-assessment that is then examined by two separate external peer review teams. The reaffirmation entails a review of student learning outcomes for each academic program at the university. 

Throughout the process, student achievement goals and outcomes are evaluated. In addition, during the review, SACSCOC requires the university to determine if each instructor teaching a for-credit course at the university, along with senior administration, and senior academic and student support staff are credentialed and qualified for their roles. Moreover, it is a comprehensive self-assessment and peer review. Complying with the requirements and standards provides quality assurance and fosters educational excellence.

How Reaffirmation Works

For the reaffirmation, the university must submit a compliance certification (self-study) demonstrating compliance with SACSCOC core requirements and standards of accreditation. The university also has to prepare a separate report detailing how each off-campus instructional site is in compliance. 

Additionally, the university must submit a report  outlining the implementation of its newly selected Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), along with associated resources and assessment plan. A QEP is a university-wide initiative that spans about five years that aims to significantly enhance student learning or student success. 

The self-study document and off-campus instructional report are reviewed by an external peer reviewer committee. After this initial review, the committee’s initial findings are forwarded to a different external peer review team. This team will conduct a 2-3 day visit to NC State and its off-campus instructional sites. The SACSCOC on-site team will visit campus to evaluate the QEP, answer any questions from the off-site review, and meet with various groups of students, faculty, administration and staff to determine if the institution is in compliance. 

What’s Ahead

The reaffirmation of accreditation requires NC State to conduct a comprehensive self-assessment of the university. The review extends beyond the main campus to include all its operations such as off-campus instructional sites and digital learning. 

Of course, Crawford and his OAA team have already started to prepare the university for the upcoming process, with efforts picking up as NC State nears the self-study period in fall 2023. In fall 2021, a steering committee for reaffirmation, composed of administration, faculty, staff and students was established, and is taking the lead in all planning and preparations for the reaffirmation process. 

Additionally, in late fall 2021, a subgroup of the steering committee helped create a process to initiate pre-proposal topics for a new QEP. Recently, a proposal review council was created to review the QEP pre-proposals. 

“The steering committee is currently working on drafting narratives and supporting evidence for each of the requirements and standards,” said Crawford. “Many folks from around the university, whether on the steering committee or not, will aid in the development of the self-study and interviews with the external review team that visits campus. The reaffirmation really is a comprehensive, team effort.” 

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