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Higher Education Accreditation and Student Outcomes Consulting

Higher Education Accreditation - Post Secondary Accreditation

Higher Education Accreditation – Post Secondary Accreditation

Our History & Expertise

NCHEMS’ work in accreditation consulting started in the 1980’s and since that time, our staff have had deep engagement with the following accreditation organizations:

Some of our most important historical work in accreditation consulting has been providing expertise for the development of a new accreditation process for the 2000 WASC Senior Handbook of Accreditation, re-writing standards for SACS and others, and staffing the study group that eventually led to the creation of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). NCHEMS was at the forefront of adding the assessment of student learning outcomes as a lever in the accreditation process across higher education. We also gained international experience through our work in quality assurance in the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, and Chile.

Our Work Today

Today whenever NCHEMS works with a state, we prioritize the collection of data and information on the outcomes related to students’ success in higher education and beyond. This becomes the basis for policymakers to assess their progress toward their own goals. The student outcome information is perhaps the clearest and most germane expression of quality in higher education.

NCHEMS also works directly with accreditation with a focus on student success and serving students better. We accomplish this in two fundamental ways. First, we work with intuitions and systems to help them understand how decisions they make will impact accreditation.

Examples of this work include:

Calbright College

Calbright College, a 100% online institution established in 2018, sought our guidance to meet the legislature’s requirement that the new college seek accreditation and be accredited. Because of our deep knowledge of the accrediting community, we were able to provide a comprehensive look at all of the options for this new college. They are currently pursuing accreditation from Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and eventually with the ACCJC.

Connecticut State Community College (CSCC)

The Connecticut State Community College (CSCC) was formed in 2017 by the Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR), the governing body for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU)CSCC resulted from the merger of the 12 community colleges under its purview into a single institution. In 2018, NCHEMS was asked to help the CSCU with its journey through the accreditation process with the NECHECSCC was granted its request by NECHE in March 2022.

Secondly, NCHEMS works to assist the accrediting community as its agencies navigate through the changing relationships of students to their institutions and public institutions and their systems.

Examples of this work include:

State Higher Education Structures and Institutional Accreditation Paper

The research paper State Higher Education Structures and Institutional Accreditation: Background Information for Consideration of Alternatives for the Future, written by Senior NCHEMS Fellow Aims McGuinness, is the most comprehensive review of university and college systems across the country. It serves as a guide for the accrediting community and policymakers.

A Framework for Action
  • In 2019 NCHEMS partnered with the CHEA, in the development of a framework for better communication between state systems and the accrediting community. This has been widely distributed throughout the accreditation community.

In addition, we work with accrediting agencies to look ahead and position themselves to best meet current and future challenges such as shifting demographics, student performance, equity goals, and accommodating new environments for postsecondary education:

  • In 2019, NCHEMS undertook a partnership with the National Center for State Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) to conduct a study to evaluate how all of the institutional accreditors were applying the 2011 guidelines for distance education. The study revealed very little commonality in practices among the accreditors even though NC-SARA’s By-Laws required compliance from member institutions, usually documented through accreditation.
  • In 2020, NCHEMS again partnered with NC-SARA to develop the 21st Century Distance Education Guidelines. These Guidelines were the result of intensive interviews with practitioners, researchers, and accreditors. They were not just revisions of previous Guidelines, but took a fresh look at what technology enables now with a look toward the future. At the core of the 21st Century Distance Education Guidelines is a focus on supporting student success regardless of the medium or configuration of services.

Because of our extensive expertise and credibility within the accrediting community and with institutions and systems, we can speak “both languages,” and the expertise in one helps inform the expertise and decision-making in the other, with student success as the primary focus of all of the work.

Higher Education Accreditation: Looking Ahead

Our deep knowledge and long history of engagement in the area of accreditation consulting enables us to look ahead at the issues that will be coming into play and how the field of higher education might best meet these new issues and challenges. For example, we are urging quality assurance agencies to think more critically about the interrelationship of public institutions and their funding sources, and we are encouraging a much greater emphasis on outcomes for students versus simple institutional analysis.

We also push institutions to consider collaborations to enable them to fully support students’ success sustainably. Given the new types of students coming into higher education, coupled with the diminishing willingness for states and students to pay more for services, institutions must work together to share resources. Many institutional challenges cannot be met by continuing to operate in isolation. This means accreditors must examine their own standards to assure they are not acting as agents to perpetuate non-sustainable practices.

Visit our Projects page to learn more about our extensive work and impact in accreditation consulting.

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