An accreditation maze?
I love them. I am a little sick but I think it’s kinda funny to watch the anxiety rise in others before the evaluation team shows up. To me if you are doing what you should be doing you don’t have anything to worry about. I will be honest too though, I get nervous when they stop by my office and ask questions, especially this time. Why? Well with all the changes via the Department of Education on program integrity, gainful employment and the definition of a credit hour, etc. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Preparing for any visit though is nerve-racking for some and I thought maybe I would give an overview of what I do to prepare.
First, a disclaimer – my institution is a nationally accredited school by ACICS (Accrediting Counsel of Independent Colleges and Schools). Another large national accrediting agency is ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges) and we do have a few schools accredited by them too but my standards are ACICS. We also confer academic associates degree which is different from occupation associates degrees and standards are different depending on the degrees offered by the institution.
So first – read the standards! It seems obvious but I’m always amazed at the number of people who just take some ones word for what the standards state. Once you have an idea of what is important to focus on then all you need to do is prepare the proper documentation to prove you’re doing what you said you were doing. Here are three basic areas that I have always had evaluation teams ask about.
1. Budget – they want to know that you know what you are spending and what it’s going to. Do you have an allied health program? How much money was spent on resources for that program? This is easily answered with a basic collection development policy.
2. Library Instruction – they want to know how you tell the students about the library’s resources. Do you do orientations, workshops, in class instruction?
3. Collection Development – I tell my faculty every chance I can. I’m not a subject expert, you are. My job is to take the resources you think are important and make them as accessible as possible. The team is going to want to have proof that the faculty are taking (or at least given an opportunity) a large role in deciding on the type of resources needed for students.
4. An Extra Goody – this time around they asked about training. Yep, they wanted to know how I trained any library staff on library policies and they also wanted to know how I got trained which I thought was kind of funny because I wrote all our library’s policies. 🙂
What about you? Have you been through a visit and have something to share? What has your experience been with accreditation visits? As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share.