UT Health San Antonio will soon welcome institutional accreditors to the campus as part of the final steps in a lengthy process to earn the institution’s reaffirmation of accreditation by its regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Every decade, all public colleges and universities, and the vast majority of private institutions, are required to submit a series of reports demonstrating that the institution as a whole meets acceptable levels of educational quality to their regional accreditor, as specified by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). While many discipline-specific organizations grant accreditation to educational programs and degrees, regional accreditation speaks to the quality of the entire institution, its operations, and its success toward accomplishing its mission.
Regional accreditation is the self-regulation process higher education institutions utilize to demonstrate accountability to students, state and federal legislators, and, for public institutions, to the taxpayers. Established in the late-19th and early -20th centuries, regional accreditation was founded as a means to facilitate the articulation of courses and learning experiences of students between secondary schools and the colleges the students would matriculate into next.
SACSCOC was founded as an agency in 1895. The evolution of the regional accreditation structure is a result of transportation considerations for scheduling site visits when the railroad was the fastest mode of transportation. Despite the tremendous changes in transportation, technology and other advances, more than 100 years after its inception, regional accreditation continues to maintain its status as the most prestigious accreditation designation in the United States.
Regional accreditation is a voluntary peer-review process that post-secondary schools, colleges and universities choose to pursue to earn the designation. Earning regional accreditation demonstrates to other institutions that credits and degrees awarded at other institutions meet acceptable educational standards, thus facilitating the transfer of course credits. Colleges and universities can trust that courses transferred to them by other regionally accredited institutions were delivered with rigor and quality. Originating as a process that involved structured site visits to neighboring institutions, site visit reviews by colleagues from peer institutions remains a central part of the accreditation process.
UT Health San Antonio will host its fifth reaffirmation site visit after earning initial accreditation at the end of this month. The site visit review by a SACSCOC On-site Reaffirmation Committee is the final step required for the university to have its regional accreditation status reaffirmed. A team of eight peer reviewers will visit campus from March 27 through March 29. The primary purpose of the SACSCOC Reaffirmation Committee is to evaluate the quality of the university’s educational programs, ensure that its operations are appropriately structured, that there are adequate resources to carry out the mission, and that it is financially sound.
A key requirement of the reaffirmation process is the development of a comprehensive plan at the institutional level, called the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The plan must focus on a particular area of institutional need that impacts student learning or the learning environment. UT Health San Antonio has developed a QEP for the reaffirmation visit, Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration (LINC), which will engage the campus over the next five years in multiple activities and initiatives that promote the interprofessional delivery of patient care.
Over the course of this month, a succession of information specific to the QEP and UT Health’s regional accreditation visit will be broadcast and publicized widely. Details about the QEP and students’ and faculty’s engagement in it will be presented to the campus community in an effort to help students, faculty, and staff learn more about the QEP’s LINC initiative.
QEP town halls have been scheduled for March 15 and March 23, noon to 1 p.m., in Pestana Lecture Hall.
All required reports submitted to SACSCOC as part of the reaffirmation process demonstrate compliance with over 90 accreditation standards. To access these reports and the QEP are available for review by the campus community at https://sacs.uthscsa.edu/ .
Read President Henrich’s message about UT Health San Antonio’s reaccreditation process.