Campus SACS, QEP forum set for February in advance of April review team visit

WCU will discuss its reaccreditation bid with the Southern Association Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges during an open Forum Feb. 9.

WCU will discuss its reaccreditation bid with the Southern Association Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges during an open Forum Feb. 9.

The finish line is in sight for Western Carolina University’s nearly three-year process to reaffirm its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, with an open forum set for February in advance of an official campus visit from a team of external reviewers in April.

The forum will be held from 2:30 until 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center. During the session, Arthur Salido, director of WCU’s SACSCOC accreditation reaffirmation effort, and Carmen Huffman, chair of the committee implementing the topic for the university’s proposed Quality Enhancement Plan, will share updated information about the ongoing reaccreditation bid.

“It has been an exciting but involved process to assess how well WCU is meeting the standards that SACSCOC has in place to ensure that our university is providing a high-quality education to our students and is meeting federal laws and mandates regarding higher education,” Salido said.

“Through this comprehensive review, we are able to evaluate and reaffirm the things that we are already doing well and to focus on areas where we may need to improve, all toward the ultimate goal of making a WCU education and the student experience the very best they can be,” he said.

Over the past two years, WCU has completed a compliance certification report documenting how WCU meets core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements. That report was reviewed last November by an off-site team, which requested additional findings and information from about 16 areas of the university.

At the Feb. 9 forum, Salido will share progress toward addressing issues raised by the off-site reviewers. In addition, he and Huffman will give an update on progress on the university’s QEP proposal, titled DegreePlus.

degreeplus-markDesigned as a holistic approach involving all aspects of the campus community, not only faculty and students, DegreePlus is intended to enhance student success by complementing course-based learning with an improved framework to support student participation in extracurricular activities.

It is a collaborative process that spans the whole university but puts students in charge of their learning, Huffman said. After the DegreePlus experience, students will emerge from WCU with a valuable set of skills that are documented and organized on an experiential transcript, she said. DegreePlus will be implemented on a pilot scale next fall.

DegreePlus was selected as WCU’s QEP topic from more than 50 proposals submitted for consideration by the QEP committee, which narrowed the field to eight finalists. Students, faculty, staff and alumni voted in September 2015 to pick the winning proposal.

The Feb. 9 forum also will provide valuable information about the onsite visit that is occurring in early April, Salido said. The external review team is scheduled to arrive for its on-site visit late in the dayApril 3, with meetings April 4-6. Final review of WCU’s reaffirmation process, including its compliance report and QEP, is set for December at the SACS-COC annual meeting in Dallas.

In addition to ensuring that WCU students are experiencing high-quality academic programs, successful reaffirmation of accreditation determines the university’s eligibility to receive federal and state funding, including student financial aid, and its ability to transfer academic credits with other institutions.

WCU has been continuously accredited by SACSCOC, the university’s institutional accrediting body, since 1946 and last reaffirmed accreditation for a 10-year period in 2007.

As the major accrediting body for public and private institutions of higher education in the 11 southernmost states, SACSCOC accredits more than 780 universities and colleges in North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia and in Latin America.

For more information, visit the website degreeplus.wcu.edu.