ACU accreditation reaffirmed with distinction

Posted December 08, 2011

Abilene Christian University's accreditation was reaffirmed Dec. 6, 2011, during the annual meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in Orlando, Fla.

ACU will not be required to undergo additional monitoring or provide follow-up reports between now and 2021, when the university will again enter the reaffirmation process. According to officials with SACSCOC, only a small number of institutions receive this distinction.

"This is an impressive achievement few schools attain; it puts us in a class of the highest quality schools that have gone through this process," said Dr. Nancy Shankle, chair of ACU's Reaffirmation Leadership Team. "It attests to our close attention to detail and our strong record of maintaining policies and procedures that assures our faculty strive for the highest standards of academic excellence."

As a standard component of the evaluation process, faculty are required to demonstrate competence through degrees, publications, awards and other achievements. Typically, 93 percent of institutions reviewed are asked to provide follow-up documentation on faculty credentials. Nationally, ACU is among only 7 percent not required to do so.

"It is a privilege to lead an institution of such high caliber, and what we've learned through this process reaffirms to me what I and many others already knew: we have a top-notch faculty and staff," said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert. "Every corner of our campus was closely examined by the review team. I am grateful to all those in our community who helped secure this honor."

Universities are accredited for a 10-year period. Abilene Christian was first accredited by SACSCOC in 1951. [After pursuing it for 20 years as the university's first academic dean, Dr. Walter H. Adams first secured accreditation on Dec. 6, 1951, according to his profile in The ACU Century book.]

Colleges must be accredited by one of the nation's six regional accrediting agencies to qualify for federal funding, including grant funding for research and for student financial aid. SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in 11 southern states.

The commission's mission is the enhancement of educational quality throughout the region. It works to improve the effectiveness of institutions by ensuring they meet standards established by the higher education community – standards addressing the needs of society and students.

Reaffirming accreditation is a formal review process that typically takes about 15 months. A comprehensive Compliance Certificate was submitted by ACU in September 2010. This certificate showed compliance to the 85 items in Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. Principles covers every aspect of a university including academics, student life, support services and library services, physical resources, financial resources, and university governance.

In February 2011, ACU submitted its Quality Enhancement Plan, Pursuit: A Journey of Research and Creative Expression. The plan charts a course for demonstrating how students will learn information literacy skills and engage in creation of information through research and creative endeavors in future years. The on-site peer review committee lauded on the ACU's work on Pursuit during its visit in April and did not require any follow-up work in August.

With direction from the provost and president, four faculty members served on the Reaffirmation Leadership Team, which was chaired by Shankle and included Dr. Tom Winter, Dr. Tom Milholland and Dr. Phyllis Bolin. Shankle, Winter and Milholland have extensive experience with accreditations at ACU, and Shankle has served on peer review committees for other colleges and universities in the region. Bolin is director of Pursuit.