Blogs » Hudson On Higher Learning » SACS accreditation is mark of excellence for UHV


“Accreditation” is a term you hear a lot in our business – as in “UHV is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the South.” Referred to as SACS, this organization is the same one that “accredits” University of Texas, Texas A&M and the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, just to name a few of the approximately 800 colleges and universities on its list of accredited higher education institutions.

At its core, accreditation is a mark of quality assurance – a body or organization other than ourselves gives the public the assurance that UHV fulfills its stated claim and promise of being a bona fide institution of higher learning. UHV grants degrees to individuals who successfully finish a course of study determined by a faculty qualified to come up with such a curriculum. WE say we are a “university,” and SACS agrees. This is the Good Housekeeping Seal, if you will, for higher education. Students and the public can feel reassured.

So, what IS SACS, and how did it get this job? Well, this is the interesting and unique bit – the answer is that SACS is US – that is ALL of us who work in the field of education in the states from Texas to Virginia. (There are five other “regional” accrediting bodies that cover the rest of the U.S.) I, for example, was once asked to be a part of a “team” that visited the College of Charleston to determine if it would be “reaffirmed” for accreditation at the end of its normal 10-year review cycle. Who else was on this team? A financial expert from another university in Texas, a student services dean from a university in Florida, a dean of admissions from Tennessee, a librarian from Virginia, an academic dean from North Carolina, etc. It was a big team with each member bringing the expertise needed to decide whether the college was performing in a way to warrant the “quality assurance” promise of SACS. Charleston passed with flying colors, by the way.

This “peer” review process, where WE collectively set, enforce and hold ourselves accountable for the standards we want to be associated with accredited higher education, is unique in the world and a great strength of our system. Elsewhere, much of this sort of assessment is done by an elaborate national bureaucracy. Our unusual peer process has helped us all improve and taught us much about “best practices” in other schools that can be adopted locally. And frankly, I’d rather my colleagues judge me than a scrivener from Washington.

But “accreditation” also has another meaning in terms of individual disciplines or majors. Many, but not all, of these have their own peer accrediting process used, again, as a mark of quality assurance. At UHV, for instance, our School of Business Administration received its INITIAL accreditation from AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business in the spring of 2005. This organization is the hallmark of excellence in management programs worldwide. The AACSB standards promote the quality of faculty, as well as the achievement of student learning objectives. Our AACSB accreditation assures our students and their potential employers that WE are among LESS than 5 percent of the world’s business schools that have achieved this elite distinction. Building on this strength, the school has gone on to receive TOP TEN rankings within this accredited list from Fortune Small Business Magazine, Princeton Review, and Get Other UHV disciplines where accreditation is available, such as nursing and education, are in the process of following the business school’s lead.

For an institution that is one of the least expensive in the state, this is all no mean feat, and the faculty and leaders in the School of Business Administration are to be heartily congratulated. UHV’s overall regional accreditation is something we cannot function without – if for no other reason than it is required for our students to receive federal financial aid. But our faculty in business and other areas CHOOSE to be judged against international standards by their peers – and they must meet tough and rigorous standards to achieve accreditation. The motivation is for all of our students to learn at the highest possible level, for their degrees to have exceptional value, and for everyone to know that while UHV is our local university, it is committed to meeting international standards.

“Accreditation” can be a bit arcane, confusing and difficult to achieve, but for our students and the public we serve, we embrace the assurances it represents.

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