Handbook to Guide Educational Institutions Through the Accreditation Process: The Abcs of Accreditation

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With this book, Drs. Coffey and Millsaps fill the need for a practical yet scholarly guide to the entire process of accreditation for any institution about to undertake this endeavor. Topics are arranged in the order that an institution will most likely need this information as it begins the accreditation process. Beginning with a basic definition of accreditation, the book expands that to include different types, traces the beginnings of accreditation, and updates this subject with future challenges.

This book avoids addressing region-specific, mutable criteria, leaving such matters to publications from the various regional accrediting bodies. Instead, it includes best practices from many institutional studies and/or sources which allow readers to choose the ones most useful for their own institutions. Initial chapters deal with giving tips for the self-study director, choosing a committee structure to support the self-study, and selling the entire campus on the process, most notably by gaining the president's involvement early. From there, the book discusses very practical matters of drafting and editing the report, ways of distributing it for campus feedback, and methods of organizing the resource room. Chapters 6 and 7 give practical information about what an institution can do to insure a smooth, productive, and harmonious site visit by the visiting team. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with what occurs after the site visit, both regionally with the visiting team's report to the regional accrediting body and locally as the institution responds to any suggestions or recommendations. Finally, the last chapter invites readers to assess their entire self-study process to determine what worked well and what did not for future reference. It also reminds readers of the important benefits of undergoing such a study. And all of these topics include citations and examples from the literature of accreditation to substantiate the points made.

This is a book for any administrative, faculty, or staff member of an institution who wants to learn how to conduct a successful self-study from its inception to the final response to the regional or specialized accrediting body. The book’s design provides ready accessibility to the best information on this topic.


"Dr. Ellen M. Millsaps and Dr. Kitty R. Coffey have come to the rescue of those who chair and serve on accreditation preparation committees. Their book provides a detailed account of each step of the process for regional accreditation. With supporting literature to guide the practical steps in the accreditation process, their book is a fully developed guide for project completion with an extensive list of references and resources attached.

Everything you need to know about higher education accreditation can be found in this book. In an era of accountability in higher education, efforts to assure quality delivery systems are essential. With increased costs of higher education, students, parents and legislatures seek assurance that colleges and universities are fulfilling their obligation to provide the best education possible for their constituents. This book is a welcome resource. It would be a valuable addition to the library of higher education administrators, college department heads and deans, and also faculty chosen to serve on accreditation committees." -James J. Van Patten, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Education Leadership University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Adjunct Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton (From the Commendatory Preface)

This book fills a real need for a guide to help accomplish a self study leading to accreditation. The realistic approach taken is right on target for successful accomplishment of the tasks. The helpful tips included are good ones whether you are writing a self study for regional accreditation or for a specialized accreditation. Joyce Crouse, Ph.D., CFCS, Director of Accreditation – American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences

Thanks to Drs. Coffey and Millsaps for taking the time to write this much needed publication! As a long-time supporter of accreditation and chair and/or team member on many site visits for SACS, I believe in the process and feel that any institution that does not learn from the process is missing a wonderful opportunity for self-improvement. T. Clark Bryan, Ed.D. - Past President Truett-McConnell College Cleveland, GA

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Accreditation Begins with an A and Is Here to Stay
What Is Accreditation?
Purpose of Accreditation
Types of Accreditation
The Process of Accreditation
Scope and Types of Self-Studies
When Did Accreditation Begin?
National "Umbrella" Accrediting Bodies
Disbanding of the Council on Postsecondary
Accreditation (COPA)
Why Have Accreditation?
What Next? Current Challenges, Changes,
Educational Effectiveness
Accreditation Reform

Chapter 2 Building an Organizational Structure That Works
The Self-Study Director
Personal Vision Personal Leadership Setting Goals Personal Management Selecting Your Committee Structure Developing Your Timetable Balancing Your Budget

Chapter 3 Creating a Climate of Acceptance: Selling the College Community on the Accreditation Process
How the President Can Help Create Acceptance
Presenting the Process as an Opportunity
Stressing the Importance of Wide
Choosing Good Leadership
Beginning the Process
How High-Level Administrators Can Help Create
Moderating Work Loads
Rewarding Participation
Other Strategies for Creating a Positive Climate
Using Time-Saving Measures
Having a Knowledgeable Guest Speaker
Publicizing the Process

Chapter 4 Drafting, Editing, Formatting (not necessarily
in that order)
Deciding on the Editorial Process
Editing by a Committee
Editing by the Self-Study Director
Editing by a Selected Individual
Early Editing Decisions
Establishing a Format for the
Final Report
Procedures to Make Editing Easier
Drafting the Report: Procedure for
Unit Reports
Dealing with Negative or
Controversial Information
Writing the Committee Report
Strategies for Committee
Procedure for Campus Review
Circulating the Drafts to
the Campus
Responding to Drafts
Final Considerations for the Final Draft

Chapter 5 All the Way to R: Resource Room
Physical Facilities and Amenities
Organization of Documents

Chapter 6 S Stands for the Site Visit
Planning with the Team Chair
Preparing the Campus Community
for the Site Visit
Keeping with Protocol
Hospitality Without Patronage
The Transportation Plan

Chapter 7 S Also Stands for Scheduling for the Site Visit
Scheduling Means Flexibility
Relax: Enjoy the Site Visit Really!

Chapter 8 Back to A: After the Site Visit
The Report of the Visiting Team
The Response to the Report
The Decision of the Review Committee
The Continuous Accreditation Process:

Chapter 9 T Stands for 'Thank You'
How Do We Thank You?
Let Us Count the Ways

Chapter 10 Back to the R's: Retrospecting and Recapping
In Retrospect: What Would You Do
Differently Next Time?
To Recap: The Benefits of the Process
Micro Matters
Macro Matters
Impetus for Change
Community and Leadership