Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges President Belle Wheelan gave a recap of her agency’s mission and offered tips for college boards as she addressed South Carolina State University’s trustees on Wednesday.
SACSCOC sets standards and accredits educational institutions in the Southeast and beyond.
Wheelan said the most important standard is integrity – if an institution lies or misleads, it can jeopardize their accreditation.
The next standard is the mission. Wheelan said SACSCOC is asking institutions to pay attention to student success more than student access.
In 2017, the agency instituted two new principles. One, boards need to regularly evaluate themselves. And two, institutions should require financial literacy for students, considering that the student default rate on loans has gotten high.
The process of reaffirming an institution’s accreditation takes two years.
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An institution must make sure non-compliance issues are cleared up, Wheelan said.
The agency’s committees make recommendations to the executive council before they go before the full board.
“It’s a peer-review process,” she said. “All I do is make sure the parts move.”
She also pointed out that an institution’s board makes policy, but it does not implement it – that’s the job of the administration and faculty.
The board has fiduciary responsibility for the institution.
It is important to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest. Also, the board should not be controlled by a minority of its members, and the CEO should not be a member of the board.
There should be a fair process for dismissing a board member, she said, and the board should protect itself from undue influence by outside entities. The board should also regularly evaluate and regulate responsibilities.
Issues that institutions should tend to include remedial education. Wheelan said that many institutions now build some remedial help into their first-year courses.
There is also the issue of transfer of credits, when one institution doesn’t accept another institution’s credits for the equivalent course. This is where articulation agreements are needed, Wheelan said.
Also, a good graduation rate can be used as a recruitment tool and to “sell” the institution, she said.
S.C. State Board Chairman Rodney Jenkins thanked Wheelan for her presentation.
“We want to make sure we are doing everything we’re supposed to do – dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” he said.
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