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WSCUC Adopts New 2022 Standards for Accreditation
November 17, 2022 - WSCUC
At its meeting on November 4, 2022, the WASC Senior College and University Commission unanimously adopted new Standards for Accreditation for member institutions. The Standards establish the foundational values and broad principles of good practice by which an institution achieves and maintains accreditation with WSCUC. The Standards also form the basis for institutional review. These four Standards, which are further defined and amplified by the Criteria for Review (CFRs), express a commitment to success for all students, ensure institutional quality, and promote institutional cultures of evidence and improvement.
The 2022 Standards are designed to preserve the basic values and structure of the current Standards while advancing quality, accountability, and improvement in service of equitable student learning, student success, and institutional effectiveness. Changes reflect a set of Principles identified early in the process:
- Students will be at the center of the Standards and of accreditation reviews, with emphasis in the Standards and CFRs on educational outcomes achieved in an environment promoting student personal well-being and success.
- Institutions will be expected to demonstrate evidence of actions and results for continuous improvement and public accountability.
- Equity and inclusion, as essential elements of high quality educational and institutional effectiveness, will be woven appropriately throughout the Standards and CFRs.
- Standards and CFRs will adhere to the WSCUC philosophy of establishing objectives, promoting flexibility in application, and allowing institutions to determine how to achieve them, consistent with their mission and focus (“What” not “How”).
- When considering changing, adding to, and/or revising Standards and CFRs, the desire of WSCUC institutions for continuity and consistency will be balanced with changes necessary to better reflect the current environment and values of higher education.
- WSCUC will continue to value and respect the diversity of viewpoints of WSCUC institutions through this process.
As the Commission noted when it published the draft Standards for comment, establishing the Standards “is one of the most serious and far-reaching responsibilities of an accrediting organization. To achieve a successful result requires careful review and thoughtful recommendations by institutional representatives and many other stakeholders.” The Commission is grateful to the hundreds of stakeholders who shared their thoughtful comments in meetings and in writing, and to the Commissioners and staff who guided and contributed to this significant project.
The Commission periodically reviews the Standards to ensure that they are appropriate, relevant, broadly applicable, and consistent with federal requirements, as outlined in the WSCUC Review of Commission Standards Policy. This review of the 2013 Standards began in 2019 with Commission consideration and discussions with WSCUC-accredited institutions, including specific sessions at multiple annual meetings and directly with presidents, accreditation liaison officers, and other leaders. The Standards and each CFR have been revised throughout the process based on input from member institutions’ governing boards, faculty, administrators, staff, and students, as well as peer reviewers, external research and policy organizations, Commissioners, and WSCUC staff.
Implementation and Handbook
The Standards and their associated reaffirmation processes will become mandatory for all institutional reviews taking place in fall 2024. The Commission is considering whether, by election of the institution and concurrence of the Commission, institutions could employ the Standards before fall 2024. The Commission will make this determination in spring 2023.
The Commission is committed to supporting institutions with resources and guidance to be able to readily assimilate these changes in their institutional planning, self-study, and report preparation. Adoption of the new Standards was the first step in the creation of a new Handbook of Accreditation. The Standards are the foundation for institutional evaluation, but they require context, elaboration, and updated process before they can be implemented. As a first step in that effort, the Commission endorsed the following activities:
- The creation of a Handbook with four sections:
- Institutional Reaffirmation Process (IRP), including the self-study and institutional report
- Forms of Commission action
- The creation of a “Companion Guide” for the Handbook to provide examples of the evidence and issues institutions should consider in conducting their self-study and writing their institutional reports (IRP). The Guide will elaborate on and further explain the intent of each Standard and its supporting Criteria for Review and address common questions that have arisen during the revision process.
- Consultation with member institutions in the development of the IRP.
- November 2022 – February 2023: work group of the Commission and staff will consult with the membership to develop drafts of the institutional reaffirmation process (IRP) and the Companion Guide
- February 2023 Commission meeting: Commission will comment on the direction and initial draft of the Handbook and Companion Guide
- March – April 2023: continue to refine the Handbook and Companion Guide
- ARC 2023: report to the membership at the annual meeting on the penultimate draft of the Handbook and Companion Guide
- April 2023 – June 2023: develop the final draft of the Handbook and Companion Guide
- June 2023 Commission meeting: approve the Handbook and endorse the Companion Guide
- Post June 2023 Commission meeting: provide training for institutions and future WSCUC review team members
Approval of the Handbook is scheduled for the June 2023 Commission meeting, following this calendar of events:
The Commission anticipates that some institutions may want to embrace the Standards and their associated processes earlier than the fall 2024 official date of implementation. For example, institutions seeking initial accreditation may want to begin the process using the new Standards which will be in effect if and when they are granted initial accreditation. During the coming months, again in consultation with member institutions, the Commission will develop a pathway to afford as much flexibility as possible to accommodate these opportunities.