• WSCUC Newsletter: July 2021

    July 15, 2021 - WSCUC

Table of Contents


President’s Letter: Leading with our values

June 25 was a big day for WSCUC. The Commission approved two major expressions of its deepest values and directions.

Strategic Goals and Objectives

​​​Equity and inclusion, evidence and improvement, and national and global reach are the centerpieces of WSCUC’s new Strategic Goals and Objectives. They represent the paths WSCUC will follow as it

“strives to advance quality and equitable student success across a range of higher education institutions and missions to foster inquiry, innovation, excellence, and sustainability.”
​​​​WSCUC does this through our dual responsibilities as an accreditor to promote both accountability and improvement.

The three enduring goals will be accomplished through a set of specific activities organized around the objectives of standards development, education, advocacy and communication, accreditation policy and process, governance, and organization fundamentals. We will invite institutions and volunteers to participate in those activities in many ways, from commenting on the content of the Standards and CFRs to helping design educational programs and building the pool of peer reviewers.

WSCUC Statement of Commitment to Equity & Inclusion

This strong new statement expresses WSCUC’s responsibilities and commitment and issues a call to action to higher education and accreditors. The statement, developed by the new WSCUC Equity and Inclusion Council, builds on WSCUC’s May 2020 George Floyd and Accreditation statement.

“Epic times require equally sweeping solutions for students and the environments in which they live and learn. Achieving desirable student outcomes and inclusive success will require unprecedented leadership, commitment, and effort from higher education institutions and the accreditation, federal, state, and philanthropic organizations that support them. Just as individual institutions must address equity in a comprehensive and courageous manner, so must their accrediting bodies support institutions striving to advance equity and inclusion. Together we need to assure institutional equity in learning outcomes and postgraduate success.”

Also on June 25, several institutions were approved for initial accreditation. While that is a common commission action, a few examples from this year’s group points up the variety of institutional missions and models within the WSCUC universe:

  • Istanbul Bilgi University, a comprehensive university in Turkey with 20,000 students, embraced WSCUC standards, developing effective assessment systems, powerful shared governance, and a strong commitment to freedom of expression and diversity of students, faculty, and leadership.
  • The Minerva Institute has developed an innovative model of liberal arts education that combines an interdisciplinary curriculum incorporating principles of cognitive science, an interactive learning platform, and a focus on global diversity of students, faculty, and locales to enrich the educational experience.
  • The California Institute for Human Science is a small, primarily graduate institution that focuses on the synthesis of Eastern and Western medicine, understanding the human mind, and studying mind-body-spirit interconnections through science.

WSCUC Establishes New Group to Study Outsourcing

Chair Phillip Doolittle appointed a Commission work group in March, chaired by Mary Marcy, President emerita of Dominican University of California, to examine the outsourcing/unaccredited entities agreements (contracts) arena as it applies to member institutions and identify types of arrangements that could affect institutional independence, financial sustainability, and student outcomes. The timeliness of this subject is reinforced by many recent news stories and reports. The work group of public and institutional commissioners will research the topic and develop recommendations to the Commission for WSCUC policy and process.

Commissioners: New and Retiring

WSCUC thanked four valued departing commissioners—

  • Greg Franklin, Superintendent, Tustin K-12 School District (ACS-WASC representative)
  • Fernando Leon-Garcia, President, CETYS University, Mexico
  • Kay Llovio, Associate Provost, William Jessup University
  • Tomoko Takahashi, Vice President and Graduate School Dean, Soka University of America

and welcomed six distinguished new ones—

  • Andrew Dorantes, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer, Harvey Mudd College
  • Odie Douglas, Assistant Superintendent, Pleasanton Unified School District (retired)(ACS-WASC representative)
  • Elizabeth Hillman, President, Mills College
  • Ellen Junn, President, Cal State University, Stanislaus
  • Thomas Parham, President, Cal State University, Dominguez Hills
  • Judy Sakaki, President, Sonoma State University

Like you we look forward to the new school year (or whatever your academic cycle is), and to the options available as we make progress with vaccinations and return as appropriate to campus. WSCUC looks forward to its continued partnership with the higher education community to support student learning and institutional effectiveness.


Jamie Studley


New Distance Education Requirements

Recent changes to regulatory requirements that guide accreditors will require a new process for evaluation and approval of an institution to offer programs through distance education. Institutions using distance education (see definition in Code of Federal Regulations §600.2) to deliver any part of a program will need Institutional Approval for Distance Education from WSCUC to do so. The approval is already in place for institutions that have secured distance education approval for one or more programs. Current Substantive Change requirements for distance education programs will continue in their current form in addition to the new Institutional Approval. A webinar on July 9th detailed the reasons for the change and the next steps that WSCUC will be taking. Further details will follow.


Review of the WSCUC Standards of Accreditation

As required by the U.S. Department of Education and in keeping with our policies, WSCUC is undertaking a periodic review of its governing Standards of Accreditation and Criteria for Review (CFRs). Because WSCUC institutions are diverse in terms of mission, character, and type, the Standards of Accreditation must be broad enough to honor that diversity, respect institutional mission, and support institutional autonomy. In order to become and remain accredited by WSCUC, institutions must demonstrate that they are in substantial compliance with the Standards and related CFRs. The Standards must also meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education which recognizes WSCUC as an accrediting agency.

WSCUC began the process of seeking comments on the current and future Standards in 2019, including sessions at ARC and CEO/Trustee Forums. Wide outreach and comment around Standards revision is consistent with WSCUC values of student focus, hearing diverse voices, reflection and continuous improvement, and openness to innovation and policy leadership, and is also required as part of WSCUC’s federal recognition.

We will be asking members of WSCUC institutions, as well as our Commissioners, staff, and external constituents, for further feedback and thoughts on proposed revisions to the Standards and CFRs as part of the process of review. We will be examining how to define and assess student success and how institutions can promote educational effectiveness through their governance, financial stability, personnel and facilities, learning quality, student services, and use of evidence. WSCUC is committed to weaving our commitment to equity and inclusion throughout the Standards. We are planning to hold forums regarding proposed revisions in 2022, including at the 2022 ARC. Please stay tuned as this process continues to unfold.


Commission Policy Changes and Opportunity to Comment

Policy Changes

Sharing Information with Other Agencies and Regard for their Decisions Policy

Following circulation to the membership for comment, this policy was approved by the Commission during its June 2021 meeting and is posted on the WSCUC website.

This policy was revised to incorporate new federal regulations, to clarify the information from other agencies that would lead the Commission to not grant candidacy or accreditation, to describe how the Commission takes into account the decisions of other agencies, to indicate that the policy also applies to investigations and actions of state and federal agencies and international equivalents, and to identify institutional responsibilities in disclosing negative or adverse actions of other accrediting agencies. This policy was distributed to the membership after the February 2021 meeting and no comments were received.

Public Disclosure of Accreditation Documents and Commission Actions Policy

Following circulation to the region for comment, this policy was approved by the Commission during its June 2021 Meeting and is posted on the WSCUC website.

As a result of new federal regulations and the opportunity to make additional changes, the policy was revised to reflect the new federal timeframe for notifications, to clarify the information provided to governmental agencies and the public about sanctions and adverse actions, and to describe what institutions post on their websites when the Commission imposes a sanction or takes an adverse action. This policy was distributed to the membership after the February 2021 meeting and no comments were received.

Request for Comments on Policies

​​WSCUC is seeking public comments on proposed changes to two policies and one form. Click the links below for more information about each policy and the form. Please send comments to policies@wscuc.org by October 1, 2021. Revised policies reflecting comments will be reviewed and considered for adoption by the Commission in November 2021.

Unannounced Visits Policy

The policy has been edited for clarity and indicates that visits can be unannounced or on short notice.

Staff contact: Barbara Gross Davis

Observers on Peer Review Teams Policy and Observers on Peer Review Teams Agreement Form.

Observers occasionally serve on peer review teams to learn more about the WSCUC accreditation process. This policy was renamed to reflect current WSCUC terminology and edited for clarity. In addition, protocols have been removed from the agreement form an added to the policy so that the agreement form focuses solely on confidentiality. The agreement form has also been broadened to include additional sources where observers might be privy to confidential information.

Staff contact: Barbara Gross Davis


Fall Onsite or Remote Visits

Planning for fall accreditation visits is underway with hopes that many will take place onsite. Flexibility will be key as pandemic conditions evolve and institutions determine if students will return for onsite instruction. Decisions regarding onsite or remote visits will be coordinated with institutions and teams by staff liaisons, taking into consideration campus conditions and visitor requirements as well as personal preferences.