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Accreditation: What is it and what is NACIQI?

Education, like the rest of society, is changing rapidly, and as a result, accreditation is under the microscope. Looking through the microscope and reporting to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is the job of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). I have the honor of sitting on this committee. But before I get into the nitty-gritty of the goings-on at NACIQI, let me describe the nuts and bolts of accreditation.

The Nuts
Institutions can apply for holistic accreditation from regional or national accreditors. Specific programs of study (such as nursing, counseling and business) can and frequently do apply for programmatic accreditation from professional groups whose focus is specific to their areas.

In the case of University of Phoenix, we are regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the University is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

Several of our degree programs hold programmatic accreditation.

The Bolts
Accreditation is a process of continuous reflection, analysis and improvement. The goals of accreditation are to ensure quality and to make sure the college or university is true to its stated mission. It is a seal of approval.

And the Nitty-Gritty
Putting accreditation under the microscope reveals some flaws, but like many others, I am convinced none of them are fatal. Change is inevitable and as technology, institutions and education evolve so must the accreditors.

At a recent NACIQI meeting, some frustrations with the accreditation system were voiced from a number of sectors.

A major issue raised is whether accreditation is a pass/fail system that rarely, if ever, fails anyone. While it is true that schools do not often lose their accreditation from regional accreditors, the question must be asked if that’s because the accreditors refuse to “flunk” schools, or if in many cases it’s because the accreditation process is working.

The regional accreditation system requires regular progress reports, focused in-person visits, annual reports and regularly scheduled reviews in the form of a self-study and institutional visit. Receiving negative feedback or being put on warning from the accreditor leads the institution to an immediate review and implementation of corrective action to resolve the issue(s). Regional accreditation is that important.

I look forward to future meetings and I welcome your comments, concerns and possibly questions that you might like to see the NACIQI Committee address in upcoming meetings.

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