What is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools?

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is a regional accreditation organization that is sanctioned by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The SACS is one of six nationally recognized accreditation bodies that are tasked with reviewing 13,000 academic institutions ranging from preschools to colleges.

Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation is the process through which colleges and other learning institutions gain validation by complying with the stringent standards set by the review board. It is an endorsement that the school's course offerings, teaching methods and educational standards are recognized by the Education Department.

Typically, an accredited college or university is one that has gained regional accreditation, which is considered the gold standard for academic endorsements. This means that credits earned are accepted as transfer credits to other institutions, ensuring that your time and tuition are not wasted if you choose to finish your course at a different, similarly-accredited college. Degrees earned at SACS-accredited schools are recognized by graduate and post-graduate institutions should you wish to pursue advance degrees in your field. Students at SACS-accredited schools are more likely to qualify for corporate tuition reimbursement, among other benefits.

Process of Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary process. The accrediting agencies define their own standards and processes, and educational institutions pursue an accreditation review to gain the endorsement. Accreditation is a form of self-regulation, but member institutions have a say in developing and amending SACS standards to ensure relevance and responsiveness to current issues.

Accreditation by SACS shows that the school has a defined mission consistent with higher education pursuits and that academic programs and student services are in place to meet these objectives. The SACS Commission on Colleges also considers the institution's success rate in terms of historical graduation and placement data.

For institutions seeking initial accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the process involves an internal review by constituents of the institution, an external review by peers outside of the institution and judgment by Commission members. Re-accreditation or reaffirmation by SACS entails a different process. Ahead of the scheduled review, the school seeking to renew its SACS accreditation will have to turn in a Compliance Certification and a Quality of Enhancement Plan. These documents are prepared by the institution, signed by lead executives and turned in to the SACS commission months in advance.

The off-site review component of the accreditation process involves reviewing the documents mentioned above. The review is conducted by a panel of evaluators meeting in SACS headquarters in Atlanta. The on-site review is an on-campus evaluation designed to ensure compliance with SACS standards.

SACS Statistics

SACS is the recognized accrediting body for schools in the southern states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Tennessee. As of the latest data, there are 799 SACS-accredited institutions with 481 being public colleges, 304 are private non-profit institutions while 14 are for-profit private colleges.

Endorsement by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools indicates compliance with the accrediting body's rigorous requirements for membership. With academic credentials from an accredited institution, you are assured that the education and services you will receive as a student meets or exceeds standards. The SACS accreditation signifies quality programs, services and student support. Expect the education you will receive from your SACS-endorsed university to be worth the time, effort and resources that you put into it.

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