Accreditation seeks to ensure constituents and the public that the quality and integrity of higher educational institutions meet acceptable levels of quality. These outcomes are achieved through rigorous internal and external peer review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards.When accreditation is awarded to an institution of higher education by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), it means that the institution has (1) a mission appropriate to higher education, (2) resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain its mission, (3) clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that it is (4) successful in assessing its achievement of these objectives and demonstrating improvements. Accreditation by SACSCOC is a statement of the institution’s continuing commitment to quality and integrity as well as its capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed-upon accreditation standards.
Accredited status with an institutional accreditor recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) enables institutions to seek access to federal financial aid funds for students.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices primarily among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications for membership from domestic institutions in the other 39 states, as well as international institutions of higher education around the world.
In July 2020, the US Department of Education (USDE) redefined the various entities that it recognizes. Institutional accrediting bodies conduct comprehensive reviews of institutions of higher education. The accreditation granted encompasses the entire institution including reported branch campuses, other instructional sites, online programs, and distance learning modalities. Such accrediting bodies typically accredit a wide range of institutions offering associate, baccalaureate, masters and/or doctoral degrees.
There are numerous accrediting associations in the United States, recognized by the USDE.
(For a list of accrediting agencies, please click here.)
Regional accreditors have served a “gate-keeper” function for access to Title IV funds. Historically, the scope of recognition for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and some institutions in Latin America and other international sites . Since our institutions often have branch campuses outside of these 11 states, USDE has decided to refer to SACSCOC as an institutional accreditor now instead of a “regional” accreditor. Each accrediting agency’s governing board must decide whether or not it will accept applications from institutions outside of its traditional region. SACSCOC accepts applications from international institutions that can meet its accreditation standards.
National accrediting bodies conduct comprehensive reviews of institutions and operate primarily throughout the United States. USDE has decided to refer to these bodies as an institutional accreditor now instead of a “national” accreditors. The accreditation applies to the entire institution. Most of the accredited institutions are private and have missions focused either on career education or religious education.
Specialized or programmatic accrediting bodies conduct focused reviews of a single educational program and operate primarily throughout the United States, although a few operate internationally. Many are recognized by the USDE to conduct accreditation activities.
Any specialized accreditor is required to submit its sanctions of member institutions to the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC personnel review the sanctions to determine if the institution violated SACSCOC standards of accreditation. If the sanctions from specialized accreditors relate to SACSCOC standards, SACSCOC staff will contact the member institution. The institution may need to submit a response about the sanction by the specialized accreditor and may be sanctioned by SACSCOC also.
Reaffirmation is every ten years with an interim report at the fifth year. Wake Forest’s next decennial is 2026.
The decennial reaffirmation of accreditation is the largest, comprehensive review of an institution. There are 79 standards in the decennial report. During the decennial reaffirmation report process, Wake Forest submits a Compliance Certification report in September that is reviewed by an off-site committee (institutions have no input on the members of the off-site committee) later in the fall.
The Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee’s charge is to review the Compliance Certification. Each Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee is typically responsible for a cluster of three institutions, grouped as much as possible by similarity in level (highest degree offered) and type of control (public/private). The Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee’s role is to make a preliminary determination of compliance for each of the standards addressed in the Compliance Certification.
Following the off-site review, Wake Forest learns the outcome and any necessary follow-up to items deemed non-compliant. Any follow-up is completed prior to an on-site visit which happens the next spring (usually March).
The On-Site Reaffirmation Committee’s responsibilities are more varied than the singular duty of reviewing the Compliance Certification and the Preliminary Report completed by the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee. Like the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee is expected to examine and evaluate, as appropriate, the institution’s mission, policies, procedures, programs, resources, services, and other activities as they support compliance with these remaining standards. The On-Site Reaffirmation Committee also reviews specific standards as referenced in federal regulation and associated with USDE recognition of accreditors. In addition, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee is charged with review of Standard 7.2 (Quality Enhancement Plan). Where applicable, this Committee performs two additional tasks: (1) visiting all branch campuses, visiting a sample of off-campus sites approved to offer fifty percent or more of a program, and reviewing distance education; and (2) reviewing issues stemming from ThirdParty comments. Finally, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee will review the Principle of Integrity (Core Requirement 1.1). Unlike the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee, the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee presents its findings to the institution verbally during an Exit Conference and in writing in the finalized Report of the Reaffirmation Committee.
Institutions also do not have input over members of the on-site committee’s membership although effort is made to choose folk from similar institutions. Preliminary results of the on-site visit are presented to the Leadership Committee prior to the on-site committee’s departure. During the subsequent June SACSCOC Board of Trustees meeting, reaffirmation is finalized and decisions are announced at the following December SACSCOC Annual Meeting. In January, following the Annual Meeting where results are announced, a letter is received documenting official results of the decennial process.
Please refer to the Handbook for Institutions Seeking Reaffirmation for more information.
- Wake Forest originally granted accreditation 01/01/1921
- Wake Forest approved to offer Distance Education: 02/20/2012
- Most recent Reaffirmation of Accreditation: 2016
- Next Reaffirmation of Accreditation: 2026
Institutions accredited by SACSCOC must demonstrate compliance with the standards for accreditation as contained in The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement and with the policies and procedures of the Commission. (For additional information about policies and procedures, please see either “Accrediting Standards“, or “Index of SACSCOC Documents” for a list of policies and procedures that are listed in alphabetical order by title.)
Institutions that do not demonstrate that they meet accreditation standards may be asked for monitoring reports, placed on the public sanctions of “Warning”, “Probation” or “Probation Good Cause,” or dropped from status as a candidate or an accredited institution. (For additional information, please see Sanctions, Denial of Reaffirmation, and Removal from Membership.)