SNHU is working on the self-study for its regional accrediting body, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, as part of its accreditation cycle. What does this mean for you? A breakdown:
What is NEASC and regional accreditation?
Accreditation is fundamentally a review that confirms the quality of an institution. U.S. regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation, and both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognize the NEASC as the regional accrediting agency for the Northeast. The NEASC accredits schools from kindergarten through the doctoral level.
“To be eligible for federal financial aid, an institution has to go through a rigorous accreditation process. The Department of Education relies on accrediting agencies to ensure academic institutions’ legitimacy and the quality of academic programs,” says Dr. Gregory Fowler, chief academic officer for the College of Online and Continuing Education.
Typically, full NEASC reviews occur every 10 years, with interval reviews every five years.
These provide institutions the opportunity for reflection and ongoing improvement.
Accreditors examine university structures, programs, courses, faculty, staff, processes and every claim a school makes about the work it does, the resources it has and the student services it offers. It protects students by making sure institutions are being truthful and their offerings are of high quality. Schools voluntarily opt to go through the process, and not all colleges and universities are regionally accredited.
“NEASC provides an assessment or checkup regarding the health of an organization,” says COCE Accreditation Director Jim Dehner. “One of the greatest achievements in life is receiving a diploma, and accreditation provides assurance of the quality of the degree conferred.”
How does regional accreditation benefit students?
Regional accreditation is the ultimate seal of approval. It reassures students, employers and others that the institution is transparent and offers a quality education, making it eligible for its students to receive federal financial aid. It serves as proof that the university operates legally, ethically, with best management practices and a focus on academic quality.
Regional accreditation also benefits transfer students, in that regionally accredited schools share established standards around transfer credits that enable students to more easily move from one accredited institution to another, without having to take all of their courses again at the new institution. Many schools will not accept transfer credits from institutions that are not regionally accredited.
NEASC evaluators will review the self-study to prepare for their site visit, scheduled for fall 2017. While here they will interview staff, faculty and students. Once the visit is completed, they will review their data and determine any action items for the university as part of the accreditation cycle.