The Compliance Audit
The Compliance Audit, together with the development of the Quality Enhancement Plan, are the major College activities supporting Thomas Nelson Community College’s SACSCOC 2016 Reaffirmation of Accreditation. The Compliance Audit process will result in the Thomas Nelson SACSCOC Compliance Certification document that will be submitted to SACSCOC reviewers in spring 2015.
The Compliance Certification measures the College’s past and present compliance with SACSCOC’ Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement.
The Compliance Certification, submitted approximately fifteen months in advance of an institution’s scheduled reaffirmation, is a document completed by the institution that demonstrates its judgment of the extent of its compliance with each of the Core Requirements, Comprehensive Standards, and Federal Requirements. Signatures by the institution’s chief executive officer and accreditation liaison are required to certify compliance. By signing the document, the individuals certify that the process of institutional self- assessment has been thorough, honest, and forthright, and that the information contained in the document is truthful, accurate, and complete (Principles, p. 7).
The standards and requirements making up the Principles of Accreditation focus largely on the quality and effectiveness of the College’s academic programs, the faculty, and educational support activities; however institutional financial stability and other administrative support areas are included.
Specifically, main areas of review include:
- Principle of Integrity
- Integrity, essential to the purpose of higher education, functions as the basic contract defining the relationship between the Commission and each of its member and candidate institutions. It is a relationship in which all parties agree to deal honestly and openly with their constituencies and with one another… The Commission on Colleges expects integrity to govern the operation of institutions and for institutions to make reasonable and responsible decisions consistent with the spirit of integrity in all matters (Principles, p. 13).
- Mission and Institutional Effectiveness
- The College’s Mission should drive all of its activities. The College’s Institutional Effectiveness (IE) process assesses the accomplishment of this mission and leads to improvements in effectively realizing the mission at all levels of the College on a continuing basis. Linking an ongoing planning process to resource allocation, measuring student learning outcomes, and demonstrating the success of and improvements in educational and administrative support programs are essential to an IE process. IE activities should permeate all areas covered by these SACSCOC standards and requirements.
- Governance and Administration
- These standards emphasize oversight and control of the College, including the responsibilities of the Board, the President, and the administration. Further, they focus on Board appointment, effectiveness, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest and inappropriate external influences. College response to these standards demonstrates how the control of athletics, external foundations, and fundraising serve to meet the College’s mission.
- Academic Programs
- Direct faculty oversight of academic programs and the curriculum is of paramount importance. Comprehensive academic policies (e.g., admissions, awarding credit, transfer) should meet accepted educational practice and their effective dissemination to students, faculty, staff and the public is critical. These standards require demonstration of effective academic support services and the use of technology to enhance student learning.
- Faculty members are the core of the institution and the primary means of accomplishing the mission of the College. They should have an important and ongoing role in institutional governance. Appropriate faculty qualifications ensure quality in educational programs, research and service. The College must protect academic freedom, provide faculty development, and regularly evaluate the performance of faculty.
- Library and Other Learning Resources
- Students and faculty must have access to adequate library resources to support their academic programs and research. Libraries should have qualified staff members that provide adequate instruction in making the most effective use of all resources to meet these ends.
- Student Affairs and Services
- Student support services promote student learning and enhance the development of students. A clear and appropriate statement of student rights and responsibilities must be disseminated to the entire campus community, and student records must be kept secure. The College employs qualified student affairs personnel to ensure the effectiveness of its programs.
- Financial Resources
- The College must demonstrate a sound financial base and stability to ensure adequate accomplishment of its mission. Adequate financial controls must be in place, and audits of all finances and financial aid must be conducted. Oversight of research funds must demonstrate adequate control, and annual financial reports must be submitted to SACSCOC.
- Physical Resources
- The College must demonstrate that it has adequate physical resources to support the mission of the institution and that it has sufficient control over those physical resources. The College must make reasonable steps to provide a safe, healthy and secure campus environment.
- SACSCOC Policies and Representation of status with Commission
- Federal Requirements
- Federal government standards require the College to document student achievement, the relationship between mission and the curriculum, publication of policies, the appropriate nature of program length, adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints, the accuracy of recruitment materials.
- Distance Learning
- All standards and requirements apply to academic programs delivered face-to-face and via distance delivery and to the students enrolled in them. SACSCOC’ expectation is that academic programs delivered at a distance result in the same student learning as those delivered face-to-face. Faculty qualifications are expected to be equivalent as are library and educational/student support services.