What is SACS?
SACS is the acronym for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (founded in 1895), whose Commission on Colleges is the accrediting body for UT and its member institutions. Its full abbreviation is SACSCOC. SACS is one of six regional accrediting bodies in the US, covering eleven southern states and some international institutions. Approximately 80 institutions undergo review each year by SACSCOC.
SACSCOC's written philosophy is that the most effective institutional reviews are conducted by peers; that institutional integrity should be a given; that the enhancement of quality and the commitment to constant improvement are institutional responsibilities; and that student learning is paramount. See http://www.sacscoc.org/ for more information.
What does SACSCOC require in order to secure accreditation?
After being authorized to seek accreditation, a Compliance Certificate is required including narrative responses to 12 Core Requirements, 14 Comprehensive Standards, and 7 Federal Requirements, most of which are subdivided into several sections. In total, there are 84 requirements that must be addressed. Each section must include complete supporting documentation.
How often do we participate and why do we participate?
Once separately accredited, UTHSC will be required to complete a Compliance Certificate, including a review of all SACSCOC principles and standards, every ten years. Additionally, every five years the institution will be required to submit an Interim Report that will include a complete review of a subset of the SACSCOC principles and standards. Regional (i.e., SACS) accreditation is a requirement for discipline-specific accreditation as well as a requirement for students to receive federally funded grants or student financial aid.
Why is UTHSC separating from UT-Knoxville (UT-K) and what are the implications?
In examining the governance structure, resources available, annual budget, geographic location, and relative autonomy from UT-K, SACS leadership determined that UTHSC should be a separately accredited institution within the UT System. While UTHSC proceeds through the application and accreditation process, UT-K will be proceeding through the reaffirmation process (thus, addressing all of the same requirements and standards). Final action for UTHSC separate accreditation, and UT-K reaffirmation of accreditation, will occur during the SACSCOC Board of Trustees meeting in December, 2015. Once separately accredited, UTHSC will remain a member institution within the UT System. During this process, there will be a limited number of systems currently managed centrally in Knoxville that will be separated (e.g., state and federal reporting requirements).
How is SACS accreditation related to our college-specific professional accreditations and isn't having the various professional programs accredited sufficient?
First and foremost, regional accreditation (i.e., SACS) is a requirement of most discipline-specific professional accreditations. That is, without SACS accreditation most professional programs cannot be accredited. Second, unlike most discipline-specific professional accreditations, which focus on the appropriateness and quality of the educational program, SACS accreditation focuses on the institution as a whole and the extent to which there are the necessary and appropriate structures and processes in place to successfully achieve the institution's mission.