Systematic campus assessment for accreditation purposes
Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions
February 24, 2011
The accreditation and re-affirmation process is multifaceted and often time consuming for colleges and universities. It can be a stressful time for campus leadership as these responsibilities are added to your regular day-to-day activities. However, it is critical for higher education institutions to stay on top of this process in order to receive the necessary approval from their accrediting bodies.
Student-related data are a key component for self-studies and for the total accreditation process. Accrediting bodies have an expectation that campuses will have reliable, valid data which are captured over time. This is one misstep that colleges sometimes fall into: just conducting surveys for inclusion in a self-study at one point in time, rather than surveying on a recurring, consistent basis. Is this true at your institution?
Many campuses find that the student data, especially student satisfaction and priority data, are more useful when they are captured on a systematic basis. This cycle may be annually, every other year, or every third year. Recent feedback to a survey of current Noel-Levitz Satisfaction-Priorities Survey clients found that 40 percent survey their students annually, 46 percent every other year, and 13 percent survey every third year, with 1 percent surveying their students more than once per year.
You will want to identify a schedule that best fits the planning needs of your campus, and then make a commitment to that schedule. By having the process be part of your regular assessment activities, you will be able to more effectively utilize the data for improvements on campus. You will also be able to monitor trends and document where satisfaction levels are improving, which will reflect positively for your accrediting agency.
Campuses have told us that using standardized instruments, such as the instruments from Noel-Levitz, allows them to have reliable, valid data captured without the added hassle of trying to create their own survey instruments and then process the data themselves. In addition, the national norms that are provided in many cases provide an external benchmark which can be beneficial. For SACS and HLC accreditation, Noel-Levitz offers mapping documents for the Student Satisfaction Inventory™ and related satisfaction-priorities instruments, to reflect which items match up to which criteria.
Consider how often you are surveying your students and talk with others on your campus about your accreditation process. Can you become more systematic with this piece of the project?
If you want to visit further about systematic satisfaction assessment or have questions about meeting accreditation requirements, feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment below.