FAQs

Accreditation

What is accreditation?

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.

What is the difference between regional, national and specialized accreditation?

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 see https://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html#RegionalInstitutional.)

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.  (For a list of career and faith-based accrediting agencies functioning nationally and recognized by USDE, please see  https://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html#RegionalInstitutional.)

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. (For a list of specialized accrediting agencies, please see https://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html#RegionalInstitutional.)

How does an institution become accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges?

Institutions interested in becoming accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) must apply for membership. Please see Application Information for a detailed description of the process.

How can I determine if an institution is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)?

For a listing of institutions accredited by SACSCOC, please see Accredited and Candidate List, or search for the institution here.

Are branch campuses, online programs, distance learning programs, and instructional sites included in the grant of accreditation to an institution by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)?

SACSCOC accredits the entire institution, including  Off-Campus Instructional Sites (branch campuses, online programs, distance learning programs, and instructional sites).  Check with the institution regarding online classes or programs, or (search for the institution here, enter search criteria and click on the institution you are interested in and look at “Off-campus Instructional Sites (Additional Locations)”.)

What standards must an institution meet in order to gain or maintain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)?

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 “Institutional Resources.  Index of SACSCOC Documents is a list of policies and procedures that are listed in alphabetical order by title.)

What happens if an accredited or a candidate institution does not meet or is “non-compliant with” SACSCOC accreditation standards?

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.)

How can I determine if there are any accredited institutions currently on the public sanction of “Warning”, "Probation" or “Probation for Good Cause”?

For a list of any institutions on “Warning”, “Probation” or “Probation for Good Cause”, please see the “Accreditation Actions & Disclosure Statements , or see Accredited and Candidate List.

 

What do “Warning”, "Probation" and “Probation for Good Cause” mean?

For a description of “Warning”, “Probation” and “Probation for Good Cause”, please see Sanctions, Denial of Reaffirmation, and Removal from Membership.

Does the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accredit online institutions?

There are many SACSCOC-accredited institutions that offer both traditional, face-to-face and distance learning/online modalities for delivering instruction. Many of these institutions also offer some individual programs totally online.  Check with the institution of choice regarding online classes or programs, or (search for the institution here, enter institution name and click on the institution you are interested in and look at “Available programs”.)

Complaints

How can I file a complaint against an institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)?

Complete and send two print copies of the Commission’s Complaint Form to the President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097. (To access the Commission’s complaint policy, procedures, and the Complaint Form, please see Complaint Procedures Against the Commission or Its Accredited Institutions.)

Please review the Complaint Procedures Against the Commission or Its Accredited Institutions for guidance about filing a complaint.

What happens after i submit a complaint?

SACSCOC will respond to the complainant in writing within 21 calendar days about the status of the submission (incomplete and additional information is required or acknowledging receipt of complete complaint). Complainants who submitted incomplete complaints may submit additional information within 30 calendar days of delivery of the confirmation letter from SACSCOC. SACSCOC will respond to complete complaints within 60 calendar days.

Please review the Complaint Procedures Against the Commission or Its Accredited Institutions for guidance about the complaint process.

Does the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accept complaints on any topic?

SACSCOC only addresses complaints pertaining to the standards of accreditation found in the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement.

 

SACSCOC Membership

How does an institution become accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges?

Institutions interested in becoming accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) must apply for membership. Please see Application Information for a detailed description of the process.

What standards must an institution meet in order to gain or maintain accreditation?

Institutions accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) must demonstrate compliance with the standards for accreditation as contained in The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement, as well as the policies and procedures of the Commission. (For additional information about policies and procedures, please see either Index of SACSCOC Documents or Policies, Guidelines, Good Practices and Position Statements, and then select from the array of available documents that are listed in alphabetical order by title.)

What institutions are members of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges?

For a listing of institutions accredited by SACSCOC, please see Accredited and Candidate List, or search for the institution here.

What happens if a specialized accreditor sanctions an institution?

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.

Substantive Change

What is a substantive change?

A Substantive change is a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution such as adding degree programs or changes in the types of degrees offered at an institution.

How should institutions report substantive changes?

Institutions should report substantive changes to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). For the types of substantive change and the procedures for addressing them appropriately, please see the Substantive Change Policy and Procedures.

Please see the FAQs for Substantive Change.

COVID-19

Can an institution offer courses online without notifying students?

SACSCOC member institutions must receive approval to offer courses online and may determine which courses to offer via online or in-person formats. During the COVID-19 crisis, institutions have flexibilities for offering courses online.  See the Temporary Emergency Relocation of Instruction Related to Coronavirus Outbreak.

How to contact an institution during COVID?

SACSCOC member institutions are open; however, hours of operation and staff availability may be altered and limited. Representatives from member institutions are expected to be available to respond to students and the public.

Financial Aid

Can the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) release a financial aid hold on my records?

SACSCOC cannot release financial aid holds.  Please contact the institution directly regarding financial aid holds.

Can the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) verify if a bill or balance from an institution is accurate?

SACSCOC cannot verify the accuracy of any institutional bills, balances, or payments.  Please contact the institution directly regarding any bills, balances due or payments.

Meetings, Workshops, Conferences

General Items

For questions about the Annual Meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in December of each year, click here.

For questions about the Summer Institute on Quality Enhancement and Accreditation in July of each year, click here.

For questions about the Pre-Applicant Workshops, click here.

For questions about Substantive Change Workshops and Webinars, click here.

For other SACSCOC News & Events information, click here.

Evaluation Committee Membership

How do I get on an evaluation committee?

For information on becoming an evaluator for the Commission, please see How to Become an Evaluator.

Please see also Evaluator Resources.

Faculty Qualifications

How do I teach at a SACSCOC member institution?

Hiring decisions are the purview of the member institution where one would like to teach.  For information on hiring requirements at a particular institution, contact the institution.  SACSCOC neither evaluates individuals, résumés, or transcripts, nor does it certify individuals.

Institutions are required to document and justify that each faculty member is qualified to teach assigned courses.  Documentation and justification may be accomplished by using traditional academic credentials, by using a combination of traditional academic credentials and “other” qualifications, or by using only “other” qualifications consistent with Standard 6.2.a  of the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Enhancing Quality.

Also please see  Faculty Credential Guidelines.

Transcripts

Can SACSCOC help me get my transcript?

SACSCOC does not have access to student transcripts.  Please submit requests for student transcripts to the institution where the classes were taken or from which the degree was awarded.  If the institution has closed, please contact the state’s Department of Education for the state where the institution was located for information on how to obtain transcripts.

For transcript information regarding K-12 schools, please contact COGNIA at 1-888-413-3669 ext. 5720 or https://www.cognia.org.

Can SACSCOC help me get my transcript from an institution that has closed?

SACSCOC does not have access to student transcripts.  We can provide address information provided by the institution at the time of its closure.   This information may change once the institution closes; an Internet search may provide more accurate information.  Please submit a request with the institution’s name to questions@sacscoc.org.  The U.S. Department of Education or the higher education authority in the state where the institution’s main campus was located may help.  SACSCOC does not maintain transcripts or other academic records of closed institutions.

Transfer of credits

Will my credits transfer or enable me to attend graduate school?

The acceptance of transfer credit is the responsibility of the receiving institution and/or graduate school. Students should check with potential receiving institutions and/or graduate schools well in advance to determine the answer to this question.

The SACSCOC accreditation standards require accredited institutions to analyze credit accepted for transfer in terms of level, content, quality, comparability, and degree-program relevance. Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancements, the SACSCOC accreditation standards, do not mandate that institutions accept transfer credit only from institutional accredited entities.)

Can I transfer credit outside of my region?

Since July 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes “institutional” and “programmatic” accrediting agencies.    SACSCOC is an “institutional” accreditor which mean its accreditation applies to the entire institution and not specific programs.  Students should check with potential receiving institutions regarding whether an institution will accept transfer credits.

Letters of Accreditation

How can I get a letter that verifies that an institution is/was accredited by SACSCOC?

To receive an accreditation letter regarding a member institution, please send an email to questions@sacscoc.org with the name of the institution, and to whom you would like the letter to be addressed, and the mailing address to send the original letter.  A copy of the letter will be sent to your email address.

How can I get a letter that acknowledges that an institution is/was accredited by SACSCOC?

For currently accredited institutions:  All publicly available information is available on the SACSCOC website, so letters are not provided.  To access institutional information – including accreditation status,  last and next reaffirmations of accreditation, distance education approval date, off-campus instructional sites, and a link to the institution’s current program inventory – click hereType in the institution’s name.  On the search results, hold the mouse over the institution’s name and click on the arrow to the right.  All publicly available information is displayed on a single page (scroll down to see all the information). This information can be printed as needed.

For previously accredited institutions:  Email your requests to questions@sacscoc.org.  Provide the name of the institution as well as the name and mailing address of the person or organization you want to receive the letter.  A copy of the letter will be emailed to you.

Other questions?

Any questions, not answered above.

For information regarding reaffirmation of accreditation not answered above, please click here.

For any questions that were not answered above, please submit your question(s) to questions@sacscoc.org.