Navigating the Long Road through College Accreditation
Becoming accredited as a university or college in the United States is not easy. Accreditation is a legal process of validation, requiring colleges, universities and other higher learning institutions to be evaluated by a set of standards rigorously set by peer review boards, accrediting organizations and higher education faculty.
The impetus for accreditation is crucial, as it helps to inform students, families and others that an institution or program offers a quality education. Even more important, for the 73% of full-time students who want to take advantage of federal and/or state grants and loans, the US Department of Education mandates that they attend an accredited institution. Accreditation from a nationally-recognized accreditor also affects everything from employer tuition assistance and charitable contributions, to whether a student can be eligible to take state licensure exams in certain professional fields.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the primary national organization that serves as a voice for accreditation and quality assurance to the US Congress and Department of Education. CHEA recognizes the nearly 60 accrediting organizations across the United States, including regional, national career-related, national faith-related and programmatic accrediting organizations, working to ensure quality and integrity throughout the accreditation process. While the CHEA acts as an overseeing body to the accreditation process, the reality is that each separate accrediting organization has its own standards for compliance and reporting.
One such accrediting organization is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1919, the MSCHE is approved by the US Secretary of Education to conduct accreditation and pre-accreditation activities for institutions of higher education in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. MSCHE is focused on defining, maintaining and promoting educational excellence across a diverse set of institutions.
In order to manage the challenging aspects of accreditation, and to meet rigorous internal standards as well as those set by both the CHEA and the US Department of Education, MSCHE is deeply connected to its strategic mission. This includes expecting its accredited institutions to possess or demonstrate clearly defined mission and goals that are:
- “developed through collaborative participation by those who facilitate or are otherwise responsible for institutional improvement and developments;
- periodically evaluated and formally approved;
- publicized and widely known by the institution’s members;
- mission and goals that relate to external as well as internal contexts and constituencies;
- institutional goals that are consistent with [the institution’s broader] mission.”
The StrategyBlocks platform is uniquely designed to help institutions seeking to navigate the challenging accreditation process, as defined above, by making it easy to deliver the necessary information that enables them to not only gain accreditation, but to manage and retain it year after year. Some of the key elements to our platform include:
Strategic Management and Dashboard: StrategyBlocks works by transitioning your organizations strategic plan into a dynamic visual strategy dashboard and collaborative strategy map. We believe that the successful execution of your strategy requires a plan that is flexible enough to adapt to changing environments, while ensuring the entire team is aligned and motivated towards a common goal. Knowing that collaboration is a critical part of the accreditation evaluation, StrategyBlocks works with you to improve communication and drive better results.
Part of the goal of accreditation is to have strategic efforts that are easy to manage and keep track of. This requires transparency, and StrategyBlocks places a premium on creating a visual plan that delivers ongoing insights and a real-time understanding of the status and progress of every initiative, via a customizable dashboard. Powerful tools allow each individual to focus on what areas are most important to them, and reports can be generated instantly whether for your board, for the accrediting organization or for your team.
Micro and Macro insights, and KPIs: Tracking the progress and outcomes of your strategic initiatives is absolutely necessary, especially when exposing your company’s efforts to a third party during the accreditation process. StrategyBlocks can help you better understand your micro insights (bottom to top) as well as your macro insights (top to bottom) to see how various goals, initiatives and strategies map back to your institution’s mission. What’s more, it helps you not only keep track of your KPIs, but also better understand the long term value of KPIs and their history, to ensure you are creating the right metrics for measurement for your institution.
Strategic Health, Mapping and Monitoring: Progress toward any initiative is an important part of understanding its success, but it’s not the only measurement. StrategyBlocks supports evaluating strategic health in a more holistic way, moving beyond just the progression of a goal and into other evaluation criteria including soft metrics such as the level of team support and activity.
By mapping and monitoring overall strategic health, StrategyBlocks works with institutions to provide an early warning system for any potential failures. StrategyBlocks unique cascading blocks visual system helps everyone better recognize how individual efforts map back to the larger goals for the team, and for the entire institution, meeting direct requirements for accreditation.
Strategic Risk Management: Strategy is inherent with risk, and seeking accreditation introduces potential risk factors. What if the criteria for evaluation changes, for example? Moreover, failed elements of your strategic plan can cause risk in other areas. Risk management doesn’t have to be complex, but it should involve all elements of data to ensure honest assessment.
StrategyBlocks allows you to monitor both the impact and the likelihood of risk, to better understand its magnitude and properly manage it. Understanding and evaluating risk can help ensure your institution reaches its broader mission and goals.
StrategyBlocks has a long history of working with educational institutions across the US to help them to achieve their accreditation goals, such as with Rollins College. To find out how we can help your institution achieve your broader mission, please contact us for a free demo.