What does WASC reaccreditation mean?
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is one of six regional accrediting associations in the U.S. that exists to assure quality in higher education. Reaffirmation of USD’s accreditation certifies to the educational community and to the general public that all of USD’s degree programs and educational activities meet or exceed established standards, and that the campus is progressing toward its stated goals. USD has been continuously accredited by WASC since 1956.
Why should we care about WASC?
In addition to our interest in maintaining accredited status, we should recognize that our regional accrediting agency is at the forefront of establishing a process of evaluation that is driven by the university’s own mission and goals. The WASC process not only serves a formal function, but also gives us the opportunity to ask critical questions about the university, to identify evidence that helps us address these questions, to reflect on and contribute to conversations about USD’s future, and to help set directions for further improvement.
How has the WASC reaccreditation process changed?
The WASC reaccreditation process has changed significantly since USD last completed the process in 2000. Reaccreditation is no longer driven by a single self-study with a definitive grading scheme or a mechanical check-list for compliance. Instead, it is an opportunity to engage in a period of systematic institutional self-analysis to promote improvement in educational quality. The new process is outcome-based and future-oriented; it is not meant to produce a series of “status reports” but to shift the university’s culture toward continuous improvement processes.
What are the main components of the WASC reaccreditation process?
The process a multi-stage, sequential one:
- The Institutional Proposal
The first step in the process is for each institution to conduct a self-study that focuses on issues germane to its particular mission with the goal of developing “researchable questions” to guide the entire review process. In conducting this self-study, institutions are expected to engage the entire campus community in identifying issues to be explored.
- The Capacity and Preparatory Review
The purpose of the Capacity and Preparatory Review is to demonstrate the institution’s commitment to institutional capacity by demonstrating that the campus functions with the capacity to fulfill its educational purposes. “Institutional capacity” means examining resources, structures, and processes from a holistic perspective and puts the following questions at center: Where are we now? Where do we need to go? How will we get there?
- The Educational Effectiveness Review
The purpose of the Educational Effectiveness Review is to invite sustained dialogue by the institution about the extent to which it fulfills its educational objectives by examining whether institutional systems (such as course and program design, faculty support, and program review) are effectively linked to evidence of student learning and are consistent with our educational goals and academic standards. This stage puts the following questions at center: How well are our systems working? Is what we accomplish good enough? What do we need to do to improve?
Is WASC concerned with graduate programs?
Yes. All of the standards that shape the three stages apply to both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Who can I contact for more information?