Accreditation: Who, Why, and When?
In the United States, no national agency or board accredits colleges and universities or mandates curriculum. (Of course, many federal and state laws include requirements relating to colleges and universities.) Rather, the responsibility for accreditation of higher education institutions lies with regional associations that are recognized as having the quality, expertise, and experience to exercise accreditation authority.
The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities (COC) is the recognized regional accrediting authority for higher education institutions in eleven southern states (and Latin America) that award any of the following: associate degree, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes the COC as a “reliable authority as to the quality of postsecondary education” within the meaning of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Thus, accreditation by SACS COC conveys a powerful message that the University meets the standards and processes for quality recognized by its peers, academic experts, and the federal government.
At all times, an institutions accredited by SACS COC must adhere to ongoing COC processes and standards. In addition, at certain major intervals, an institution undergoes a full accreditation evaluation. SMU was reaccredited by SACS COC in 1990-91. The next major interval for evaluation of accreditation is 2010-2011. Thus, SMU will seek reaffirmation of accreditation in 2010-2011.