Accreditation

Samford University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award bachelor’s, master’s, educational specialist and doctoral degrees. This status was most recently affirmed in 2018, continuing a relationship that Samford has enjoyed with SACSCOC since 1920. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is located at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, or call 404-679-4500.

The Commission is to be contacted only if there is evidence that appears to support an institution’s significant non-compliance with a requirement or standard.

Samford University SACSCOC 2018 Reaffirmation

Welcome to Samford University’s website for reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Information and updates relative to the institution's reaffirmation process along with related documents will be provided on this website. Samford University is accredited by SACSCOC and was last reaffirmed in 2018.

Reaffirmation Components

Compliance Certification

The institution conducts a comprehensive compliance audit prior to the filing of the compliance certification. The comprehensive compliance audit includes an assessment of all programs and courses offered by the institution on-campus and off-campus, and those offered through distance learning. The compliance certification, signed by the institution’s chief executive officer and accreditation liaison, attests to the institution’s honest assessment of compliance with the accreditation requirements of the SACSCOC (including core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements) as applied to all aspects of the institution.

Quality Enhancement Project 

The concept of quality enhancement is at the heart of the commission’s philosophy of accreditation. Each institution seeking reaffirmation of accreditation is required to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Engaging the wider academic community and addressing one or more issues that contribute to institutional improvement, the plan should be focused, succinct, and limited in length. The QEP describes a carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issue(s) related to enhancing student learning.

Reaffirmation Teams

Facilitating the reaffirmation process involves three teams: the leadership team, the steering committee and the QEP team.

Leadership Team

The leadership team presently includes the following positions:
  • President
  • Assistant Provost for Assessment and Accreditation and SACSCOC accreditation liaison
  • Provost
  • Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs/Executive Vice President
  • Vice President of Marketing and Communication
  • Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
  • Vice President for University Advancement

Steering Committee

  • Assistant Provost for Assessment and Accreditation
  • University Library Dean
  • Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management
  • Associate Vice President for Business Affairs & Investments
  • Director of Budget & Financial Planning, Decision Support & Financial Strategy
  • University Council
  • Assistant to the President
  • Senior Associate Dean for the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing
  • University Admission Dean
  • Associate Dean for the Department of English
  • Chief Strategy Officer for Samford University
  • Associate Provost for Administration
  • Vice Provost for the College of Health Sciences
  • Associate Professor for Education, Curriculum & Instruction
  • Executive Director of University Advancement
  • Vice President of Marketing & Communication

QEP Team

To be determined
Reaffirmation Timeline
Event Date
Orientation for Leadership Team December 2014
Compliance Certification Due September 12, 2016
SACSCOC Offsite Review November 2016
Quality Enhancement Project Document Due January 2017
SACSCOC Onsite Review March 21–23, 2017
SACSCOC Institutional Feedback December 2017

Samford University Reaffirmation Frequently Asked Questions

What is SACSCOC?

SACSCOC refers to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which is the accrediting body for educational institutions within Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America. The Commission on Colleges is the division of SACSCOC that oversees accreditation of higher education within the region. Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges, offers an alternate meaning for the SACS acronym that conveys the essence of higher education: Students Are Central to Success.

Why is SACSCOC accreditation important?

Accreditation by SACSCOC means an institution has:a mission appropriate to higher education;resources, programs and services sufficient to achieve and sustain that mission;clearly delineated student learning outcomes consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees offered; and success in achieving its stated goals. According to the Commission on Colleges, the “product of accreditation is a public statement of an institution's continuing capacity to provide effective programs and services based on agreed upon requirements. The statement of an institution’s accreditation status with the Commission on Colleges is also an affirmation of an institution’s continuing commitment to the commission’s principles and philosophy of accreditation” (Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement, 2012). SACSCOC accreditation and reaffirmation assures our constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of Samford University and its programs. It also allows Samford students to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid and ensures transfer of credits between Samford and other institutions.

What is reaffirmation of accreditation?

Every 10 years, colleges and university accredited by SACSCOC must demonstrate they comply with the standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation and with the policies and guidelines of the Commission on Colleges. This process is called reaffirmation of accreditation. This two-to-three-year process of rigorous self-evaluation culminates in two stages of peer review conducted by senior level faculty and administrators at other institutions accredited by SACSCOC. In between these decennial reviews is a Fifth-Year Impact Report (FYIR) in which the institution evaluates its adherence to 17 standards and the effectiveness of its QEP. Samford successfully submitted its FYIR in March 2013. No additional documentation was required at the time. Samford begun it current reaffirmation process in fall 2014. Submission of the compliance certification report will occur in September 2016, the QEP in January 2017, and onsite visit in March 2017. Upon completion of these events, the commission will review and vote on whether to reaffirm Samford University in December 2017.

How will Samford University be evaluated?

Accreditation is a built upon the importance and strength of peer review. The offsite and onsite peer reviewers come from institutions accredited by SACSCOC. The commission trustees who vote on our reaffirmation are elected by the presidents of the accredited member institutions.There are three distinct events in the reaffirmation process. The first event involves the offsite reaffirmation committee (eight or more peer evaluators) who review the compliance certification report in November 2016. Any concerns they raise are answered by Samford in a focused report. The second event is the onsite review by 7 or more peer reviewers, plus a QEP lead reviewer nominated by Samford, who will review all previously submitted reports, visit campus March 21–23, 2017, and then issue a final report outlining any recommendations. Samford will address any recommendations in a Response Report. The reports will subsequently be read by the Compliance and Reports Committees of the SASCOC Board of Trustees, and determine the institution's reaffirmation status. Notification of Samford’s status will occur at the SACSCOC annual meeting in December 2017.

What are the principles of accreditation?

The principles of accreditation went into effect in January 2004, and there have been several revisions since that time—the last one was in 2012. The Commission on Colleges expects integrity to govern Samford’s operation and enhancement of student learning. There are 12 broad-based core requirements, fourteen Comprehensive Standards, and nine Federal Requirements. We are expected to comply with all of the standards.

What is the compliance certification report?

The compliance certification report, to be submitted in September 2016, includes an institutional summary to introduce the peer reviewers to Samford and narratives for each of the standards in the principles of accreditation. Each section includes the wording of the standard; our level of compliance (compliance, partial compliance, non-compliance); a clear, succinct narrative that presents a convincing justification of compliance based on analysis and appropriate links to reliable, current, verifiable, coherent, objective, relative and representative evidence; and a list of all supporting documentation referenced in the narrative.

What occurs during the onsite visit?

Samford arranges all meeting space, housing, meals, technology support, and transportation for the SACSCOC site visitors' three-day campus visit. Working space is provided for the team both on campus, and at the site visitors' hotel. A typical site visit schedule includes: (1) Day One: A focus on compliance issues noted by the offsite review team, the Focused Report and all federal requirements made with scheduled interviews requested by the chair, and review of additional documents; (2) Day Two: A focus on the QEP with related presentations and group interviews with a variety of constituencies; (3) Day Three: Exit interview performed to the leadership team and select other campus representatives. The offsite reaffirmation committee may visit a representative sample of off-campus sites that offer 50% or more of a program on the morning of day one or the day before arrival on campus.

Who can answer my questions about SACSCOC?

For general questions or comments, please contact Dr. Katrina Mintz, Assistant Provost for Assessment and Accreditation, at or 205-726-4097.

Proposals for the Quality Enhancement Plan

Overview

In March 2017, our regional accreditor, the Southern Association on Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), will conduct a comprehensive review of Samford University. A significant component of that review will be a close look at our new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). As defined by SACSCOC, a QEP “describes a carefully designed course of action that addresses a well-defined and focused topic or issue related to enhancing student learning” and “should be embedded within the institution’s ongoing integrated institution-wide planning.” Moreover, a QEP must be “forward looking,” and must inspire a “process that can move the institution into the future characterized by creative, engaging, and meaningful learning experiences for students.”

As with our 2007 QEP, the University Fellows Program, a good Samford QEP will meet several criteria. Most importantly, it should (1) have a meaningful impact on the student learning experience, (2) inspire broad participation across the university, (3) develop a university strength or improve upon a weakness, (4) provide ways to measure learning outcomes, and (5) build upon the university’s strategic plan.

Submission

The survey asks you to provide a 300-word or less description of your QEP idea, your contact information and respond to the following five questions:

  • How does your idea make a meaningful impact on learning? (100 words or less)
  • How does your idea inspire broad participation? (100 words or less)
  • How does your idea build on an institutional strength or address a weakness? (100 words or less)
  • How will you measure the outcomes of your idea? (100 words or less)
  • How does your idea complement our strategic plan? (100 words or less)

Review Process

Results of the survey will be collected by the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Effectiveness (OIRAE) and disseminated to the president, provost, chief institutional effectiveness officer and the QEP review committee. The latter committee will review the proposals on a rolling basis (see timeline below).

Although the survey requests proposal submitters to identify themselves, the QEP review committee will not receive this information. Only after the committee has selected the best ideas will individual and team names be identified. Utilizing a rubric, the committee will create a short-list of the highest scoring proposals and will invite the designers of those proposals to develop their ideas in further detail. In early November, the designers will begin to present their ideas to the campus community. This will be done through detailed descriptions of the proposals posted on the QEP website, as well through open forums and one-on-one meetings with the review committee. Throughout the semester, everyone will have a chance to submit comments to the review committee, weighing in on the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.

QEP Rubric

Final Five QEP Proposals

After review by an initial panel of evaluators the top five Quality Enhancement Plan Proposals has been announced. We welcome feedback from Samford’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, community and all external stakeholders. Public feedback and commentary will be accepted through December 15, 2015.

Provide QEP Feedback

Timeline

In December, the review committee will meet for a final time and, taking into consideration the preferences of the entire university, will submit the results of the review to the president, provost and QEP review committee. An announcement on Samford’s QEP focus will occur in January 2016. At that time, the work of the review committee will be complete, and the QEP proposal committee will be formed. This new committee will then be tasked to spend the spring and fall of 2016 designing the details of the QEP, which will be presented to the SACS review team in February 2017.

Here is a timeline of these events:

  • July 15–Oct. 15: Rolling evaluation of proposals by review committee.
  • Oct. 20: Deadline for proposals.
  • Oct. 30: Announcement of top proposals.
  • Nov. 9: Posting of proposals on QEP website.
  • Nov. 10: Open forums and feedback begin.
  • Dec. 15: Forums and feedback close.
  • January 2016: President, Provost & QEP Review Committee announce focus of QEP.

As you can see, selecting and developing our next QEP depends upon the full and active participation of everyone in our community. Because of this, it requires a lot of work, but it also provides us with unique opportunity to enhance student learning and to strengthen the university by building a broad-based consensus across campus.

Substantive Change

Substantive change is a federal term for any “significant modification of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.” The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), is required by the federal government to monitor compliance with the substantive change policy and to approve any major changes. The complete list of substantive change and procedures for addressing them appropriately is provided in the Substantive Change for SACSCOC Accredited Institutions.

Samford University’s Responsibility is to:

  • notify SACSCOC of substantive changes in a timely manner, and
  • in many cases to seek SACSCOC approval up to six months before implementing the change.

The types of substantive change and the procedures for addressing them may be found in the Commission’s policy on substantive change. Samford University monitors the creation and significant modification of academic programs through its Academic Program Creation, Modification, Deactivation and Termination Policy (Academic Affairs 2.07). Administrators, faculty and staff interested in this process should consult the Human Resources Policy Manual for a copy of this policy.

A Substantive change is “a significant modification or expansion of the nature and scope of an accredited institution.” Reporting substantive changes in a timely manner ensures compliance with federal regulations, federally funded financial aid, and with Comprehensive Standard 3.12.1.

SACSCOC has established several levels and respective institutional actions. These include:

The types of substantive change and the procedures for addressing them may be found in the Commission’s policy on substantive change.

Substantive changes occur at different levels of the university. If a department, school, or college is considering one or more of the following changes at the Program/Course Level:

  1. Adding coursework or programs at a different degree or credential level than currently approved;
  2. Adding courses or programs that represent a significant departure from current practice, either in content or method of delivery (such as distance learning);
  3. Initiating certificate programs at new off-campus sites or which differ significantly from existing programs;
  4. Initiating a collaborative academic arrangement, such as a joint or dual degree program with another institution;
  5. Increasing the length of a program significantly;
  6. Initiating degree completion programs;
  7. Closing a program approved at an off-campus site, branch campus, or institution;

then the University must notify SACSCOC or obtain approval before the change can be implemented.

If a department, school, or college is considering one or more of the following changes at the School/College/Department Level:

  1. Initiating an off-campus site (including Early College High School programs offered at a high school);
  2. Expanding program offerings at previously approved off-campus sites;
  3. Initiating distance learning;
  4. Initiating programs or courses offered through contractual agreement or consortium;
  5. Entering into a contract with an entity not certified to participate in USDOE Title IV programs;

then the University must notify SACSCOC or obtain approval before the change can be implemented.

Finally, if the University is considering one or more of the following Institutional Level changes:

  1. Initiating a branch campus;
  2. Altering significantly the educational mission of the institution;
  3. Initiating a merger/consolidation with another institution;
  4. Changing governance, ownership, control, or legal status of an institution;
  5. Relocating a main or branch campus;
  6. Moving an off-campus instructional site (serving the same geographical area);
  7. Changing from clock hours to credit hours;
  8. Acquiring any program or site from another institution;
  9. Adding a permanent location at a site where the institution is conducting a teach-out for students from another institution that is closing;

then the University must notify SACSCOC or obtain approval before the change can be implemented.

Please contact the University’s SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, Dr. Katrina Mintz, for more information and for procedures to follow to obtain the necessary approvals prior to implementation of the proposed action. The Accreditation Liaison will contact the vice presidents and deans periodically about any planned actions that will qualify as substantive changes.

To determine whether a planned change constitutes a substantive change, please take the Substantive Change Survey. Your results are submitted via email to the Accreditation Liaison.

Professional Program Accreditations

The appropriate professional schools and programs at Samford are accredited by:

The following professional programs have applied for and received approval to be candidates for accreditation:

The following professional program will seek accreditation upon graduation of its first student cohort, as required by the respective accrediting organization:

 

Compliance

Samford University is considering establishment of a council comprised of individuals on campus who have direct responsibility in the areas of compliance. The Accreditation and Compliance Council (ACC) will meet regularly to identify, track and disseminate information pertaining to compliance on the campus. The initial council will consist of the positions listed below. Additional and/or modifications of the membership will occur as needed.

  • Chief Institutional Effectiveness Officer
  • Director of Risk Management and Insurance
  • Director of Athletics
  • Chief Information Officer
  • University Counsel

Regarding compliance issues in higher education, an excellent resource can be found at the Campus Legal Information Clearinghouse (CLIC) at The Catholic University of America (CUA). The CLIC is a joint effort between the CU and the American Council on Education (ACE).