Inside the accreditation process – with Dr. Jayne Pelletier
Dr. Jayne Pelletier is the Director of Accreditation and Policy for the College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS). She oversees the accreditation process and policy development to support the operational and academic processes of online programs.
In short, Dr. Pelletier makes sure we are compliant with accreditation standards and that we provide an outstanding education to students.
This post is the first of a series where we delve deeper into the who-what-where-when-why of the accreditation process.
Can you give an overview of accreditation at UNE Online?
The accreditation process takes a look at the quality of our programs and resources from the perspective of our peers. More formally speaking, it’s a process of validation through which colleges, universities and other educational institutions are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by an independent, voluntary, nonprofit, membership organization whose members include faculty and administrators from various accredited colleges and universities.
Commission standards are high and the University of New England is proud to have met, and sometimes exceeded, the standards for regional accreditation. So let’s start there.
What is a Regionally Accredited institution?
All of the University of New England falls under the umbrella of regional accreditation. Located in the Northeast Region, New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE, formerly known as the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education for NEASC) is the appropriate regionally-accrediting body. NECHE is made up of professional staff, a board of trustees, and a group of peers in the region.
Each of the seven regions in the United States has its own accrediting body. Accreditation is regional because each region of the country is unique. The United States has several distinct and unique cultures, and vastly different socioeconomic conditions, so the standards by which the regions are judged need to be sensitive to these differences. The culture in the Northeast may be different than in California or in the North West, or in the Southern states.
What are the accrediting standards?
Each accrediting body has a set of standards by which they evaluate their region’s schools and each university evaluated must meet or exceed each of these quality standards. For example, NECHE presently has nine standards which change routinely in order to reflect best practices in education.
Standards by which schools are judged generally address issues around academic resources, financial resources, the quality of programs, faculty credentials, mission statements, and even processes such as how admission requirements are outlined.
What are the mechanics of getting accredited?
First, each university performs a self-study which is their own self-assessment of how they address their region’s standards. After a team from peer institutions reads the self-study, the team visits the college or university and evaluates them on those standards.
So, for example, UNE’s accreditation committee may have representatives from Clark University, Northeastern, Tufts, Salve Regina, and Johnson and Wales, to name a few. This team of representatives visits the institution and conducts a series of interviews with various members of the UNE community, including students, faculty, and administrators.
The visiting team wants to know about the university’s procedures, and may ask questions such as ‘Where do you hold your classes?’ ‘Are your faculty credentialed, and if so, at what level?’ ‘They may inquire about library resources, and what specific percentage of faculty hold terminal degrees. They may ask how outcomes are measured: how do we know what students know and are able to do upon completing classes and programs?
When the visiting team has concluded their interviews, they assemble the information and look at the assessment holistically. The committee writes up their own report identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the institution, and then recommends either continued accreditation, probation, or the loss of accreditation.
Why is accreditation important?
Regional accreditation ensures that students receive a certain level of quality in their education. Accreditation also affects transfer credit as most universities award transfer credits only from other regionally-accredited universities. While nationally accredited institutions will usually accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools generally do not accept transfer credit from nationally accredited institutions.
If you are interested in pursuing an online graduate degree or if you’re simply interested in discussing your options, please reach out to an Enrollment Counselor at (855) 325-0896 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, fill out an online application today at online.une.edu/gateway-portal-page – we look forward to hearing from you!