If the proposed new “School of Civic Life and Leadership” is not political, why did politicians write the accompanying letter to accreditor Belle Wheelan for simply doing her job?
Before we tell you what happened, let’s review what a college accreditor is and, specifically, who SACSCOC is and what their relationship is to Carolina.
A college accreditor is an independent organization that evaluates the quality of education provided by colleges and universities in the United States. These organizations are responsible for assessing whether an institution meets predetermined standards for student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, institutional resources, and other relevant factors.
The job of a college accreditor is crucial because it ensures that higher education institutions are maintaining high academic standards and providing quality education to students. Accreditation is necessary for institutions to receive federal funding and for students to be eligible for financial aid programs. Without accreditation, students may not be able to transfer credits to other institutions or pursue certain careers that require a degree from an accredited program.
Overall, college accreditors play a vital role in maintaining the integrity of higher education in the United States and promoting educational quality and excellence.
So what is SACSCOC? Founded in 1895, SACSCOC is an acronym for The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. According to their website; “SACSCOC is the body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices primarily among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications for membership from domestic institutions in the other 39 states, as well as international institutions of higher education around the world.”
And SACSCOC’s relationship with Carolina? SACSCOC granted UNC Chapel Hill accreditation on January 1, 1895 and has been Carolina’s accreditor for over 128 years! It is, literally, SACSCOC’s job to ask questions about how and why any new school or curriculum at Carolina is added so they can ensure that it meets accreditation standards. When the new “School of Civic Life and Leadership was proposed in an unorthodox way, the president of SACSCOC had some questions. Unfortunately, in response to her questions, a group of NC politicians drafted and sent her the following letter:
This is not the first time that Wheelan and SACSCOC have come under fire from politicians and governing bodies unhappy with her attempts at oversight. In 2022 SACSCOC requested information about a potential conflict of interest at Florida State. Florida legislators responded by passing a law requiring Florida public colleges to switch accreditors. Inside Higher Ed covered this unusual and surprising development. They reported;
“Florida’s requirement to switch accreditors seemed to grow out of concerns raised by SACSCOC, which accredits numerous state institutions. Before the legislation passed, the accreditor had requested information about a potential conflict of interest at Florida State University, which considered Richard Corcoran for its presidency despite his role on the system’s Board of Governors. SACSCOC also raised questions about the University of Florida, which initially prevented professors from testifying against the state in a legal case challenging voting rights restrictions before changing course amid criticism. Critics have accused Florida lawmakers of pushing the accreditation legislation in response to SACSCOC oversight.
What do you think the intention of the letter was? What effect will it have?
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