1) Who is WSCUC?
The WASC Senior College and University Commission is one of several regional accrediting associations covering the United States, whose purpose is continual improvement of education and cooperation among educational institutions and agencies. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, (WASC) was formed in July 1962, to evaluate and accredit schools, colleges, and universities in California, Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific island Trust Territories. In 2012-2013, WASC changed its name to WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) to “reflect its new separate incorporation as a California nonprofit. This change is in response to findings of noncompliance with the “separate and independent” requirement of the federal regulations affecting our recognition by the US Department of Education.” See http://www.wascsenior.org/annoucements/new-wasc-corporate-structure-and-name)
2) What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary process involving an association of schools and/or colleges to encourage high standards of education. Accreditation indicates that WSCUC judges that the institution, in a manner consistent with standards, offers its students on a satisfactory level the educational opportunities implied in its objectives and is likely to continue to do so.
Voluntary, nongovernmental, institutional accreditation as practiced by WSCUC and the other regional commissions is a unique characteristic of American education. In many other countries the maintenance of educational standards is a governmental function.
While WSCUC works to establish minimum standards of quality for institutions, its primary focus is to foster educational excellence. Each institution has the responsibility of defining, for itself, characteristics of quality and excellence, and presenting evidence that such quality and excellence is being achieved.
3) What does the accreditation process entail?
In 2013, WSCUC revised its Standards of Accreditation and the accreditation process. The heart of the accreditation process is the Institutional Report which includes an in-depth Self-Study. The Self-Study serves both external and internal purposes. It provides an opportunity within the AUA community for broad based deliberation on the current state of the institution, its successes in fulfilling its mission, its areas of special strength and those in need of improvement, as well as the direction for development in the years ahead. Commission standards define normative expectations and characteristics of excellence and provide a framework for self-study. Ultimately, the report of the self study provides the basis for demonstrating that AUA is in compliance the Standards of Accreditation.
The accreditation process itself assists institutions in “developing and sustaining effective educational programs and assures the educational community, the general public, and other organizations that an accredited institution has met high standards of quality and effectiveness.” (See http://www.wascsenior.org/about/purposeofaccreditation)
4) What are the Standards of Accreditation?
STANDARD 1: Defining Institutional Purposes and Ensuring Educational Objectives
STANDARD 2: Achieving Educational Objectives Through Core Functions
STANDARD 3: Developing and Applying Resources and Organizational Structures to Ensure Quality and Sustainability
STANDARD 4: Creating an Organization Committed to Quality Assurance, Institutional Learning and Improvement
5) Where is AUA in this process?
On March 6, 2015, WSCUC reaffirmed AUA’s accreditation for nine years, through February 2024. The Commission Action Letter is available here.
AUA initiated the accreditation process in 1998, was granted Candidate status in 2002, and reached an historic milestone when initial accreditation was granted effective August 2006.
Accreditation is an ongoing multi-stage process demonstrating the university’s fulfillment of three Core Commitments:
- Commitment to Student Learning and Success
- Commitment to Quality and Improvement
- Commitment to Institutional Integrity, Sustainability, and Accountability
Reaffirmation of accreditation was a three-stage process:
Stage One: The Institutional Proposal (2010)
AUA was asked to submit a document outlining its proposal for the process of reaffirming the University’s accreditation. This report includes the following components:
- Introduction to the Institutional Report: Institutional Context; Response to Previous Commission Actions
- Compliance with Standards: Self Review Under the Standards; Compliance Checklist
- Degree Programs: Meaning, Quality, and Integrity of Degrees.
- Educational Quality: Student Learning, Core Competencies, and Standards of Performance at Graduation
- Student Success: Student Learning, Retention, and Graduation
- Quality Assurance and Improvement: Program Review; Assessment; Use of Data and Evidence
- Sustainability: Financial Viability; Preparing for the Changing Higher Education Environment
- Institution-specific themes: Optional
- Conclusion: Reflection and Plans for Improvement
Stage Two: The Capacity & Preparatory Review (2011-2012)
AUA faculty, staff, and administration worked together to prepare a Capacity & Preparatory Review Report demonstrating the AUA’s declaration that it meets the Core Commitment to Capacity. AUA submitted its Capacity & Preparatory Review in November 2011. The Capacity & Preparatory Review Team visited AUA in February 2012 for auditing and verifying the information provided in the report. The report of the team can be found here. The July 10, 2012, WASC Commission Action Letter can be found here.
Stage Three: The Educational Effectiveness Review (2014-2015)
AUA submitted an Educational Effectiveness Review (EER) report along with a comprehensive Institutional Data Portfolio in June 2014. The report outlined AUA’s compliance with the Core Commitment to Educational Effectiveness. The Educational Effectiveness Review Team visited AUA from September 16-18, 2014. The report of the team can be found here.
6) How does AUA benefit from accreditation?
The American University of Armenia has seen tremendous benefits as a result of its U.S.-accreditation in terms of its students, faculty, and staff, as well as the community at large. U.S.-accreditation directly benefits students by simplifying degree verification, enabling students to more easily continue their studies in universities in the United States and Europe, and acknowledging AUA as a quality institution which broadens future career and educational opportunities. Faculty benefit by being part of an internationally-recognized community of scholars. The university benefits by ensuring evidence-based and continuous process improvement, as well as a diversity among its faculty and students. And, society benefits because AUA graduates transition into the labor market with highly employable skills such as problem solving, creativity, leadership, and critical thinking.
Please feel free to e-mail any comments and/or suggestions to the Accreditation Liaison Officer and Director of Accreditation at [email protected]m.