As the administrative departments of Grambling State University are back from the Christmas holidays, it is imperative that students review the milestones facing the university, including the Accreditation reaffirmation process conducted by Southern Accreditation Commission on Colleges and Universities (SACS). SACS Accreditation Reaffirmation Process is no more than a Management Audit of an institution and its programs. The auditing process involves evaluating evidentiary material.
Three basic evaluation methods include inspection, compliance auditing and management auditing.
Inspection measures a process’s output. This includes form, fit and function.
Compliance audits verify the implementation of written manuals, procedures and work instructions.
The first uses of compliance auditing appeared in financial transactions, because tax collectors and bank examiners needed assurance that the financial data were correct.
This concept of verifying compliance was started by the quality assurance profession in the sixties and applied to the military and the nuclear power industry.
Compliance audits are still used in high-risk activities where there is a desire to verify that the activities are being performed in strict compliance with approved requirements. Third-party registration audits, regulatory inspections and most supplier audits measure compliance.
Management audits are a more recent concept. They focus on results, evaluating the effectiveness and suitability of controls by challenging underlying rules, procedures and methods.
Management audits could be internal or external. They are compliance audits plus cause-and-effect analysis.
When performed correctly, they are the most useful evaluation method, because they result in change and change is good, as Dr. Mildred Gallot, a member of Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, recently stated.
The reaffirmation process involves an institution (Auditee), the Off-Site and On-Site Committees (Auditors) and the Commission (Organization that commissioned the audit).
A cursory review of SACS standard operating literature indicates that reaffirmation process involves eight critical paths:
*An Orientation Workshop for the Institution’s Leadership Team (Management) conducted by the Commission staff.
*Preparation and Submission of Certification of Compliance document with the corresponding evidentiary material.
* A Review by the Off-Site Committee of the Certification of Compliance document and evidentiary material attesting to the institution’s compliance with Core Requirements and Comprehensive Standards .
The exception of Core Requirement Number Twelve, relates to Quality Enhancement Plan and subsequent preparation of its Review Report and findings.
The Commission conveys the Off-Site Committee’s Review Report and findings to the Institution (Auditee).
In return, the institution may choose to submit a Focused Report in response to the committee’s findings.
The On-Site Committee receives a written copy of the Off-Site Committee’s Review Report and the Institution’s Focused Report Response, if applicable.
The Institution submits its Quality Enhancement Plan to the Commission.
The On-Site Review Committee visits the institution to review and determine the acceptability of the Quality Enhancement Plan, to review areas of noncompliance, areas of concern noted by the Off-Site Committee and other areas of concern that emerged during the site visit. The On-Site Committee submits its report to the Commission.
The Commission’s determination completes the Accreditation reaffirmation process for a while though the process should be seen as a never ending journey.
A positive assurance to the constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs is an opportunity for improvement.