SACS accreditation is approval of a higher education institution by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS is a commission for higher education in the Southern states of the United States and in Latin America. Accreditation by the SACS shows that the institution intends to offer higher education and has the resources to achieve and continue this goal.
Being approved for SACS accreditation is voluntary, but shows the institution has met the educational standards set forth by the Commission on Colleges. SACS accreditation status is earned and can be renewed. The process of SACS accreditation is based on a peer review process. The institution seeking accreditation is analyzed and evaluated based upon compliance with accreditation standards.
When reviewing an institution, the first thing the board of peers will review is the integrity of the institution and its commitment to enhancement. This requires the institution to deal openly and honestly with the commission. Giving inaccurate information, withholding information, or not providing information in a timely matter may be seen as lack of dedication to integrity. This can result in loss of membership and accreditation.
SACS accredited schools should be dedicated to improving their programs to enhance the learning environments they provide. It is key for each institution that gains SACS accreditation to meet the same goals of constant improvement. All applicants, including private for-profit, private non-profit and public institutions, must meet these principles.
To gain compliance with the core requirements of SACS accreditation, an institution must meet the requirements, or must provide an explanation in situations where requirements are not meet. Core requirements include approval from government agency to grant degrees, existence of a governing board and a chief executive officer, and an institutional mission. Other requirements include program information, faculty, learning resources, an enhancement plan and proof of operation with students enrolled in degree programs.
Comprehensive standards for accreditation are divided into three sections: the mission of the institution, the governance and effectiveness the institution shows, and the programs and resources accessible through the institution. These standards are believed to be good practices in education. Each should show the level of success that is expected from all institutions that hold SACS accreditation.
The U.S Secretary of Education accepts accreditation by the Commission on Colleges as long as they follow the programs approved under Title IV of the 1998 Higher Education Amendments. Federal requirements under these guidelines may include state licensing, a set curriculum, set program length, and processes for addressing student complaints. Students should have access to the grading and refund policies, as well as academic calendars.