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Standard Two
Educational Program And Its Effectiveness

Standard 2.A - General Requirements

The institution offers collegiate level programs that culminate in identified student competencies and lead to degrees or certificates in recognized fields of study. The achievement and maintenance of high quality programs is the primary responsibility of an accredited institution; hence, the evaluation of educational programs and their continuous improvement is an ongoing responsibility. As conditions and needs change, the institution continually redefines for itself the elements that result in educational programs of high quality.

2.A.1 The institution demonstrates its commitment to high standards of teaching and learning by providing sufficient human, physical, and financial resources to support its educational programs and to facilitate student achievement of program objectives whenever and however they are offered.

2.A.2 The goals of the institution's educational programs, whenever and however offered, including instructional policies, methods, and delivery systems, are compatible with the institution's mission. They are developed, approved, and periodically evaluated under established institutional policies and procedures through a clearly defined process.

2.A.3 Degree and certificate programs demonstrate a coherent design; are characterized by appropriate breadth, depth, sequencing of courses, synthesis of learning, and the assessment of learning outcomes; and require the use of library and other information sources.

2.A.4 The institution uses degree designators consistent with program content. In each field of study or technical program, degree objectives are clearly defined: the content to be covered, the intellectual skills, the creative capabilities, and the methods of inquiry to be acquired; and, if applicable, the specific career-preparation competencies to be mastered.

2.A.5 The institution provides evidence that students enrolled in programs offered in concentrated or abbreviated timeframes demonstrate mastery of program goals and course objectives.

2.A.6 The institution is able to equate its learning experiences with semester or quarter credit hours using practices common to institutions of higher education, to justify the lengths of its programs in comparison to similar programs found in regionally accredited institutions of higher education, and to justify any program-specific tuition in terms of program costs, program length, and program objectives.

2.A.7 Responsibility for design, approval, and implementation of the curriculum is vested in designated institutional bodies with clearly established channels of communication and control. The faculty has a major role and responsibility in the design, integrity, and implementation of the curriculum.

2.A.8 Faculty, in partnership with library and information resources personnel, ensure that the use of library and information resources is integrated into the learning process.

2.A.9 The institution's curriculum (programs and courses) is planned both for optimal learning and accessible scheduling.

2.A.10 Credit for prior experiential learning is awarded only in accordance with Policy 2.3 - Credit for Prior Experiential Learning, page 39.

2.A.11 Policies, regulations, and procedures for additions and deletions of courses or programs are systematically and periodically reviewed.

2.A.12 In the event of program elimination or significant change in requirements, institutional policy requires appropriate arrangements to be made for enrolled students to complete their program in a timely manner and with a minimum of disruption.

Standard 2.B - Educational Program Planning and Assessment

Educational program planning is based on regular and continuous assessment of programs in light of the needs of the disciplines, the fields or occupations for which programs prepare students, and other constituencies of the institution.

2.B.1 The institution's processes for assessing its educational programs are clearly defined, encompass all of its offerings, are conducted on a regular basis, and are integrated into the overall planning and evaluation plan. These processes are consistent with the institution's assessment plan as required by Policy 2.2 - Educational Assessment, pages 36-38. While key constituents are involved in the process, the faculty have a central role in planning and evaluating the educational programs.

2.B.2 The institution identifies and publishes the expected learning outcomes for each of its degree and certificate programs. Through regular and systematic assessment, it demonstrates that students who complete their programs, no matter where or how they are offered, have achieved these outcomes.

2.B.3 The institution provides evidence that its assessment activities lead to the improvement of teaching and learning.

Standard 2.C - Undergraduate Program

The undergraduate program is designed to provide students with a substantial, coherent, and articulated exposure to the broad domains of knowledge.

The Commission encourages a tripartite structure for baccalaureate and academic or transfer associate degree programs: (1) general education requires students to master competencies for independent learning and to develop an awareness of the fundamental areas of knowledge; (2) the major requires students to achieve a knowledge base in a specific area of concentration; and (3) electives provide the opportunity for students to pursue other intellectual interests.

The instructional program, as a whole, is based on a clear rationale with the component parts designed to reflect that rationale. Degree and certificate programs are characterized by clarity and order which are discernible in model curricula shown in official publications and are recorded in official student records of actual programs pursued.

Baccalaureate and academic or transfer associate degree programs include a substantial core of general education instruction with identifiable outcomes and require competence in (a) written and oral communication, (b) quantitative reasoning, (c) critical analysis and logical thinking, and (d) literacy in the discourse or technology appropriate to the program of study.

Associate degree programs are designed to prepare students for careers in vocational and technical fields, and for transfer to a senior institution. Accordingly, the educational requirements for these degrees must be carefully determined in order to fulfill their respective purposes.

Programs of study for which applied or specialized associate degrees are granted, or programs of an academic year or more in length for which certificates are granted, contain a recognizable body of instruction in three program-related areas: (1) communication, (2) computation, and (3) human relations described in Policy 2.1 - General Education/Related Instruction Requirements, pages 35-36.

2.C.1 The institution requires of all its degree and pre-baccalaureate programs a component of general education and/or related instruction that is published in its general catalog in clear and complete terms.

2.C.2 The general education component of the institution's degree programs is based on a rationale that is clearly articulated and is published in clear and complete terms in the catalog. It provides the criteria by which the relevance of each course to the general education component is evaluated.

2.C.3 The general education program offerings include the humanities and fine arts, the natural sciences, mathematics, and the social sciences. The program may also include courses that focus on the interrelationships between these major fields of study.

2.C.4 The institution's policies for the transfer and acceptance of credit are clearly articulated. In accepting transfer credits to fulfill degree requirements, the institution ensures that the credits accepted are comparable to its own courses. Where patterns of transfer from other institutions are established, efforts to formulate articulation agreements are demonstrated.

2.C.5 The institution designs and maintains effective academic advising programs to meet student needs for information and advice, and adequately informs and prepares faculty and other personnel responsible for the advising function.

2.C.6 Whenever developmental or remedial work is required for admission to the institution or any of its programs, clear policies govern the procedures that are followed, including such matters as ability to benefit, permissible student load, and granting of credit. When such courses are granted credit, students are informed of the institution's policy of whether or not the credits apply toward a degree. (See Glossary, Ability to Benefit, page 143.)

2.C.7 The institution's faculty is adequate for the educational levels offered, including full-time faculty representing each field in which it offers major work.

Standard 2.D - Graduate Program

A graduate program is a set of advanced academic experiences beyond the baccalaureate level which must be satisfactorily completed to warrant the award of a graduate degree such as a master's or doctorate.

Graduate degree programs may generally be classified into two categories: those that prepare students mainly as scholars and researchers and those that prepare students for a profession. The objective of a research-oriented graduate degree program is to develop scholars -- that is, students with skills necessary to discover or acquire, organize, and disseminate new knowledge. The objective of the professional graduate degree is to develop in students their competence in interpreting, organizing, and communicating knowledge and to develop the analytical and performance skills needed for the conduct and advancement of professional practice.

2.D.1 The level and nature of graduate-degree programs are consistent with the mission and goals of the institution.

2.D.2 Programs of study at the graduate level are guided by well-defined and appropriate educational objectives and differ from undergraduate programs in requiring greater depth of study and increased demands on student intellectual or creative capacities.

2.D.3 When offering the doctoral degree, the institution ensures that the level of expectations, curricula, and resources made available are significantly greater than those provided for master's and baccalaureate level programs.

Standard 2.E - Graduate Faculty and Related Resources

Essential to graduate education are the recruitment and retention of a faculty that excels in scholarship, teaching, and research. To provide an acceptable level of instruction for the graduate student, faculty whose responsibilities include a major commitment to graduate education are involved in keeping pace with, and advancing the frontiers of, knowledge.

Successful graduate programs demand a substantial institutional commitment of resources for faculty, space, equipment, laboratories, library, and information resources.

2.E.1 The institution provides evidence that it makes available for graduate programs the required resources for faculty, facilities, equipment, laboratories, library and information resources wherever the graduate programs are offered and however delivered.

2.E.2 The institution demonstrates a continuing commitment of resources to initiate graduate programs and to ensure that the graduate programs maintain pace with the expansion of knowledge and technology.

2.E.3 Institutions offering graduate degrees have appropriate full-time faculty in areas appropriate to the degree offered and whose main activity lies with the institution. Such faculty are related by training and research to the disciplines in which they teach and supervise research.

2.E.4 Faculty are adequate in number and sufficiently diversified within disciplines so as to provide effective teaching, advising, scholarly and/or creative activity, as well as to participate appropriately in curriculum development, policy development, evaluation, institutional planning, and development. Small graduate programs ordinarily require the participation of several full-time faculty whose responsibilities include a major commitment to graduate education.

2.E.5 In the delivery of off-campus programs, full-time faculty whose responsibilities include a major commitment to graduate education provide physical presence and participation in the planning, delivery, and assessment of the programs.

2.E.6 The institution that offers the doctoral degree has a core of full-time faculty active in graduate education at its main campus and at each off-campus location where doctoral programs are offered.

Standard 2.F - Graduate Records and Academic Credit

Graduate admission and retention policies ensure that student qualifications and expectations are compatible with institutional mission and goals. Graduate program faculty are involved in specifying admission criteria, transfer of graduate credit, and graduation requirements.

2.F.1 Graduate program admission policies and regulations are consistent with and supportive of the character of the graduate programs offered by the institution. These policies and regulations are published and made available to prospective and enrolled students.

2.F.2 Admission to all graduate programs is based on information submitted with the formal application such as undergraduate and graduate transcripts, official reports on nationally recognized tests, and evaluations by professionals in the field or other faculty-controlled evaluation procedures.

2.F.3 Faculty teaching in graduate programs are involved in establishing both general admission criteria for graduate study as well as admission criteria to specific graduate programs.

2.F.4 Graduation requirements for advanced degrees offered by the institution are determined by the faculty teaching in the applicable graduate programs. At minimum, the policies governing these graduation requirements include:

  • the specified time period in which the degree must be completed;

  • the number of credit hours that must be completed at the degree-granting institution, normally at least two-thirds of those required for the degree;

  • the minimum number of graduate-level credits, normally at least 50% of those required for the degree;

  • for the master's degree, a minimum of one academic year of full-time study or its equivalent, with a minimum of 24 semester or 36 quarter hours;

  • the number of graded credit hours that must be earned for the degree;

  • the minimum standard of performance or acceptable grade point average, normally a B or its equivalent;

  • the types of qualifying and exit examinations which the candidate must pass;

  • the proficiency requirements the candidate must satisfy; and
  • the thesis, dissertation, writing, or research requirement which the candidate must satisfy.

2.F.5 Transfer of graduate credit is evaluated by faculty based on policies established by faculty whose responsibilities include a major commitment to graduate education, or by a representative body of such faculty who are responsible for the degree program at the receiving institution. The amount of transfer credit granted may be limited by the age of the credit, the institution from which the transfer is made, and the appropriateness of the credit earned to the degree being sought.

2.F.6 Graduate credit may be granted for internships, field experiences, and clinical practices that are an integral part of the graduate degree program. Consistent with Policy 2.3 - Credit for Prior Experiential Learning, page 39, credit may not be granted for experiential learning which occurred prior to the student's matriculation into the graduate degree program. Unless the graduate student's faculty advisor structures the current learning experience and monitors and assesses the learning and its outcomes, no graduate credit is granted.

Standard 2.G - Continuing Education and Special Learning Activities

The changing nature of the demands placed upon individuals in today's society requires many of them to engage in life-long education. Many postsecondary educational institutions have incorporated into their mission an extension and public service component to provide for life-long learning opportunities. These opportunities are referred to as continuing education, professional development, extension education, outreach, special programs, public and community service programs. Such programs may be for either undergraduate or graduate credit, or non-credit, may be offered on and off campus, and may be offered through a variety of instructional formats.

The provisions of this standard apply to:

  • Off-campus programs and courses for credit, including those at branch campuses, extension centers or satellite sites, external degree programs, and military base programs.

  • Degree-completion programs.

  • Distance learning courses and courses taught exclusively on or off campus by special delivery systems, such as computer-based instruction, correspondence, television, video or audio cassette, or through other electronically-accessed means.

  • Practices providing credit for prior experiential learning.

  • Travel/study and study abroad programs.
  • Non-credit community service programs and courses, including those that offer Continuing Education Units (CEU).

  • Relicensure courses, in-service, and credential programs.

  • Testing, evaluation, and examination procedures for granting degree credit.
  • Workshops, seminars, short courses, conferences, institutes, special evening and summer programs.

Off-Campus and Other Special Programs Providing Academic Credit

Continuing education and special learning activities, programs, and courses offered for credit are consistent with the educational mission and goals of the institution. Such activities are integral parts of the institution and maintain the same academic standards as regularly offered programs and courses. The institution maintains direct and sole responsibility for the academic quality of all aspects of all programs and courses through the management and supervision by faculty and institutional administrators. Adequate resources to maintain high quality programs are ensured.

2.G.1 The institution provides evidence that all off-campus, continuing education (credit and non-credit), and other special programs are compatible with the institution's mission and goals, and are designed, approved, administered, and periodically evaluated under established institutional procedures.

2.G.2 The institution is solely responsible for the academic and fiscal elements of all instructional programs it offers. The institution conforms to Policy A-6 - Contractual Relationships with Organizations Not Regionally Accredited, pages 107-110.

2.G.3 Full-time faculty representing the appropriate disciplines and fields of work are involved in the planning and evaluation of the institution's continuing education and special learning activities.

2.G.4 The responsibility for the administration of continuing education and special learning activities is clearly defined and an integral organizational component of the institution's organization.

2.G.5 Programs and courses offered through electronically-mediated or other distance delivery systems provide ready access to appropriate learning resources and provide sufficient time and opportunities (electronic or others) for students to interact with faculty.

2.G.6 There is an equitable fee structure and refund policy.

2.G.7 The granting of credit for continuing education courses and special learning activities is based upon institutional policy, consistent throughout the institution, and applied wherever located and however delivered. The standard of one quarter hour of credit for 30 hours or one semester hour of credit for 45 hours of student involvement is maintained for all instructional programs and courses.

2.G.8 Continuing education and/or special learning activities, programs, or courses offered for academic credit are approved in advance by the appropriate institutional body and monitored through established procedures.

2.G.9 Credit for prior experiential learning is offered only at the undergraduate level and in accordance with Policy 2.3 - Credit for Prior Experiential Learning, page 39.

2.G.10 An institution offering an external degree, degree-completion program, or special degree has clearly articulated policies and procedures concerning admission to the program, transfer of prior-earned credit, credit by examination (e.g., College Level Examination Program (CLEP) of the College Entrance Examination Board and the institution's own examinations), credit for prior experiential learning, credit by evaluation, and residency requirements.

2.G.11 When credit is measured by outcomes alone or other nontraditional means, student learning and achievement are demonstrated to be at least comparable in breadth, depth, and quality to the results of traditional instructional practices.

2.G.12 Travel/study courses meet the same academic standards, award similar credit, and are subject to the same institutional control as other courses and programs offered by the sponsoring or participating institution. Credit is not awarded for travel alone. The operation of these programs is consistent with Policy 2.4 - Study Abroad Programs, page 40 and Policy A-6 - Contractual Relationships with Organizations Not Regionally Accredited, pages 107-110.

Standard 2.H - Non-credit Programs and Courses

Non-credit programs and courses, including those that award Continuing Education Units (CEU), are consistent with the mission and goals of the institution. These offerings are characterized by high quality instruction with qualified instructors.

2.H.1 Non-credit programs and courses are administered under appropriate institutional policies, regulations, and procedures. Faculty are involved, as appropriate, in planning and evaluating non-credit programs.

2.H.2 The institution maintains records for audit purposes which describe the nature, level, and quantity of service provided through non-credit instruction.

2.H.3 When offering courses that award Continuing Education Units (CEU), the institution follows national guidelines for awarding and recording such units which call for one CEU being equivalent to 10 hours of instruction and appropriate to the objectives of the course. See Glossary, Continuing Education Unit, page 145, and Policy A-9 - Non-credit, Extension, and Continuing Education Studies, pages 116-117.

2.1 Policy on General Education/Related Instruction Requirements

Background. The Commission endorses the concept of general education and, as described below, requires of all undergraduate programs a substantial and coherent program of general education or a program of related instruction. By design, the policy is intended to be qualitative rather than quantitative in nature. No formula for specific application or particular pattern of general education is endorsed. However, every institution is expected to publish in its general catalog a clear and complete statement of its requirements for general education and/or related instruction, as appropriate.

A substantial core of general education instruction is regarded as an essential component of all baccalaureate degree programs and of all academic or transfer associate degree programs. Similarly, a core of related instruction is regarded as a necessary integral part of all applied or specialized associate degree programs and of all certificate programs of an academic year or more in length. General education in degree programs shall be of collegiate level. The contents of general education, and of related instruction in applied or specialized degree and certificate programs, should be comparable, though not necessarily identical, to traditional academic offerings and should be taught by faculty who are clearly appropriately qualified. In some cases, institutions may provide for general education through admission or graduation requirements. Institutions are encouraged to include broad general education instruction as part of non-degree specialized programs in addition to directly utilitarian-related instruction.

General Education. General education introduces students to the content and methodology of the major areas of knowledge - the humanities, the fine arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences - and helps them develop the mental skills that will make them more effective learners. General education may, of course, be taught in different ways, and an institution must judge whether its students are better served by curricula or requirements that approach the disciplines through content and methodology, or that approach the disciplines by concentrating on outcomes. The rationale and plan for the general education requirements should be cooperatively developed by the faculty, administrative staff, and trustees, and the expected outcomes should be stated in relation to the institution's mission and goals.

Related Instruction. Programs of study for which applied or specialized associate degrees are granted, or programs of an academic year or more in length for which certificates are granted, must contain a recognizable body of instruction in program-related areas of 1) communication, 2) computation, and 3) human relations. Additional topics which should be covered as appropriate include safety, industrial safety, and environmental awareness. Instruction in the related instructional areas may be either embedded within the program curriculum or taught in blocks of specialized instruction. Each approach, however, must have clearly identified content that is pertinent to the general program of study.

Adopted 1988

2.2 Policy on Educational Assessment

The Commission on Colleges expects each institution and program to adopt an assessment plan responsive to its mission and its needs. In so doing, the Commission urges the necessity of a continuing process of academic planning, the carrying out of those plans, the assessment of the outcomes, and the influencing of the planning process by the assessment activities.

Background. As noted in Standard Two, implicit in the mission statement of every postsecondary institution is the education of students. Consequently, each institution has an obligation to plan carefully its courses of instruction to respond to student needs, to evaluate the effectiveness of that educational program in terms of the change it brings about in students, and to make improvements in the program dictated by the evaluative process. Assessment of educational quality has always been at the heart of the accreditation process. In earlier times, this assessment tended to focus more upon process measures and structural features; hence, there was considerable emphasis placed upon resources available to enhance students' educational experiences such as the range and variety of graduate degrees held by members of the faculty, the number of books in the library, the quality of specialized laboratory equipment, and the like. More recently, while still stressing the need to assess the quantity and quality of the whole educational experience, the communities of interest served by the accreditation enterprise have come to appreciate the validity and usefulness of using output evaluations and assessment as well as input measures.

Nearly every postsecondary institution accredited by the Commission on Colleges engages in some type of outcomes assessment. Some are more formalized than others; some more quantified; some less so; some well- developed and long-utilized, and some of more recent origin and implementation. The intent of Commission policy is to stress outcomes assessment as an essential part of the ongoing institutional self-study and accreditation processes, to underline the necessity for each institution to formulate a plan which provides for a series of outcomes measures that are internally consistent and in accord with its mission and structure, and, finally, to provide some examples of a variety of successful plans for assessing educational outcomes.

Central to the outcomes analyses or assessments are judgments about the effects of the educational program upon students. These judgments can be made in a variety of ways and can be based upon a variety of data sources. The more data sources that contribute to the overall judgment, the more reliable that judgment would seem to be. There follows a list of several outcomes measures which, when used in appropriate combinations and informed by the institutional mission, could yield an efficacious program of outcomes assessment. This list is intended to be illustrative and exemplary as opposed to prescriptive and exhaustive.

a. Student Information.

From what sources does the institution acquire its students? What percentage directly from high school? Community college transfers? Transfers from other institutions? What blend of gender, age group, and ethnicity has the institution attracted over time? Retained over time? Graduated over time? What is the mean measured aptitude, over time, of entering students? What are the local grade distribution trends? What changes have appeared over time?

b. Mid-Program Assessments.

If the institution has some kind of required writing course or an emphasis on writing across the curriculum, what evidence is there that students are better writers after having been exposed to the course or curriculum? How are these judgments rendered? If student writing improves, do students appear to retain this newly acquired proficiency? If so, why, and if not, why not? What changes are planned as a result of the assessment exercise?

A required course, program, or sequence in mathematics can be assessed in a similar fashion. What evidence is there that the skills improved or declined as a result of the program? How are these judgments rendered? Does the improvement appear permanent or transitory? How has the program been changed as a result of the assessment program?

A required course, program, or sequence in any subject matter can be addressed in a similar fashion, as can nearly any part of the program in general education or the program as a whole.

c. End of Program Assessment.

What percentage of those students who enter an institution graduate? Is the percentage increasing or decreasing? Why? What is the mean number of years in which students graduate? Is that mean increasing or decreasing? Why? What are the criteria for these judgments? What is the several-year retention pattern from one class to the next, such as freshman to sophomore? If patterns reflect significant losses between one level and another, what are the reasons? Similar questions may be asked by gender and/or ethnic background. If the institution or program requires a capstone experience at the end of the curriculum, are present students performing better or worse than their predecessors? What are the reasons? What are the bases for the judgments? (e.g. "The cumulative judgment of the faculty is that the quality of the senior theses in art has improved during the past five years. This judgment is based upon the following evidence . . ." or "The Psychology Department requires the advanced test on the Graduate Record Examination of all graduates. These scores have declined by an average of 2% each year for the past five years. The faculty is of the opinion that the reasons for this decline are . . ..")

d. Program Review and Specialized Accreditation.

Some institutions require periodic program review of each academic program, either through an institutionally approved internal process and/or through seeking and achieving specialized accreditation, or by utilizing external experts. Either or both of these activities can provide a wealth of outcomes assessment data, particularly if the methodology remains somewhat standardized over time.

e. Alumni Satisfaction and Loyalty.

A number of institutions engage in a variety of alumni surveys which elicit, over time, the judgments of alumni of the efficacy of their educational experience in a program or at an institution. Use of such a mechanism can assist an institution in understanding whether alumni satisfaction with various aspects of the educational program, particularly those facets which the institution stresses, appears to be growing or diminishing over time. If satisfaction is increasing, why? If decreasing, why? What are the bases for the judgments? What curricular implications do these findings have?

f. Dropouts/Non-completers.

What methods has the institution utilized to determine the reasons why students drop out or otherwise do not complete a program once they have enrolled in it? What is the attrition rate over the past five years? Is it increasing or decreasing? What are the reasons? What programs or efforts does the institution engage to enhance student retention? Which tactics have proved to be efficacious?

g. Employment and/or Employer Satisfaction Measures.

One relatively straightforward outcomes measure used by some institutions concerns that number and/or percentage of former students who have sought and found employment. Are they happy with what they have found? Do they think the program prepared them well for their chosen occupations? If trained in a particular area, teacher education, for example, have they found a teaching position?

Other institutions have found qualitative comments of frequent employers to be particularly helpful in assessing educational outcomes. Do the employers regularly recruit program graduates? Why or why not? How well do program graduates perform in comparison with graduates from other similar programs? Are there areas of the curriculum in which program graduates are particularly well prepared? Which areas? Why is preparation judged to be particularly good? Where are the weaknesses? Why? What is being done to provide remedial activity?

Adopted 1992

2.3 Policy on Credit for Prior Experiential Learning (1)

The Commission on Colleges recognizes the validity of granting credit for prior experiential learning, provided the practice is carefully monitored and documented. Credit for prior experiential learning may be offered under the conditions enumerated below. This policy is not designed to apply to such practices as CLEP, Advanced Placement, or ACE-evaluated military credit.

a. Policies and procedures for awarding experiential learning credit must be adopted, described in appropriate institutional publications, and reviewed at regular intervals.

b. Credit for prior experiential learning may be granted only at the undergraduate level.

c. Before credit for prior experiential learning becomes part of the student's permanent record, the student must complete a sufficient number of units to establish evidence of a satisfactory learning pattern.

d. Credit may be granted only upon the recommendation of teaching faculty who are appropriately qualified and who are on a regular appointment with the college on a continuing basis.

e. Credit may be granted only for documented learning which ties the prior experience to the theories and data of the relevant academic fields.

f. Credit may be granted only for documented learning which falls within the regular curricular offerings of the institution.

g. An institution that uses documentation and interviews in lieu of examinations must demonstrate in its self-study that the documentation provides the academic assurances of equivalence to credit earned by traditional means.

h. Credit for prior experiential learning may constitute no more than 25% of the credits needed for a degree or certificate.

i. No assurances are made as to the number of credits to be awarded prior to the completion of the institution's review process.

j. Credit may be granted only to enrolled students and is to be identified on the student's transcript as credit for prior experiential learning.

k. Policies and procedures must ensure that credit for prior experiential learning does not duplicate other credit awarded.

l. Adequate precautions must be provided to ensure that payment of fees does not influence the award of credit.

Adopted 1988

2.4 Policy on Study Abroad Programs

Background. Study abroad can be an important phase of undergraduate and graduate programs in American colleges and universities. Carefully planned and administered, foreign study may add significant dimensions to a student's educational experience. As guidelines for institutions which conduct programs of foreign study or whose students participate in such programs, the Commission on Colleges urges that a study abroad program should:

a. be clearly related to the mission and goals of the sponsoring or participating institution;

b. have a well-defined rationale stating the specific nature and purposes of the program, and be accurately represented in the institution's catalog and all promotional literature;

c. provide educational experiences related to the institution's curriculum;

d. be available to students carefully selected according to ability and interest;

e. have a carefully articulated policy regarding the availability of financial assistance to students for programs required by the institution;

f. have clearly specified language proficiency requirements when appropriate to the program and place of study, and clearly defined methods of testing proficiency prior to acceptance into the program;

g. provide extensive information to intended participants, honestly and specifically describing the program's opportunities and limitations, indicating how and where instruction will be given and the relationship to the foreign institution, describing grading practices, identifying especially significant differences between a home campus experience and what can be expected abroad, including information about local living conditions and the extent of responsibility assumed by the program for housing participants;

h. provide extensive orientation for participants prior to departure for, and on arrival in, the foreign country with respect to the matters in item g above, augmented with more detailed information and instruction related to the specific program;

i. have a resident director carefully selected on the basis of professional competence and interest, appointed for a minimum of two years with provision for overlapping replacement appointments to allow for transition, and assured of the same professional rights, privileges, and consideration as colleagues on the home campus, with due respect for the responsibilities of the overseas assignment;

j. provide counseling and supervisory services at the foreign center, with special attention to problems peculiar to the location and nature of the program;

k. guarantee adequate basic reference materials to offset any limitations of local libraries or inaccessibility to them;

l. include clearly defined criteria and policies for judging performance and assigning credit in accordance with prevailing standards and practices at the home institution; where several institutions are involved with a single overseas institution or in a consortium, a common basis for determining grade equivalents is essential;

m. stipulate that students will ordinarily not receive credit for foreign study undertaken without prior planning or approval on the students' home campuses;

n. include provisions for regular follow-up studies on the individual and institutional benefits derived from such programs; and

o. ensure fair reimbursement to participants if the program is not delivered as promised for reasons within the sponsor's control.

Cooperative arrangements are urged among American institutions seeking to provide foreign study opportunities for their students. In many cases, resident directors, faculty, and facilities could be shared, resulting in significant improvement in the efficiency and economy of the operation. One basic reference collection, for example, supported and used by students from several programs is likely to be more satisfactory than several separate ones.

Travel programs per sé or commercially sponsored "study-travel programs" should be thoroughly investigated by an institution before granting degree credit for these activities. The regional accrediting commissions do not evaluate these activities as foreign study programs of member institutions, nor will they evaluate independent foreign study programs which are not related to the curricula of specific colleges or universities in the United States.

Adopted 1972

2.5 Policy on Transfer and Award of Academic Credit

Background. This statement is directed to institutions of postsecondary education and others concerned with the transfer of academic credit among institutions and award of academic credit for extra-institutional learning. Basic to this statement is the principle that each institution is responsible for determining its own policies and practices with regard to the transfer and award of credit. Institutions are urged to review their policies and practices periodically to ensure that they accomplish the institution's goals and that they function in a manner that is fair and equitable to students. Any statements, this one or others referred to, should be used as guides, not as substitutes, for institutional policies and practices.

Transfer of credit is a concept that now involves transfer between dissimilar institutions and curricula and recognition of extra-institutional learning, as well as transfer between institutions and curricula of similar characteristics. As their personal circumstances and educational objectives change, students seek to have their learning, wherever and however attained, recognized by institutions where they enroll for further study. It is important for reasons of social equity and educational effectiveness, as well as for the wise use of resources, for all institutions to develop reasonable and definitive policies and procedures for acceptance of transfer of credit. Such policies and procedures should provide maximum consideration for the individual student who has changed institutions or objectives. It is the receiving institution's responsibility to provide reasonable and definitive policies and procedures for determining a student's knowledge in required subject areas. All institutions have a responsibility to furnish transcripts and other documents necessary for a receiving institution to judge the quality and quantity of the work. Institutions also have the responsibility to advise the students that the work reflected on the transcript may or may not be accepted by a receiving institution.

Interinstitutional Transfer of Credit. Transfer of credit from one institution to another involves at least three considerations:

1. The educational quality of the institution from which the student transfers.

2. The comparability of the nature, content, and level of credit earned to that offered by the receiving institution.

3. The appropriateness and applicability of the credit earned to the programs offered by the receiving institution, in light of the student's educational goals.

Accredited Institutions. Accreditation speaks primarily to the first of these considerations, serving as the basic indicator that an institution meets certain minimum standards. Users of accreditation are urged to give careful attention to the accreditation conferred by accrediting bodies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA has a formal process of recognition which requires that any accrediting body so recognized must meet the same standards. Under these standards CHEA has recognized a number of accrediting bodies, including:

1. Regional accrediting commissions which accredit total institutions.

2. Certain national accrediting bodies that accredit various kinds of specialized institutions.

3. Certain specialized organizations that accredit free-standing professional schools, in addition to programs within multi-purpose institutions.

(CHEA annually publishes a list of recognized accrediting bodies, as well as a directory of institutions accredited by these organizations. This publication, Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education, Programs and Candidates, may be ordered from The Oryx Press, 4041 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85012-3397, (800) 279-6799 or (602) 265-2651).

Although accrediting agencies vary in the ways they are organized and in their statements of scope and mission, all accrediting bodies that meet CHEA's standards for recognition function to ensure that the institutions or programs they accredit have met generally accepted minimum standards for accreditation.

Accreditation affords reason for confidence in an institution's or a program's purposes, in the appropriateness of its resources and plans for carrying out these purposes, and in its effectiveness in accomplishing its goals, insofar as these things can be judged. Accreditation speaks to the probability but does not guarantee that students have met acceptable standards of educational accomplishment.

Comparability and Applicability. Comparability of the nature, content, and level of transfer credit and the appropriateness and applicability of the credit earned in programs offered by the receiving institution are as important in the evaluation process as the accreditation status of the institution at which the transfer credit was awarded. Since accreditation does not address these questions, this information must be obtained from catalogs and other materials and from direct contact between knowledgeable and experienced faculty and staff at both the receiving and sending institutions. When such considerations as comparability and appropriateness of credit are satisfied, however, the receiving institution should have reasonable confidence that students from accredited institutions are qualified to undertake the receiving institution's educational program.

Admissions and Degree Purposes. At some institutions there may be differences between the acceptance of credit for admission purposes and the applicability of credit for degree purposes. A receiving institution may accept previous work, place a credit value on it, and enter it on the transcript. However, that previous work, because of its nature and not its inherent quality, may be determined to have no applicability to a specific degree to be pursued by the student.

Institutions have a responsibility to make this distinction and its implications clear to students before they decide to enroll. This should be a matter of full disclosure, with the best interests of the student in mind. Institutions also should make every reasonable effort to reduce the gap between credits accepted and credits applied toward an educational credential.

Unaccredited Institutions. Institutions of postsecondary education that are not accredited by CHEA-recognized accrediting bodies may lack that status for reasons unrelated to questions of quality. Such institutions, however, cannot provide a reliable, third-party assurance that they meet or exceed minimum standards. That being the case, students transferring from such institutions may encounter special problems in gaining admission and in transferring credits to accredited institutions. Institutions admitting students from unaccredited institutions should take special steps to validate credits previously earned.

Foreign Institutions. In most cases, foreign institutions are chartered and authorized by their national governments, usually through a ministry of education. Although this provides for a standardization within a country, it does not produce useful information about comparability from one country to another. No other nation has a system comparable to voluntary accreditation. Several organizations often can assist institutions by providing information or guidelines on admission and course placement of foreign students: 1) Council on International Education Exchange, 2) Council on Evaluation of Foreign Credentials, 3) National Liaison Committee on Foreign Student Admissions, and 4) National Association of Foreign Student Affairs (NAFSA). Equivalency or placement recommendations are to be evaluated in terms of programs and policies of the individual receiving institution.(2)

Validation of Extra-Institutional and Experiential Learning for Transfer Purposes. Transfer-of-credit policies should encompass educational accomplishment attained in extra-institutional settings as well as at accredited postsecondary institutions. In deciding on the award of credit of extra-institutional learning, institutions will find the services of the American Council on Education's Office of Educational Credit helpful. One of the Office's functions is to operate and foster programs to determine credit equivalencies for various modes of extra-institutional learning. The Office maintains evaluation programs for formally structured courses offered by the military, and civilian noncollegiate sponsors such as business, corporations, government agencies, and labor unions. Evaluation services are also available for examination programs for occupations with validated job proficiency evaluation systems, and for correspondence courses offered by schools accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council. The results are published in a Guide series. Another resource is the General Education Development (GED) Testing Program, which provides a means for assessing high school equivalency.

For learning that has not been validated through the ACE formal credit recommendation process or through credit-by-examination programs, institutions are urged to explore the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) procedures and processes. Pertinent CAEL publications designed for this purpose are available. (See Policy 2.3 - Credit for Prior Experiential Learning, page 39.)

Uses of this Statement. This statement has been endorsed by the national associations most concerned with practices in the area of transfer and award of credit - the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the American Council on Education/Commission on Educational Credit, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Institutions are encouraged to use this statement as a basis for discussions in developing or reviewing institutional policies with regard to transfer. If the statement reflects an institution's policies, that institution might want to use this publication to inform faculty, staff, and students.

Adopted 1977

2.6 Policy on Distance Delivery of Courses, Certificate, and Degree Programs

Introduction. This policy is intended to apply to the broadest possible definition of distance delivery of instruction, including telecommunications technologies -- audio, video, and computer-based technologies -- used for instruction in either live or stored modes. The degree program and credit courses may or may not be delivered exclusively via telecommunications; for example, the course may include a print component and a degree program may include an on-campus requirement.

These requirements are the product of a Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications project, Balancing Quality and Access: Reducing State Policy Barriers to Electronically Delivered Higher Education Programs. The three-year project, supported by the U. S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, was designed to foster an interstate environment that permits the electronic provision of quality higher education programs across state lines. The requirements were developed by a group representing the Western states' higher education regulating agencies, higher education institutions, and the regional accrediting community.

The existence of these requirements for instruction via telecommunications does not relieve an accredited institution of the obligation to meet the eligibility requirements, standards, and policies of the Commission on Colleges. The institution's programs with specialized accreditation meet the same requirements when offered through distance delivery. Applicable institutional accreditation standards and the Commission's substantive change policy apply regardless of when, where, or how instruction takes place, or by whom taught.

Application of Requirements. These requirements are to be addressed in the periodic review -- self-study and peer evaluation -- conducted for reaffirmation of accreditation by every accredited institution that engages in distance delivery through telecommunications. For the institution that proposes to initiate distance learning through telecommunications, these requirements will form the framework for a substantive change review by the Commission on Colleges.


Approval and Purpose

a. The institution's distance delivery programs have a clearly defined purpose congruent with institutional mission and purposes.

b. Each program has been approved through established institutional program approval mechanisms.

Curriculum Courses and Programs

c. Each course provides timely instructional interaction between faculty and students, and whenever possible, among students.

d. Each course includes clearly-defined learning outcomes.

e. Each program of study results in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or certificate awarded.

f. Program integrity is maintained. An electronically delivered degree or certificate program is coherent and comprehensive.

g. Qualified faculty provide appropriate oversight for all distance delivery of education, ensuring both the rigor of those courses and programs and the quality of instruction.

h. The institution provides for assessment of individual student achievement in each course, and at completion of requirements, for a certificate or a degree.

Faculty Support

i. Training is provided for faculty who teach via electronic delivery.

j. The institution has faculty support services specifically related to teaching via electronic delivery.

Students and Student Services

k. Advertising, recruiting, and admissions materials clearly and accurately represent the program(s) and services available.

l. The institution admits to its distance delivery programs students who meet the institutional admission requirements and who also are prepared by background, knowledge, and technical skills to succeed in the distance delivery environment.

m. Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services appropriate to support their learning.

Learning Resources

n. Sufficient learning resources are made available to support student learning in distance delivery programs.

Commitment to Support

o. The institution offering the program demonstrates a commitment to ongoing support, both financial and technical, and to continuation of the program for a period sufficient to enable enrolled students to complete the degree or certificate.

Evaluation and Assessment

p. The institution conducts assessment of the characteristics of student capability to succeed in the distance delivery environment. This information is applied to admission decisions.

q. The institution offering the program evaluates the program's educational effectiveness. The evaluation includes assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, and student and faculty satisfaction. The demonstrated assessment of student learning outcomes will be comparable to outcomes of student learning in more traditional formats.

r. All distance learning courses and programs are incorporated into the institution's program of documenting student academic achievement.

Adopted 1996

Supporting Documentation for Standard Two

General Requirements and Undergraduate Program


1. Instruments and procedures used to measure educational program effectiveness.

2. Inventory of documents that demonstrate the appraisal of educational program outcomes. The documents are to be available on campus for examination by the evaluation committee. Examples may include:

  • annual goals and assessment of success in their accomplishment;
  • studies of alumni and former students;
  • studies regarding effectiveness of programs and their graduates;
  • test comparisons that reveal beginning and ending competencies;
  • surveys of student satisfaction.

3. Inventory of degree programs that have been added or deleted in the last five years.

4. Number of degrees granted in each program for the last three years.

5. Published statements or other written rationale for the general education program.

Required Exhibits:

1. Statement of degree objectives for each degree program.

2 Description of curriculum development bodies and advisory groups, with rules of procedure and recent minutes.

3. Complete departmental or program self-studies prepared for part of this self-study.

4. Evaluation forms and summary reports of student evaluations of faculty and courses.

5. Self-study and evaluation committee reports from external reviews and the most recent professional accreditation visits and documentation of resulting actions.

6. Criteria and procedures for admission and retention of students, maintenance of student records, and awarding of credit, including credit for prior experiential learning.

7. Policies regarding transfer of credit, including articulation agreements with other institutions.

8. Policies regarding remedial work.

9. Description of the materials and forms used in the academic advisement process.

10. Grade distribution studies.

11. Policies governing public service.


1. Compilation of entering freshman student ability measures.

2. Samples of course examinations and other instruments used to assess student achievement or competency and, when possible, available work products determined to be of different levels of quality.

3. Funds devoted to research, if applicable, for each of the past three years; principal sources of such funds.

Graduate Program


1. Copy of the Graduate Catalog.

2. The information specified below is to be summarized separately, or, if it is contained in the Graduate Catalog, identified by page number(s):

  • all graduate degrees offered;

  • general graduate admissions requirements for master's degrees including the use of standardized tests, and special requirements by schools, departments, or degree programs if substantially different;

  • general graduate admissions requirements for doctoral degrees including the use of standardized tests, and special requirements by schools, departments, or degree programs if substantially different;

  • general graduation requirements for advanced degrees and special requirements by schools, departments, or degree programs if substantially different; and

  • graduate faculty by schools or program.

3. Inventory of documents or studies that demonstrate the assessment of outcomes for graduate programs. Examples on file for review by the evaluation committee may include:
  • studies of graduates or former students;

  • studies that indicate the degree of success with graduates obtaining employment in fields relevant to their graduate education;

  • surveys of student satisfaction;

  • review of internal program;

  • surveys of employer satisfaction; and

  • results of national ranking data.

Required Exhibits:

1. Policy on the acceptance of graduate credit, including transfer credit.

2. Policy on the granting of credit for internships, field experience, or clinical practice.

Continuing Education and Special Learning Activities


1. Organizational charts which show the relationship of continuing education to various academic units of the institution, including the internal organization of the continuing education unit.

2. Summary listing of off-campus programs, directors, sites, and enrollments.

3. Policy and procedures for institutional approval of off-campus and special programs and courses.

Required Exhibits:

1. Catalogs, brochures, announcements, and class schedules for special programs.

2. Policies regarding the award of credit based on prior experiential learning, including the distribution of credits, by term, for the past two years.

3. Policies that address all elements of 2.A.10 regarding award of credit.

4. List of all courses and programs taught by nontraditional instructional formats for the past three years, indicating the course, type and duration of instruction, number of credits, enrollment, and location.

5. Budgetary information and financial arrangements relating to continuing education and special learning activities.

6. Studies demonstrating comparability of outcomes for courses or programs offered under concentrated or accelerated time frames, or other nontraditional instructional formats.

7. Policies regarding admission, transfer of prior earned credit, credit by examination (e.g. College Level Examination Program [CLEP]), credit for prior experiential learning, credit by evaluation and residency requirements as they apply to external degrees, degree-completion programs, or special degrees.

8. Sample transcript with explanation of codes showing designations for credit for prior experiential learning and non-degree credit.

9. Contractual agreements with other institutions or travel agencies.

10. Criteria and procedures for admission of students and awarding of credit; procedures for maintenance of student records.

11. Catalogs, brochures, and announcements for continuing education courses and programs, and special learning activities.

12. Criteria and procedures for registration of students and awarding of units; procedures for keeping student records.

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