University set to undergo accreditation

The university is currently going through a re-accreditation process that could go on for a number of months to a year.

“One of the unique features about American higher education is the peer review process called accreditation,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Debra Austin.

FAMU and other higher education institutions in the Southern states are a part of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, sometimes known as SACS. In addition to Florida, SACS is responsible for accrediting institutions in Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana.

Accreditation serves as a “self-policing function that members of a higher organization use to evaluate each other to make sure certain standards of quality are met,” explained Gita Wijesinghe Pitter, associate vice president for academic affairs.

According to information at, accreditation is important for several reasons. Accreditation assures quality to the students and the public.

It also guarantees that an institution meets the minimum standards for its faculty, student services, library and curriculum.

Accreditation is just as important to employers when evaluating credentials of job applicants.

Employers look to accreditation when deciding whether to provide tuition support for current employees seeking additional education.

If a student wants to transfer courses or programs among colleges and universities, accreditation is critical to the student’s acceptance.

Institutions pay close attention to whether a transfer student’s credits came from an accredited institution.

More importantly, Austin said that accreditation is required for access to federal funds such as student aid and other federal programs.

Institutions must meet certain specific core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements to be accredited, according to information on

The 12 core requirements are basic qualifications, such as developing an acceptable Quality Enhancement Plan that addresses issues directly related to improving student learning.

“We must take each standard and explain why we are in accordance with the accreditation policy and provide evidence,” Pitter said.

Shevrin Jones, a student member of the SACS committee, commented, “Most things, we are in compliance with. But some things, we are not.” Jones explained, “It’s nothing that can’t be fixed. Our eyes are not closed to anything.

“The university is doing everything to be in compliance with SACS requirements,” said Jones, 22, a senior chemistry student from Hollywood.

The accreditation process involves a number of steps as outlined on The steps include a self-study, peer review, site visit, action of accrediting organization and monitoring and oversight.

Http:// said the regional accreditation team operate in six specific clusters of states and review entire institutions.

The team operates throughout the country and review entire institutions. People who are specialized to accredit, on the other hand, operate throughout the country.

But they also review specific programs and departments within the university. Specialized accreditors also deal with single-purpose organizations.

Pitter said the self-study will be completed in September 2007. The site visit will be held sometime in 2008, and the final decision will be made in December 2008.

Last fall, the college of engineering and the College of Law had their accreditation re-affirmed Pitter said. Later this fall, the department of social work and the college of pharmacy will undergo the re-accreditation process.

The School of Architecture and the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication will also be reviewed sometime next year.

The accreditation process generally occurs once every 10 years, Austin said.

Jones said students are encouraged to stop by various offices on campus to report things they think can be improved.

Contact Lisa Carpenter at