Information from the SACSCOC Board of Trustees Meeting
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: SACSCOC Membership
FROM: Belle S. Wheelan, President, SACSCOC
DATE: December 11, 2020
SUBJECT: Information from the SACSCOC Board of Trustees Meeting
Greetings one and all!! As has become my practice, I am writing to share with you updates from the December meeting of the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Mr. Pat McKee, SACSCOC legal counsel, shared that Paine College has now become accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) and that Bennett College has achieved candidacy status with them as well. The legal case with Paine College has now ended; however, we are still in litigation with Bennett College.
Additionally, the Stamp of Accreditation is now ready for use. You will soon receive a separate email with the Stamp and directions on its use. A pilot group of institutions has already received the Stamp because we had to demonstrate “proof of usage” in order to comply with requirements of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
In September, the SACSCOC Board of Trustees approved a budget that had a deficit due to hotel cancellation fees for hotels booked in Nashville for the 2020 SACSCOC Annual Meeting; however, the City of Nashville recognized that it could not host 4,000 individuals to our meeting due to the pandemic and relieved SACSCOC of all cancellation fees. At the December meeting, the SACSCOC Board approved an updated budget that included additional revenue from registration fees for the 2020 SACSCOC Virtual Annual Meeting and a salary adjustment for staff. Reports from the Investment Committee and the Audit and Finance Committee were also received.
The Executive Council and the SACSCOC Board of Trustees also approved a new fee of $3,500 to cover costs for reviewing Fifth-Year Interim Reports. Previously, those costs came out of the operating budget of the Commission. Since it is a new fee, the membership had to approve it as well. It was presented at the meeting of the College Delegate Assembly (CDA) at the 2020 SACSCOC Virtual Annual Meeting and was approved. The fee is either commensurate with or LOWER than the other regional accreditors’ fees. The new fee becomes effective July 1, 2021.
During the September and December 2020 meetings of the SACSCOC Board of Trustees, the Board approved two (2) new policies, revisions to over 20 current policies, and revisions to or new interpretations and guidelines. We have also updated the Resource Manual. All of the documents will be posted on our website no later than early January. They include:
- Accrediting Decisions of Other Agencies
- Accreditation Procedures for Applicant Institutions
- Antitrust Compliance
- The Appeals Procedures of the College Delegate Assembly
- Arbitration of Adverse Actions
- Disclosure of Accrediting Documents and Actions of SACSCOC
- Distance Education and Correspondence Courses
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement
- Dues, Fees and Expenses
- Emergency Temporary Relocation of Instruction
- Enrollment Growth of an Institution
- Ethical Obligations of Evaluators
- Guidelines for The Accreditation Liaison
- Guidelines for Addressing Distance Education and Correspondence Courses
- Guidelines for Evaluation of Distance Education (On-Line Learning)
- Institutional Obligations for Public Disclosure
- Interpretation of Standard 6.2.a
- Interpretation of Standard 8.2.a
- Interpretation on Sampling (Standards 7.3, 8.2.a, 8.2.b and 8.2.c)
- Interpretation of Standard 13.8
- The Quality and Integrity of Educational Credentials
- Reaffirmation of Accreditation and Subsequent Reports
- Reports Submitted for SACSCOC Review (Procedures Revised 06/15/2020)
- Sanctions, Denial of Reaffirmation, and Removal from Membership
- “Substantive Change Policy and Procedures”
Many of the new policies or revisions were prompted by the new federal regulations that went into effect July 1, 2020, and which the SACSCOC Board of Trustees approved in either September or December 2020. Institutions should focus on all of the above policies, especially those related to substantive change. (See the “Substantive Change Policy and Procedures” at https://sacscoc.org/app/uploads/2019/08/SubstantiveChange.pdf.)
Please note that substantive change restrictions will apply to any institution that went on sanction as of the September 3, 2020, SACSCOC Board of Trustees Meeting. This begins the clock for which substantive change restrictions will apply going forward. Additionally, since September 3, 2020, if your institution has been placed on a provisional certification by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), then you need to inform me by email before January 8, 2021, of such status. This provisional status is also subject to substantive change restrictions.
RELOCATION OF INSTRUCTION
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USDE permitted accreditors to grant or waive emergency temporary relocation of instruction for institutions, permitting instruction to be offered via distance education for more than 50% of a program with or without approval. Requests were made of the Department to extend the waivers through the end of the spring 2021 semester; however, the language only permits the extension through December 31, 2020, or until the pandemic has been declared over. Since the pandemic could end in the middle of the spring semester, accreditors asked their institutions to get approval for offering courses via distance. Institutions would then be able to proceed into the spring semester offering either face-to-face or distance education without submitting any additional documents. Please note that the date to receive approval from SACSCOC was September 1, 2020. If you have not already received approval from SACSCOC to offer instruction via distance, you may be out of compliance with the Principles of Accreditation. When we receive further clarification from USDE, we will let you know. Please continue to check the Coronavirus news section on the homepage of our website for additional information.
SACSCOC ANNUAL MEETING
With the move from an in-person to a virtual meeting, we weren’t quite sure how many participants to expect. While we generally register around 4,200 attendees at the SACSCOC Annual Meeting, we were quite excited that over 5,000 were able to register and participate in our virtual meetings. I’d like to offer kudos to the SACSCOC Meeting Planning Office staff for their magic in making the shift seamlessly! They had about 70 days to make the turnaround because we continued to hope we’d be able to meet in person in Nashville. They did wonders!! We hope you took time to complete the evaluations for each session. If you would still like to send us feedback, please do so.
During the Presidents’ Day sessions, several comments were made of the variety of processes institutions are using to test members of their communities for the COVID-19 virus. While I don’t usually send information about specific products, as it turned out, just as the session ended, I received information from an organization called CIC Health that provides testing at scale all over the country for large institutions. They’ve partnered with the Broad Institute (of MIT and Harvard) and Poplar Healthcare (of Memphis, TN) to make testing available to schools, universities, elderly care facilities, and more. They are moving into providing much-lower-cost pooled-testing technologies, aimed principally at schools and universities. It takes advantage of the low prevalence in most schools to test 10-20 students and/or faculty at a time in a pool. This approach brings the all-in-cost per test down to almost single digits while maintaining extremely high accuracy and fast turnaround times. If you are interested in finding out more about the project, I have included the the informational flyer here.
I have made the decision to hold all SACSCOC meetings and committee visits scheduled for the spring of 2021 virtually. That includes Off-Site and On-Site Committees, the Small College Initiative meeting, New Trustee Orientation, Chair Training, etc. Though the vaccine will soon be made available, I don’t know how widely it will be made available so, I erred on the side of caution. We are planning to begin holding in-person meetings again beginning July 1, 2021; however, STAY TUNED.
In case you were not able to attend the Second General Session during the SACSCOC Virtual Annual Meeting where I gave the “State of the Commission” address, I have included it here.
We have lost members of our SACSCOC institutional families this year and we are holding all of you up in prayer as we move into this holiday season. You deserve the upcoming time off for the holidays and I truly hope you will take some of that time to relax. We don’t know what 2021 will hold but we need you to be as healthy as you can be in order to tackle it!
I appreciate all of the support you have provided SACSCOC and me personally during these turbulent times and wish for you a happy, safe and warm holiday season.