University, students begin accreditation process

FMU is currently going through the reaccreditation process, which it completes every 10 years.

Three senior FMU students, Christina Xan, Rebekah Davis and Mason Jones are assisting with this process led by Dr. Russell Ward and Charlene Wages.

Many students do not know what the accreditation process is. Davis said accreditation is the standard by which an educational institution is evaluated. It ensures that the university meets all of its requirements. These requirements include state and federal level guidelines, including those mandated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

“Accreditation proves that the degrees and programs offered by Francis Marion are quality and also ensures that the university follows important guidelines on the State and Federal level,” Jones said.

According to Xan, there are over 75 different sections that relate to requirements that the university will be rated on. These fit into three maincategories: Core Requirements, Comprehensive Standards and Federal Requirements.

Xan added that the accreditation process involves defining the duties of thepresident, the faculty and the students to make sure that everyone is fulfilling the responsibilities outlined in the SACSCOC Resource Manual.

“We also have to report on budgets to state where our money is going and to ensure we’re using our income correctly,” Xan said.

Those 75 sections cover each facet of the university.

“It’s extremely hard to sum up the requirements that the university has to meet because there are so many, and many of them are vastly different,” Xan said. “I would say the overarching theme is ensuring each branch our campus is producing the results necessary, whether it’s related to how we run athletics, where our money goes, or the responsibilities of our faculty. We have to scrutinize every detail of our campus and ensure it follows guidelines.”

According to Davis, every 10 years FMU compiles a compliance report, or self-audit, which contains evidence that ensures that the university is meeting the criterion to maintain its accreditation.

“The accreditation process is important because accreditation can determine several facets of the university, such as which credits transfer, how much funding the university gets and lets students know if the university meets minimum standards,” Davis said.

During this accreditation process, Dr. Russell E. Ward, Jr. is the SACS coordinator. This means that he is in charge of compiling documents and contacting content providers across the university.

The coordinator typically changes every 10 years. In 2007 Dr. Lynn Hanson was the SACS coordinator. Once the accreditation report is complete multiple people, including Dr. Charlene Wages and President Carter must read and approve it.

Then, the report will be sent to SACS. SACS reviews the report and lets the university know whether it is still in good standing to be accredited.

According to Jones, the students assisting with the accreditation process are responsible for ensuring that the content providers for different sections of the university’s self audit are made aware of the extent of their responsibilities, ensuring that individual documents are present within their respective compliance sections.

Students will be working to edit documents and format them to be consistent and within compliance for the SACSCOC audit next fall.

“Pretty much, getting a degree from an accredited school means everything,” Davis said. “If your school isn’t accredited, it is below standard and your degree probably won’t have as much validity compared to an accredited one.”

Forming the compliance report is expected to take the entirety of this school year and likely some of the summer as well. It is due in August of 2017 and will be recompiled in 2027.

In addition to being a crucial document to the university, the compliance report offers students a unique piece to put in their writing portfolios.

“I’m really excited to be working on this project because not only is it a piece of writing that only a handful of students have in their portfolios in the last 10 years, but also because there are so many writing techniques that I’m learning,” Davis said. “Working on the compliance report is a real world way to apply the skills that I’ve learned in technical communication classes.”

Student writers will likely work on the report until they graduate or the report is finished and sent to SACS.

After the compliance report is finished and approved, the report can be viewed on FMU’s website.