Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions

    What is institutional accreditation?

    Accreditation is the process of assuring an institution of higher learning is meeting standards for providing a quality educational experience. Those quality standards are defined and evaluated by independent organizations external to the institution. Institutions that are not accredited or that lose their accreditation are unable to show they can deliver a quality educational experience. This has broad consequences for many operations of an institution that can be taken for granted, such as whether degrees from that institution are valuable or whether students can receive federal financial aid.

    The accreditation organization for Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC is the accrediting agency for 11 southern states from Virginia to Texas and has accredited 141 colleges or universities in Georgia alone. The University System of Georgia expects all public colleges and universities in Georgia to maintain their accreditation.

    How does accreditation work?

    Accreditation begins when an institution seeks affirmation that it complies with the standards set forth by the accrediting organization. To show compliance, institutions must submit a report that argues how and why it complies with those standards and also discloses all the documentation necessary to support its case for compliance. The accrediting organization reviews and evaluates the report over several phases and then votes to affirm the institution. After being affirmed, an institution must periodically seek reaffirmation when the process of reporting, reviewing and evaluating begins again. The cycle of reaffirmation normally occurs over five or 10 years, depending on the level of review and newness of the institution.

    GGC earned its first accreditation from SACSCOC in 2009. Because, at that time, GGC was a new institution, its first reaffirmation occurred in 2014. GGC is now in its first 10-year reaffirmation cycle.

    What does a SACSCOC reaffirmation cycle look like?

    The process of reaffirmation takes more than a year, during which time SACSCOC reviews and evaluates the institution at least three separate times before voting to reaffirm an institution. The first step of that process is when the institution submits its compliance certification, a document that details the institution’s continuous adherence to SACSCOC’s quality standards. GGC’s compliance certification is a 265-page report that links to 746 separate supporting documents. It was submitted on March 1, 2023, and SACSCOC returned its review on April 26, 2023.

    A team of reviewers from SACSCOC takes 6-8 weeks to review and provides a response to the institution’s case for compliance for each standard, which forms the basis of the next step in the cycle, the institution’s Focused Report. A Focused Report is the institution’s revision to any of its initial cases for compliance as presented in its compliance certification. An institution has about six months to complete its Focused Report. GGC is completing its Focused Report now and will submit it Sept. 6, 2023.

    Along with the Focused Report, an institution must submit an additional document called a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). A QEP is a description of an institutionwide initiative to grow student achievement and student success through a coordinated implementation of one or more learning innovations intended to benefit the student community in specific ways. GGC’s QEP is focused on leveraging experiential learning to enhance critical thinking. Over the last 15 months, faculty, staff and students across the college have collaborated on the proposal, which is being written and will be submitted with the Focused Report Sept. 6, 2023.

    The entire campus community can expect to learn more about the QEP in the fall 2023 semester.

    After the submission and review of the Focused Report and QEP, SACSCOC schedules a third review, the on-site visit. An On-Site Committee of up to a dozen SACSCOC reviewers will come to campus to further review documentation and talk with faculty, staff and students about its Focused Report and other standards the institution did not need to respond to in its Focused Report. Members of the On-Site Committee do not work for SACSCOC; they are administrative leaders and faculty from SACSCOC-accredited institutions.

    What is going to happen during the on-site visit?

    GGC’s on-site visit is scheduled for Oct. 24-26. Over those two days, the SACSCOC On-Site Committee will meet with faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni to discuss GGC’s compliance with 26 different standards and the QEP. You will notice activity on campus as these meetings occur, but the campus will otherwise be normal. On Oct. 26, the On-Site Committee will present its findings to GGC’s president, Dr. Jann L. Joseph, then pass its recommendation to SACSCOC. SACSCOC will vote on GGC’s reaffirmation in December 2023.

    How can I learn more?

    Starting in August, the Academic Assessment and Accreditation office will host a series of campuswide information sessions. Look out for announcements and the schedule for those sessions. In the meantime, if you have questions, contact Dr. Tom Lilly, assistant provost for Academic Assessment and Accreditation, or Helen McDaniel, assessment and accreditation specialist. They will be happy to assist you.