Are you battling an accreditation self-study? Do you wonder whether it’s time to engage a good consultant?
Achieving accreditation is not simply a matter of submitting correctly-written answers and perfectly-formatted documents. It is a matter of changing the way your organization operates so that it is, and will continue to be, worthy of accreditation. Thus, accreditation is not only a certification of quality. It is a process for producing quality.
The heart of the process for achieving and maintaining accreditation is a self-study that a school submits to an accrediting agency. In the self-study, you will evaluate how well you comply with the standards of good practice accepted by your accrediting agency and how well you achieve your own mission, goals and objectives. Included in the self-study is a planning process to make the improvements identified throughout the process.
How might an accreditation self-study consultant help?
What an Accreditation Self-Study Consultant Does for Your Team
When it comes to your accrediting agency’s self-study process, you do not want to merely hire a consultant to write your self-study. That alone, would put your school in non-compliance before an accreditation commission.
You want to hire a mentor who will use the self-study process to lead and teach your team how to run a college that can stay accredited.
A good mentor will teach your student dean, academic dean, business manager, president, faculty members, and other administrators what your accrediting agency expects of them. Similarly, the consultant may meet with your board, registrar, and other staff to train them how to work together to make the school worthy of accreditation.
The degree to which a consultant meets your team for hands-on help versus simply reviewing your documents and writing comments varies. For a school lacking staff members with accreditation experience, a more hands-on approach may be useful.
How might this work in practice?
What Happens During an Accreditation Self-Study Consultation
Let’s say your team is working on a compliance section of your self-study document. So, you schedule an appointment at 1:00 Thursday with your consultant and your administrative team. As you sit around a conference table, the consultant might open a file on his laptop computer showing the accreditation standard you will work on that day. You would then discuss that accreditation standard. If possible, you’ll use a projector and screen so everyone can see and provide input as the consultant writes.
With the self-study compliance document on screen, the consultant explains the meaning of each standard and its sub points (e.g., essential elements, criteria). Each team member will explain what they do in relation to each point. Your consultant takes notes and writes up a description and an analysis pertaining to the school’s compliance with that standard.
Your team and the consultant together then assess whether the school does or does not fully comply with the standard.
If the school does not comply with a certain standard, your consultant will help your team see various options on how to achieve compliance, but it is your team—not the consultant—that must decide on a recommendation for change.
Be careful not to make a recommendation that you think sounds good but would be something you would not really implement. This is because your compliance will be periodically monitored.
This same mentoring process can be conducted via Internet conferencing. During a web-conference, your team would gather around a table with a microphone and a computer screen (again, preferably with a projector).
Whether meeting across a table or across the Internet, a good consultant will keep in close contact with your team. Between meetings, there are often e-mails, phone calls, homework assignments for team members, and homework assignments for the consultant.
As you can see, your consultant is not making the decisions and simply writing a self-study for your school, nor is your consultant leaving your team alone to struggle with how to write it. He or she is first and foremost an advisor to the committee and a mentor to your staff. Secondly, he or she may be the logical editor to write out the decisions that your committee agrees on.
Moreover, after discussing the dozens of issues related to accreditation standards, your consultant will also provide suggestions for improving your school that are not requirements for accreditation. These later suggestions, for example, can increase student recruiting and retention, improve quality of new hires or board members, and safeguard your mission and vision.
What Makes a Good Accreditation Consultant?
A good consultant can make the difference not only in achieving accreditation but also realizing long-term growth and success. Sadly, not every accreditation self-study “consultant” has a long track record of success that could inspire the confidence of your board and donors to achieve these goals.
Not every accreditation consultant understands the unique challenges a small school faces when pursuing their initial accreditation. And not every self-study consultant has a vision for mentoring your team.
Since 1999, Agron & Associates, Inc. has specialized in helping Christian colleges achieve initial accreditation. With our professional help, your school is more likely to achieve accreditation, likely to achieve it sooner, and likely to become a stronger school.
Are you considering whether you are ready to begin the accreditation journey? Contact us right away so that we can help you start building the right future.
- Request a FREE phone consultation to discuss your eligibility to pursue accreditation
and what consulting options best fit your school
Contact us for more information.