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Reaccreditation at Davidson: Incentive for Continuous Improvement


The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Board of Trustees reaffirmed Davidson’s accreditation in July 2017, extending Davidson’s accreditation for 10 years, until 2027.

Pat Sellers
VP for Strategic Partnerships Pat Sellers

Davidson College is currently undergoing its mandatory decennial reaccreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This process is intended to verify the credibility of member colleges and schools and certify their excellence as educational institutions. In its mission statement, the commission declares that its objective is to assure the educational quality and improve the effectiveness of its member institutions.

The reaffirmation process consists of several stages. The first was an off-site assessment that occurred in March of this year. For this stage, Davidson compiled a draft report (called the "Compliance Certification") documenting compliance with 88 SACSCOC standards. The college submitted this draft to SACSCOC for review by an off-site committee. After reviewing and evaluating the draft report, the committee presented Davidson with questions and suggestions to address.

During the summer of 2016, Davidson entered the second stage of the reaffirmation process, which involved responding to the off-site committee's concerns and recommendations. The college submitted its responses to SACSCOC at the end of August.

In the third stage of reaffirmation, Davidson will host an on-site review committee on campus during the third week of October. This committee will review the college's responses and interview faculty, staff, and students about any remaining questions. At the end of the visit, the committee will present any final recommendations to campus leaders, which must be addressed within five months.

The final stage of reaffirmation occurs in June of 2017, when the SACSCOC Board of Trustees will meet to review Davidson's final Compliance Certification and vote on whether to reaffirm Davidson's accreditation.

Work and Reward

Preparation for reaccreditation has involved faculty and staff across all departments and divisions of the college. Patrick Sellers, vice president for strategic partnerships, serves as accreditation liaison to SACSCOC and leader of the on-campus work. Additional key members within the campus community are Annie Merrill, Thomson Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of English, who wrote the compliance certification report, and Linda LeFauve, associate vice president for planning and institutional research. Other key members are President Carol Quillen; Vice President of Academic Affairs Wendy Raymond; Associate Director of Institutional Research George Campbell; Professor of English Shireen Campbell; SACS Fellow Anthony Elias; Professor of Religion Trent Foley; Administrative Assistant Erin Moreau; and Brown Professor of Political Science and Assistant Dean for Educational Policy Shelley Rigger.

"SACSCOC's purpose is to establish best practices for an institution and help implement them. This applies not only to Academic Affairs but also to a wide variety of college departments," Merrill explained. "People in charge of those offices are also required to explain, demonstrate, and document their compliance with the principles of best practice for that particular office."

"The commission has raised the standards with regard to evidence. For instance, it is no longer enough to show that our physics majors get a lot of job offers. We have to go into individual majors and show evidence of students achieving learning outcomes," Sellers added. "In Academic Affairs, we've spent the last couple of years shifting to that model, and the departments and programs have really met the challenge."

While accreditation is voluntary, it is required for an institution to receive federal funding and grants. In addition, Davidson chooses to go through the process as a means to help the college continue improving. It is also vital from a public standpoint, assuring people that Davidson, as SACSCOC describes it, "Has a purpose appropriate to higher education and has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that purpose."

The challenges of the reaccreditation process are substantial, as is its importance. Merrill emphasized that, "Everyone involved has to follow the reaccreditation standards carefully, and keep the big picture in mind. Consider on one hand what being accredited does for us, and on the other hand consider how it allows us to reevaluate ourselves."


The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and other international sites approved by the Commission on Colleges that award associate, baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications from other international institutions of higher education.