Optional and Alternative Visits
Note: In September 2012 the Commission began a three-year transition during which PEAQ will be replaced by two new Pathways, the Standard Pathway and the Open Pathway. AQIP, which has been in place since 1999, will continue as a third Pathway. This section is addressed to those institutions that are scheduled for PEAQ evaluations in 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15.
In addition to traditional comprehensive and focused visits, the Commission sponsors visits that may complement the overall accreditation review process. These include chair visits, sequential visits, collaborative and cooperative visits, and interregional visits. The team chair, Commission staff, and institutional representatives work together to arrange these visits when they are necessary to ensure the comprehensiveness of an evaluation process.
The team chair may arrange for a chair visit if the institution requests it and the Commission staff liaison concurs. Chair visits are scheduled only when an institution believes that its structure or geographic locations require substantial advance discussion. The team chair makes the final decision about conducting the visit after consulting with Commission staff. The Commission office bills the institution for the cost of the chair visit.
A chair visit normally lasts one day. It is devoted to establishing the details and logistics of the evaluation team’s visit. The team chair examines the organization’s logistical or programmatic particularities and develops an understanding of its context so that the team can approach the evaluation with a minimum of lost time and a maximum of effectiveness.
In most cases, visits to institutions with off-campus programs or sites follow the patterns described for comprehensive visits. In some cases, an institution may have so many sites that are so widely dispersed within and outside its home state, the North Central region, and/or the United States that a sequential visit conducted over a longer period of time is needed. Sequential visits require the Commission and the institution to agree on an appropriate evaluation design and evaluation team members to commit to more time away from their home campuses. Team members who agree to serve on sequential visits receive additional information from the Commission. Fees for sequential visits are billed on a cost-plus basis.
Visits with International Components
Commission policies on institutional change mandate team visits for certain international education programs and sites. Because of the unique nature of international visits, the Commission has endorsed the Principles of Good Practice in Overseas International Education Programs for Non-U.S. Nationals. Fees for international visits are billed on a cost-plus basis.
Cooperative and Collaborative Evaluations
The Commission cooperates with accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). An institution accredited by the Commission and holding accredited status with another recognized accrediting agency may request a cooperative evaluation. The Commission also provides opportunities for cooperation with state agencies. Requests for cooperative visits are considered when it is in the best interest of the institution and the agencies to conduct such an evaluation, the Commission and the other agencies are able to work together for mutually effective results, and the product satisfies the needs of the agencies.
Joint Visits with Other Institutional Accrediting Bodies
The Commission conducts a joint visit with another institutional accrediting agency recognized by the USDE or CHEA only if there are no major areas of conflict relative to the mission and/or criteria and standards of the agencies involved. Joint visits are limited to two participating agencies. They typically involve shared decision making among evaluators representing the two agencies and culminate in a single team report that complies with the requirements of both agencies. Written agreements negotiated between the president of the Commission or the director’s designee and the executive director or designee of the other institutional accrediting agency govern cooperation and the mechanics and output of the evaluation.
Coordinated Visits with Specialized or Professional Accrediting Bodies
The Commission conducts a coordinated visit with a specialized or professional accrediting agency recognized by the USDE or CHEA. Coordinated visits are typically limited to no more than three participating agencies. While the teams of the participating agencies may coordinate some or many of their activities on campus, decision making and the production of the team report are done separately by each agency. A letter of agreement for each coordinated visit, signed by the executive directors of the participating agencies or their designees, lays out the level of coordination and interaction allowed among agency representatives involved in the visit.
Concurrent Visits with State Agencies
To allow institutions to coordinate activities and to lessen their burden of preparation, the Commission may establish a formal agreement with a state agency for concurrent visits to individual institutions or groups of institutions within its state. The agreement will define the understanding of the responsibilities of the two teams.
Concurrent visits occur only when the Commission is conducting a comprehensive evaluation. The institution must be the initiator of the request for a concurrent visit. The state agency or the Commission (the president and/or team chair) can decide in specific situations that a concurrent visit is not appropriate. If one of the three parties decides against a concurrent visit, both agencies will hold their respective visits at different times.
Interregional Visits with Other Regional Accrediting Bodies
The Commission is committed to supporting the reciprocal program of cooperation established through the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) for the evaluation of institutions operating across regions. This program outlines a protocol for evaluating institutions operating across regions.
To preserve the values and practices of peer review and regional accreditation, the Commission’s evaluation of affiliated institutions that deliver education at a physical site(s) in another region(s) within the U.S. or its territories will be undertaken with the participation of the host regional accrediting commission(s). This will include the joint (home/host) evaluation of the off-campus sites in a host region against the accreditation standards of that region.