The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the primary regional accrediting agency for 11 southern U.S. states, recently awarded Virginia Tech a reaffirmation of accreditation.

The announcement came at the end of an intensive multi-year process that included an off-site peer review, an on-site peer review, and a final review by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. Along the way, more than 130 faculty members, administrators, and staff contributed to building a comprehensive, interwoven picture of Virginia Tech’s commitment to its students, faculty and staff, the public that it serves, and its mission. 

At its most fundamental, SACSCOC accreditation allows the university to continue to grant high-quality, nationally recognized degrees and to receive federal funding. It’s also an acknowledgment of Virginia Tech’s compliance with key SACSCOC principles, including integrity, institutional planning and effectiveness, student achievement, and financial and physical resources. 

Accreditation takes place every decade, with periodic evaluations to authorize new programs or instructional sites, such as when the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine was integrated into the university. The process can be arduous, yet it’s valuable for the university. “Accreditation provides an opportunity to do a deep dive into all aspects of our university, to reveal both areas of strength and opportunities for improvement,” said Executive Vice Provost Don Taylor. 

Integral to SACSCOC’s accreditation is the required Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a course of action to improve student learning outcomes or student success in an area the university considers important. “The QEP offers an opportunity to pursue a 'big deal' program of vital importance to our students that is aligned with our strategic goals,” Taylor explained.

For Virginia Tech’s most recent QEP, the university has developed a five-year strategic plan to implement a Bridge Experience Program for undergraduates. Bridge Experiences connect the knowledge and skills students gain in the classroom with experiential learning opportunities beyond it, including service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, field work, and apprenticeships.

In some colleges, Bridge Experiences are already a strength. Eventually, all undergraduates will participate in them. The QEP aims to make them a requirement of 50 percent of academic majors by SACSCOC’s five-year review in 2027. According to Taylor, “It’s something that has evolved as a critical need for our students as they prepare for graduation and service to the commonwealth and beyond.” 

Past QEP efforts have successfully created university-wide improvements to student learning. Most recently, Virginia Tech’s QEP centered on creating first-year experiences for undergraduate students. As a result, the number of available first-year-experience courses rose from five to 29 in five years. 

A renewed focus on Virginia Tech’s “hands-on, minds-on” approach to undergraduate education is just one of the benefits of SACSCOC accreditation. “Students attending a SACSCOC-accredited university can be assured that the institution has demonstrated integrity throughout its operations and that it has a mission that is appropriate to higher education, well-qualified faculty, and effective university leadership,” said Kristin Bush, assistant provost for regional accreditation.

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