The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is recognized by the United States Department of Education (DOE) and Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as an authority for accreditation of public and private schools, colleges and university in the United States, with specific jurisdiction in California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia, Palau, and Northern Marianas Islands. It also provided accreditation to American schools located in Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Pacific Rim, East Asia, and areas other areas of the Pacific and East Asia.
The WASC is made up of three separate organizations; the Accrediting Commission for Schools, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. The Accrediting Commision for Schools is responsible for accrediting all schools below the college level including elementary, middle, junior, and high schools as well as adult schools that are non-degree granting institutions. The ACCJC provides accreditation for public and provide post-secondary schools that offer two-year associate degrees. The Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities accredits both public and private colleges and universities that offer bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs.
WASC Conditions of Eligibility
Any educational institution desiring regional accreditation by WASC must meet certain conditions of eligibility. While each applicant is reviewed on a case-by-case basis the following criteria must be met to be eligible for accreditation.
- Have current students, faculty and administration in place and be in at least the second semester of operations.
- Reach minimum enrollment of 15 full-time students.
- Develop and published a clear mission state or statement of purposes along with a plan for curriculum.
- Have a qualified CEO.
- Have an administrative system in place the provides sufficient oversight to see that education programs are carried out.
- Have adequate staff, organization, facilities and resources to carry out operations
- Have an admissions policy that supports the institution’s stated objectives
- Have a written curriculum
- Have qualified faculty, teachers and staff
- Have adequate financial reserves or backing to provide reasonable assurance of continued financial stability.
WASC Postsecondary Criteria for Accreditation
Before any postsecondary institution can apply for candidacy or start the WASC accreditation process they must meet the following criteria.
- Criterion 1 – Institutional Mission and Schoolwide Learner Outcomes – Postsecondary institutions must have a charter and/or authority from a government agency to operate and award degrees. The institution must also have a clearly defined mission that is adopted and published by the Board. If incorporated, a copy of the articles of incorporation must be furnished. Measurable learner outcomes must be developed that are in line with the school’s mission.
- Criterion 2 – Organizational Infrastructure and School Leadership – The institution needs to have a governing Board and a administrator/director/CEO appointed by the Board. The institution must also have sufficient staff, be operational with current students and award academic credits based on generally accepted practices. Finally, it must also have an admissions policy that is consistent with its mission and purpose.
- Criterion 3 – Faculty and Staff – The institution must have qualified faculty and staff as well as acceptable and well-defined hiring and compensation policies for staff members.
- Criterion 4 – Curriculum – Education programs must be offered in recognized fields of study ultimately leading to a certificate, licensure, degree, or other indicator of program completion.
- Criterion 5 – Instructional Program – Through regular monitoring and assessment the institution must achieve acceptable learning outcomes. It must demonstrated that students that complete relevant programs achieve these outcomes. The institution must provide qualified instructors and technology resources required to help students succeed in class and after they graduate.
- Criterion 6 – Use of Assessment – The institution must have a well developed assessment program with procedures that allow staff to accurately evaluate effectiveness of programs for students, staff and teachers.
- Criterion 7 – Student Support Services – The institution must provide services that advance a student’s education and learning development.
- Criterion 8 – Resource Management – The institution must provide access to adequate information and learning resources to support educational programs for students. It must maintain financial resources to support the student learning process and must undergo an external audit by a CPA or the equivalent.
- Criterion 9 – Community Connection – The institution must make public information relating to programs, financial aid, admissions policies, student fees, etc. The institution must also reach out to community leaders, businesses and related organizations in an effort to enhance educational opportunities for students.
- Criterion 10 – Action Plan for Continual Improvement – The institution must be able to systematically evaluate how well it is accomplishing its objectives and provide planning for improvement of operations and processes, student learning, and achievement of education goals. The institution must develop an Action Plan that guides the school’s improvement efforts moving forward.
For more information about WASC Accrediting Commission for Schools visit their website at http://www.acswasc.org. To search schools that are accredited through WASC visit http://www.acswasc.org/directory_search.cfm.