NEASC, The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc., one of six regional accrediting bodies in the United States, is a voluntary, non-profit, self-governing organization having as its primary purpose the accreditation of educational institutions. Through its evaluation activities, carried out by five commissions, the Association provides public assurance about the educational quality of those schools and colleges that seek or wish to maintain membership, which is synonymous with accreditation.
Institutions of higher learning achieve accreditation from the New England Association through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education by demonstrating they meet the Commission's Standards for Accreditation and comply with its policies. The Standards for Accreditation establish minimum criteria for institutional quality. In addition, the Commission adopts policies which elucidate the Standards and relate to their application. Moreover, the Commission expects affiliated institutions to work toward improving their quality, increasing their effectiveness, and continually striving toward excellence. Its evaluative processes are designed to encourage such improvement.
Each of the eleven standards encompasses a principal area of institutional activity. In applying the Standards, the Commission assesses and makes a determination about the effectiveness of the institution as a whole.
The institution which meets the Standards:
- has clearly defined purposes appropriate to an institution of higher learning;
- has assembled and organized those resources necessary to achieve its purposes;
- is achieving its purposes;
- has the ability to continue to achieve its purposes.
The Commission recognizes that some aspects of an institution are always stronger than others. Meeting the Standards does not guarantee the quality of individual programs, courses, or graduates, but serious weaknesses in a particular area may threaten the institution's accreditation.
The Commission deals with institutional differences in ways designed to protect both educational quality and individual philosophy and practice. The Standards are essentially qualitative criteria that measure the institution's current state of educational effectiveness. They allow the Commission to appraise a wide variety of collegiate institutions, differing in purpose, size, organization, scope of program, clientele served, support, and control. By design, the Standards do not preclude perceptive and imaginative experimentation aimed at increasing the effectiveness of higher education.
Institutions whose policies, practices, or resources differ significantly from those described in the Standards for Accreditation must present evidence that these are appropriate to higher education, consistent with institutional mission and purposes, and effective in meeting the intent of the Commission's Standards. The existence of collective bargaining agreements, in and of themselves, does not abrogate institutional or faculty obligations to comply with the standards for accreditation. Institutions of higher learning desire recognition by the New England Association are expected to abide by the Standards. Affiliated colleges and universities manifest their integrity through continued voluntary adherence to these criteria. Compliance is periodically reviewed through peer evaluations. These are preceded by self-studies directed toward demonstrating both adherence to the Standards and institutional improvement. The self-regulatory nature of accreditation assumes that institutions agree to participate in and to accept the profit by an honest and forthright assessment of institutional strengths and weaknesses.
The Standards for Accreditation were developed through a lengthy participatory process which involved each member institution as well as the public. Therefore, they represent the accrued wisdom of some 200 colleges and universities about the essential elements of institutional quality, and they offer a perspective which stresses the public purpose of higher education. The Commission continually evaluates the effectiveness of its Standards and its processes for applying them, and makes such changes as conditions warrant.