Exploring Accreditation Options


Seattle Colleges' executive leadership team has been asked by the board of trustees to engage internal and external stakeholders in assessing a move to single accreditation. Key questions to answer are:

  • Would one accreditation create a better student experience and improve student success, especially for BIPOC students?
  • Would one accreditation help reduce overhead and achieve greater economies of scale?
  • Would one accreditation provide a better opportunity to grow as a system?
  • Would one accreditation minimize internal competition and eliminate duplicated expenditures?

The Process

To assist in planning and designing an open, transparent, and objective assessment, the chancellor has decided to:

  • Hire an external consultant to plan and facilitate the necessary assessment activities. 
  • Form an Accreditation Assessment Task Force to help steer the assessment.


Target month: 5/21

Status: Completed

Notes: The National Center for Higher Ed Management System (NCHEMS) was hired to assist with assessment activities.

Target month: 6/21

Status: Completed

Notes: Assessment activities include:

Target month: 9/21

Status: Ongoing


The faculty and staff survey was administered in November 2021. NCHEMS is compiling the survey results, including summarizing the data gathered through the open-ended questions. Survey results, including the raw data, will be made available.

NCHEMS is interviewing trustees in groups of 1-2 in January 2022.

NCHEMS is scheduled to conduct the external focus groups with community partners (such as representatives from the city of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Jobs Initiative, University of Washington, Seattle Goodwill, etc.) on Feb. 16, 2022.

NCHEMs is scheduled to conduct four winter quarter student focus groups between Feb. 3-7, 2022.  The four students include:

  • Students who take classes at more than one college
  • Students who are making inadequate academic progress
  • Students who are excelling academically
  • Degree-seeking students of color.

Between January and February 2022, NCHEMS is gathering comparative student and institutional data from six peer colleges in and out of state (Bellevue College, Pierce College, Spokane Community Colleges, Portland Community College, Dallas College, and Connecticut Community Colleges).

The data collection will include, but is not limited to:

  • Student learning outcomes
  • Curricular process
  • Student completion rates
  • Admission and registration processes
  • Student course placement
  • Student support services
  • Administrative structure

Target month: 4/22

Status: ongoing.

Notes: Data will include results of the surveys, focus groups, and comparative data from peer institutions.

Target month: 5/22

Notes: A presentation will be made to the board at the May Board meeting. All data will be released.

Target month: June/July 2022

Notes: The board will review the report and may ask for additional data before making decision.

Additional Information and Resources

The Task Force will:

  • Assist with the selection of a qualified external consultant.
  • Determine the stakeholders who will participate in the assessment.
  • Work with the consultant in determining the format/approaches for soliciting stakeholder input, data, and viewpoints, e.g., surveys, open forums, focused discussions with small target groups, etc.
  • Determine the types of data and information to be collected to inform the assessment.
  • Determine how all relevant data will be organized and shared.

The task force will use the following guiding principles:

  • Guiding Principles for the Work of the Task Force
  • Improving the student experience and student success is the foremost criteria for consideration.
  • Ensuring an organizational structure that protects long-term viability and sustainability of Seattle Colleges is a priority.
  • Protecting and honoring academic freedom.
  • Preserving faculty control over curriculum and instructional processes.

Committee Members

  • Chemene Crawford (Co-Chair)
  • Shouan Pan (Co-Chair)
  • William Brown
  • Kurt Buttleman
  • Larry Cushnie
  • Greg Dempsey
  • Johnny Dwyer
  • Yoshiko Harden
  • Terence Hsiao
  • Laura Kingston,
  • Tracy Lai
  • Bradley Lane
  • Jill Lange
  • Tish Lopez
  • Pete Lortz
  • Earnest Phillips
  • Jessica Pikul
  • Jay Mclean-Riggs
  • Trish Root
  • Annette Stofer
  • Alexander Tang
  • Marie Villarba

North, South, and Seattle Central Colleges are each accredited separately by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

  • North Seattle College: the college’s accreditation was reaffirmed in 2016, with its mid-cycle visit completed in Feb. 2019. It is up for reaffirmation in Spring 2023.
  • South Seattle College: The college’s accreditation was reaffirmed in June 2019. Its mid-cycle visit is scheduled for Spring 2022.
  • Seattle Central College: the college’s accreditation was reaffirmed in Jan. 2020. Its mid-cycle review is scheduled for fall 2022.

Accredited institutions must:

  • Submit an Annual Report.
  • Year Three: Undergo a Mid-Cycle Self-Evaluation Report and Visit
  • Year Six: Policies, Regulations, and Financial Review (PRFR).
  • Year Seven: Evaluation of Overall Institutional Effectiveness.

Accreditation is a process of recognizing an educational institution’s performance, integrity, and quality.

In the United States, accreditation is extended largely through nongovernmental, voluntary membership associations that:

  • Establish accreditation criteria.
  • Evaluate institutions against that criteria.
  • Approving institutions that meet the criteria.

Accreditation is a nongovernmental activity, but recognition is a governmental function

While accreditation criteria and procedures of accrediting agencies differ, the principles underlying eligibility and levels of expectation are similar in their intent to:

  • Foster excellence through the development of criteria and guidelines for assessing educational quality and institutional effectiveness.
  • Encourage institutional improvement through continuous self-study and evaluation.
  • Ensure the educational community, the general public, and other organizations that an institution has clearly defined and appropriate educational objectives, has established conditions under which their achievement can reasonably be expected, appears in fact to be substantially accomplishing them, and is so organized, staffed, and supported that it can be expected to continue to do so.
  • Provide counsel and assistance to established and developing institutions.

There are three types of accreditation:

  1. Institutional accreditation: this normally applies to an entire institution. [Seattle Colleges is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities(NWCCU.)]
  2. National accreditation accredits single-purpose institutions such as business or information technology institutes, or that have a clear thematic mission, such as faith‐based institutions, distance education institutions, or liberal arts colleges.
  3. Specialized or programmatic accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or schools that are parts of an institution, generally specialized or vocational programs.

Institutions accredited or preaccredited by the NWCCU s are required to examine their own missions, goals, operations, and achievements.

The NWCCU then provides expert analysis by peer evaluators, and, later, commendations for accomplishments and recommendations for improvement from the accrediting body. Since the accreditation status of an institution is reviewed periodically, institutions are encouraged toward continued self-study and improvement.

    NWCCU Accreditation Standards

    Standard One: Student Success and Institutional Mission and Effectiveness

    The institution articulates its commitment to student success, primarily measured through student learning and achievement, for all students, with a focus on equity and closure of achievement gaps, and establishes a mission statement, acceptable thresholds, and benchmarks for effectiveness with meaningful indicators. The institution’s programs are consistent with its mission and culminate in identified student outcomes leading to degrees, certificates, credentials, employment, or transfer to other higher education institutions or programs. Programs are systematically assessed using meaningful indicators to assure currency, improve teaching and learning strategies, and achieve stated student learning outcomes for all students, including underrepresented students and first-generation college students.

    Standard Two: Governance, Recourses, and Capacity

    The institution articulates its commitment to a structure of governance that is inclusive in its planning and decision-making. Through its planning, operational activities, and allocation of resources, the institution demonstrates a commitment to student learning and achievement in an environment respectful of meaningful discourse.

    Several key features of the 2020 Standards for Accreditation to note:

    • Student success and closing equity gaps are at the core of  the 2020 Standards and the accreditation review processes.
    • The standards and accreditation review processes have been updated to better respond to increasing financial pressures and concerns to ensure that institutions can demonstrate their long-term sustainability.
    • There are new processes that allow for adaptability and focused attention to support specific institutional needs.

    Dear Seattle Colleges faculty and staff, 

    With the Fall Quarter being fully underway, my trustee colleagues and I thank you for continuing your amazing work in serving diverse students under such challenging pandemic conditions. Your commitment to student success is greatly appreciated. 

    Seattle Colleges consists of three separately accredited colleges.  Because of the ever-changing environment facing our District, including continued enrollment decline, shrinking state support, and changing student needs, the Board has charged the chancellor to engage the district community in an open assessment of the current accreditation model.  The primary interest of the Board lies in gathering data to help determine whether a separate accreditation model best positions Seattle Colleges in serving its mission. 

    For that reason, I am emailing today to invite you to participate in an anonymous survey.  This survey is designed to gather candid viewpoints and insights from all faculty and staff on the intersection of modes of accreditation and important district outcomes, namely: student enrollment, retention, completion, and organizational sustainability.  This short, confidential survey should take about 5-10 minutes to complete. Your responses will be collected via Survey Monkey and compiled by the third-party Consultant, NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems). Rest assured, your personal identity and your specific responses will not be identifiable.  

    In addition to the Survey, NCHEMS will also be hosting several Focus Groups (students, community partners, and trustees) and gathering relevant data of peer colleges both in and outside WA.  Data gathered from all these sources will inform the Board in its review and final decision-making next year. 

    I encourage all employees to complete this Survey no later than 5:00 p.m., Monday, November 15, 2021.   Your opinion matters. 

    Here is the link to the Survey   

    Thank you,

    Louise Chernin 

    Chair, Board of Trustees