Standards and Notations
The nearly 250 member schools of the Commission on Accrediting of ATS have adopted accreditation standards composed of two complementary parts: the General Institutional Standards and the Educational and Degree Program Standards. These two parts reflect the nature of Commission accreditation, which is that the Commission accredits institutions and approves degree programs. The General Institutional Standards apply across the range of diverse schools, even though they may be interpreted in slightly varying ways as a function of the institutional structure and educational mission of the school. The Educational and Degree Program Standards are intended to ensure a common understanding of the academic work involved in degree programs at member schools and to provide common public meaning for a degree, regardless of which member school grants it.
The standards may also be viewed structurally as a three-tiered edifice, illustrated graphically. The General Institutional Standards form the foundation for the Educational Standard, and interpretation of the individual Degree Program Standards (which fall into four categories) depends upon an understanding of both the General Institutional Standards and the Educational Standard that come before them.
The ATS Board of Commissioners imposes a notation when it judges that an institution insufficiently meets an accrediting standard or judges that principles contained in an accrediting standard are not being adequately translated into practice (see Commission Procedures VII.E). The Board views a notation as a notice or warning that a school partially meets an accrediting standard, but it does not fully meet the standard until appropriate action is taken in a timely manner, normally not to exceed two years.
In February 2014 the Board approved a new set of notations that are briefer and aligned with the General Institutional Standards, Educational Standard, and Degree Program Standards. The new notations will go into effect June 1, 2014. The older set of notations imposed by the Board through February 2014 will remain in effect through June 1, 2017, or until they are removed as provided by the Commission Procedures. In anticipation of the June 1, 2014, deadline for the new notations, schools receiving comprehensive visits in the spring of 2014 can expect that evaluation committees will be using the new set of notations.
In addition to imposing a notation, other actions available to the Board include requiring reports, scheduling focused visits, imposing probation, or withdrawing accreditation. Before imposing a notation, the Board may issue a Letter of Concern, which is a private action. Before imposing probation or withdrawing accreditation, the Board may issue a Show Cause order, which may be private or public at the Board’s discretion. All other actions taken by the Board are considered public and are published as part of the Commission Membership List.
Note: For those interested in seeing how the numbering and letter systems for the pre-2012 standards compare to those adopted in 2012, please see the Guide to General Institutional Standards Renumbering and the Guide to Educational and Degree Program Standards Relettering.