A Framework For Quality For These Times

April 7, 2020



In this time of significant uncertainty and financial challenges resulting from COVID-19, all of us in higher education are most appreciative of the efforts of college and university faculty, student support personnel, hourly workers, administration and governing boards to keep the colleges and universities of the United States operating and moving forward with educating and protecting students.

What follows are some key questions for presidents and chief academic officers as institutions navigate the challenging waters of accreditation and assuring quality.  Answers to these questions provide a framework for quality at this time for your institutions and programs. 

We know that this is only one of many issues you are facing.  At the same time, we know that quality, even in our current environment, remains central to serving and protecting students.  As so many of our institutions move instruction online, manage entire colleges and universities remotely and make key strategic decisions about curriculum, grading and transfer of credit in this climate driven by, above all, uncertainty, we hope that these questions assist our colleagues in sustaining the quality and energy of their institutions.

Questions About Accreditation and Accredited Status 

1. Have you checked on the accredited status of your institution and each of your programs that have accreditation and whether you have taken any needed steps to, e.g., assure you have taken advantage of extended deadlines for reports and visits or confirmed that what you are doing online is consistent with the flexibility that accrediting organizations now have, resulting from the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Federal Update #89March 17, 2020 USDE guidanceMarch 5, 2020 USDE guidance)? 

2. Have you taken advantage of the information that CHEA has shared to easily learn of the COVID-19 guidance that is provided by various institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations?  

3. Have you identified additional areas of needed flexibility for your work and shared these with your accreditors?  

Questions About Quality: Four Critical Areas for You and for Accredited Status 

4. Online Teaching and Learning: In this remote-access-driven climate, have you and your faculty engaged in discussion and decisions about the quality of offerings that are now online, e.g., curriculum, assignments, grading practices and robust interaction with students in various teaching and learning environments?  

5. Student Support: What is your engagement with students working remotely to provide connection, counseling and academic advising as needed, especially for students for whom remote access and online learning is a first-time experience?   

6. Finances: Many if not all institutions are facing significant financial challenges as part of the COVID-19 environment. What steps are you taking and what plans are you making to address these financial difficulties and in what ways is maintaining quality part of this discussion?   

7. Governance: What steps are you and your governing board taking to plan for the ongoing education of the students enrolled in your institutions for, e.g., summer and fall offerings as needed?  How do we do the best we can to assure that students can continue their education at a level of quality you find acceptable and, as needed, complete their studies or graduate on time?