Frequently Asked Questions
The development of a QEP is a required component of the SACSCOC reaffirmation process. It provides the opportunity for an institution to “enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness by focusing on an issue or issues the institution considers important to improving student learning” (SACSCOC Handbook for Institutions Seeking Reaffirmation, p. 40). Investing our energies in the development of this plan allows the Mercer community to be more intentional and focused about the central elements of our mission: liberal learning, professional knowledge, discovery, service to humankind, and community.
2. How is the QEP integrated in the reaffirmation for accreditation?
The QEP is required by SACSCOC in both its Core Requirements (2.12) and its Comprehensive Standards (3.3.2). It is submitted separately from the Compliance Certification Report, which will be due in September, 2014. The QEP is submitted four to six weeks prior to the on-site SACSCOC review in spring 2015. It will be a central focus for the on-site team during its three-day visit.
3. What does SACSCOC expect in a QEP?
- Institutional consensus concerning improvements in student learning
- Broad-based institutional participation in the development and implementation of QEP
- Careful review of research and best practices related to the topic
- Allocation of human and financial resources to sustain the QEP
- Implementation strategies, including a clear timeline
- A structure for evaluating the goals for the QEP
4. How will the QEP benefit students?
Students and their learning are at the heart of a QEP. The plan that Mercer develops, and ultimately implements, will result from the collaborative academic community - including faculty, staff, and students - working together to address specific areas to improve student learning and/or the environment for learning. Consequently, the process becomes the basis for new programs, services, initiatives, and other efforts to enhance student learning at Mercer. Also, meeting this requirement for SACSCOC is part of maintaining continuing regional accreditation for Mercer, which is critical to the integrity of degrees granted by this institution.
5. What should the QEP be about?
The QEP ultimately needs to address an area of student learning that needs improvement. It should be clearly related to Mercer’s mission. And it should emerge from our institutional planning and assessment process. Mercer may choose to build on an existing strength or we may choose to create an entirely new initiative. We may even choose to use some facet of our previous QEP, as long as this new QEP is derived from an assessment of our last one, has distinct goals and institutional outcomes, and continues to focus on student learning outcomes and/or the environment supporting student learning and quality enhancement.
6. What is the main objective of a QEP?
The primary purpose of a QEP is to compel an institution to look at itself intently and to uncover what it can do to improve its mechanisms or services that contribute to the learning enterprise. Since all institutions are involved in the education and preparation of students, it is incumbent on these institutions to continually find ways to improve the education and preparation of students. . The SACSCOC Resource Manual states that, "It is intended to be customized and designed to meet the needs of students at a particular institution." It is an opportunity for an institution to be creative in an area related to compliance with the Principles. Regionally accredited schools are much more effective when they are involved in such a process.
7. What kinds of QEPs have other schools chosen?
A listing of schools and their QEP topics can be found on the SACSCOC website covering the last few years. http://www.sacscoc.org/inst_forms_and_info1.asp At the bottom of the page you will see, 'Quality Enhancement Plans.'
8. Does the QEP have to affect every student?
No. However, the topic needs to be perceived as "significant to the institution and as a major enhancement to student learning" (SACSCOC Resource Manual, p. 43). Many schools have chosen initiatives for new students and freshman, others address all undergraduates, still others focus on graduate students. In an institution's processes of choosing and implementing a QEP topic, SACSCOC accreditors like to see "broad based involvement" across the institution, but the scope of the chosen QEP does not have to include every student at the institution.
9. When will the QEP be implemented?
Once the Mercer QEP is completed, a draft is sent to both the SACSCOC On-Site Reaffirmation Committee six weeks prior to the campus visit. After the On-site Committee reviews the standards and the acceptability of the QEP, Mercer University prepares a response to the recommendations, if any. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees reviews the university response and the QEP and renders reaffirmation action in December of 2015. Consequently, we will begin work on implementation in January of 2016. A follow-up Impact Report on the QEP is sent to SACSCOC in 2021.
10. How will Mercer choose the QEP topic?
A QEP Screening Committee, with representation from across Mercer, will solicit and review topic suggestions from the entire Mercer community. Suggestions are welcome from any student, faculty, or staff, Board member, or community partner. The process for submitting a topic idea is explained in the QEP Proposal section. The Screening Committee reviews submitted proposals and conducted discussion/focus groups during the fall 2012 semester. This committee recommended 3-5 topics to the President and the SACSCOC Leadership Team, who sought additional input from the entire community on the short list of topics and announce the final topic in March 2013. The final topic chosen is Integrating Research and Service; for more information on our QEP topic, visit qep.mercer.edu.
11. How can I be involved in the QEP process?
Participate in QEP discussion groups. Respond to any surveys you receive that ask for your feedback on potential topics. Serve on any QEP committees – Screening Committee, Steering Committee (responsible for developing the plan) – that you are asked to join. Funnel your thoughts and feedback to those committees through your representatives. Once the topic is chosen and the plan is developed, participate in opportunities to learn more about specific goals, outcomes, strategies, and activities for Mercer’s QEP and be prepared to discuss it with the SACSCOC On-Site Team when they come.
12. Who should I contact with questions about the QEP?
Initially, you should contact Dr. Susan Malone, Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness at 478-301-2233/e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Kelly McMichael, Accreditation and Assessment Coordinator at 478-301-2070/e-mail: email@example.com .