An Opportunity For Recognition
By John Ribezzo

Department of Business Administration
Community College of Rhode Island

I was motivated to write this article after my department was accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). I served as the chair of the committee which conducted the self-study of the business unit. Since then I have been active in the activities of the Northeast Region of the ACBSP and am presently the Region’s president. Over the past several years I have attended both the regional and national meetings of the Association. The meetings deal with the governance of the Association and educational issues, including innovative teaching techniques, technology in the classroom and curriculum issues. As a means to better acquaint you with the ACBSP, I will discuss the Association’s history, mission, accreditation standards, accreditation process and advantages of accreditation. The focus will be on the two-year institution. This overview has been culled from the promotional materials published by the ACBSP.

In 1988, representatives from 150 business schools and programs met to discuss alternatives to external accreditation. Their efforts culminated in 1989 in the formation of the ACBSP located in Overland Park, Kansas. These representatives expressed dissatisfaction with the accreditation philosophy, requirements and procedures of the only existing accreditation organization at that time, the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Prior to the ACBSP’s founding, many institutions felt that their needs were not being met by the AACSB. Their concerns focused on AACSB’s standards which emphasized research. However, these institutions had as their primary objective, excellence in teaching. Furthermore, a whole constituency of institutions were totally left out of the accreditation loop, the two-year institutions. Today the ACBSP has a total of 285 four-year member institutions, of which 97 are accredited and 182 two-year institutions, of which 115 are accredited.

The mission of the ACBSP is to establish, promote and recognize educational standards that contribute to the continuous improvement of business education and to recognize business schools and programs that adhere to these standards.

The Association’s educational standards reflect its strong commitment to:

  1. the enhancement of student learning;
  2. the advancement of teaching excellence;
  3. the measurement of program effectiveness through outcomes assessment;
  4. the preparation of students for successful careers; and
  5. the recognition of unique organizational missions.

Standards of accreditation for two-year institutions include the following areas: curriculum, faculty characteristics, financial and physical resources, business and industry relations, educational innovation, student assessment and articulation. I would like to focus on two of these standards, curriculum and faculty characteristics.

The curriculum standard reads as follows: in order to prepare business graduates for professional careers and for functioning in a global society, the curriculum must embrace both education for the world of work and education for intelligent citizenship in the worldwide society.

According to the curriculum standard, the curriculum must contain the following elements:

  1. Professional Component: at least 25 percent of the credits for the Associate Degree must consist of at least four of the following areas of study:
    1. Accounting
    2. Computer Information Systems
    3. Quantitative Methods of Analysis
    4. Principles of Economics
    5. Business in Society
    6. Marketing
    7. Entrepreneurship/Free Enterprise
    8. Finance
    9. Management
  2. General Education Requirements: at least 25 percent of the credits for the Associate Degree must consist of courses which contribute to the following educational goals:
    1. Communication
    2. Historical Perspective
    3. Humanities
    4. Personal Ethical Foundation
    5. Social Institutions and Obligations of Society
    6. Science
    7. Understanding of Contemporary Technology
    8. Social Science
    9. Fine and Performing Arts
    10. Global Perspective
  3. Business Major Requirements: at least 25 percent of the credits for the Associate Degree beyond the professional component must be devoted to the student’s business major that include appropriate courses to prepare students for transfer or employment.

The faculty characteristics standard states that the business unit must promote teaching excellence and effectively carry out its mission and objectives. Therefore each institution must carefully develop and implement policies that insure an excellent faculty, manage and evaluate the faculty based on defined criteria and objectives, provide opportunities for faculty development, scholarly activities and community services, and provide a faculty work load and an educational environment to assure excellent teaching.

To achieve the faculty characteristics standard the following requirements must be met: (1) faculty qualifications, (2) faculty composition, (3) faculty and instructional development, and (4) scholarly and professional activities. Other requirements included under this standard deal with faculty load, faculty deployment, faculty evaluation, and faculty operational policies, procedures and practices.

The accreditation process involves three alternative approaches. The first is the Preliminary Visit Approach. A deposit toward the application fee is required. A preliminary visit questionnaire is then sent out to the business unit for completion. Upon completion of the preliminary visit questionnaire, a visit (one day) is scheduled to the institution by a member of the ACBSP staff to determine the readiness of the business unit to proceed with the accreditation process. A report of the staff member’s findings is received within one month. The staff member is reimbursed for expenses including airfare, hotel and meals. Although such a visit is not required, from my own personal experience, I would recommend having a preliminary visit because it gives you an idea of where your department stands relative to the standards of accreditation.

Whether the preliminary visit approach is taken or not, the next approach, the self-study, is the procedure used to determine the institution’s worthiness for accreditation. The first step is to submit an application for accreditation to the ACBSP in the spring. The ACBSP will then forward the guidelines for completing the self-study. Completion of the self-study will take between three and five months, depending upon whether a preliminary visit was made. An appointment for the visitation team is then made, and a visit will take place in early spring. The visitation team is on site for three days. Upon completion of its visit, the visitation team sends its report to the Accreditation Committee of the Board of Commissioners, which reviews this information in early May. The Board of Commissioners acts on the recommendations of the Accreditation Committee and accredited institutions receive their accreditation after the membership ratifies the action of the Board at the annual meeting in late June.

The final approach is the candidacy approach, which is designed to assist business schools and programs in developing a plan to become accredited. As part of the candidacy approach, a preliminary visit is required. If the preliminary visit discloses any deficiencies, then the institution applies for candidacy status. Once the institution is in the candidacy program, it is assigned an ACBSP accreditation advisor who works with the institution to develop and implement plans to help the institution attain accreditation. An institution can remain in the candidacy program for a maximum of five years. After that it must reapply for admission to candidacy status. If all goes well, the institution will correct any deficiencies and be prepared to submit an application for accreditation to proceed with the self-study.

A survey of ACBSP accredited institutions was made to determine what benefits were derived from accreditation. The following advantages were cited:

  1. External validation of the business unit to the community, business, government, parents, students, higher education institutions and other academic institutions.
  2. Justification to the administration regarding professional development of the faculty, curriculum development and budget considerations.
  3. The self-study of the business unit confirms the quality of the faculty and curriculum and identifies specific areas for planning.
  4. Improved recruitment of students, since they are more likely to select institutions that are accredited over institutions that are not accredited.
  5. Elevated status of the business unit within the institution. By becoming accredited, the business unit can attain the same status as other accredited departments in the institution.
  6. Improved recruitment of faculty. Individuals want to be associated with quality institutions and when a program is accredited, it communicates to the higher education sector that the business unit has met national standards of quality.
  7. Improved transferability of credits. Upon being accredited, many two-year institutions have improved existing or developed new articulation agreements with four-year institutions.
  8. Greater access to the workplace. Employers have been more receptive to selecting students from accredited programs because of their exposure to a comprehensive and relevant curriculum, qualified and committed faculty and state of the art technology.
  9. Accreditation as a basis for federal funding. Institutional and specialized program accreditation is used as a determinant for securing federal funds.
  10. Enhanced status of students who have graduated from an accredited program. Students can represent in their credentials to prospective employers that they have graduated from an accredited program.

I feel that the experience of conducting the self-study was a learning process that resulted in several benefits to the Department of Business Administration at the Community College of Rhode Island. For example, the status of the students who have graduated has been enhanced. Also, accreditation has been used as a means to justify to the administration the cost of professional development for the faculty. Going through the accreditation process forced the department to look within itself, resulting in a greater vision for the future. Finally, accreditation serves as an external validation of the business program. Hopefully in the future, the business department will receive the additional benefits that can be gained from accreditation. If you are interested in the process of accreditation, contact:

Association of Collegiate Schools of Business
7007 College Blvd., Suite 420
Overland Park, KS 66211
(913) 339-9356

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This page was updated Feb. 5, 1998, by the American Accounting Association