Surviving State Compliance and Accreditation as an Online Institution of Higher Education

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Online universities need a comprehensive approach for maintaining compliance and accreditation in all of their degree programs across multiple states. This session will provide participants a framework for successful completion of state compliance and accreditation reports, self-studies, and site visits.


Dr. Spear has worked for Western Governors University since 2004 as a faculty member and Department Chair in the Teachers College for Science Education. As a faculty member he mentored students through their degree programs and served as a chair on numerous capstone committees. As a Department Chair, he developed and maintained online, competency-based curricula and assessments for science education, as well as oversaw the development of multiple programs. Additionally, he served on the National Council for Teacher Education (NCATE) steering committee for the university where he helped write the Coceptual Framework, Institutional Report, and several program reports; all of which led to NCATE recognition of the first fully online, competency-based university. In 2009, he transitioned to managing compliance and accreditation for the university and has since helped the university maintain regional accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), NCATE/CAEP accreditation, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accreditation, the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accreditation, and Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accreditation. Additionally, he manages the state compliance landscape for the university and its programs being offered in all fifty states and four US territories.

Extended Abstract

Compliance and Accreditation are processes that assure state and educational communities, as well as the public, that a college or university and its programs possess clearly defined and appropriate components; that it maintains processes and procedures that are conducive to candidate success; that it continuously evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of programs as well as administrative functions and services using input from a variety of sources; and that it makes data-driven programmatic and policy decisions.

Given the importance of such an endeavor, it is essential that the institution have appropriate steps in place to ensure the highest level of success. Having participated in multiple successful state, regional and national accreditation and compliance processes, we have developed a framework that other institutions may find helpful when seeking initial or ongoing compliance and accreditation status.

Western Governors University was the first online university to earn National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation for its Teachers College, and at its most recent site visit was awarded full ongoing accreditation with no areas for improvement cited. The university has also obtained Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accreditation and Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accreditation for its Health Profession College. Additionally, in years past, the University has held simultaneous accreditation by four different regional bodies and is currently seeking approval to operate in all 50 states and US territories. The University has a full-time Compliance and Accreditation department dedicated to such endeavors.

The presenter will share important strategies and tips with participants that the WGU Compliance and Accreditation department has found particularly helpful. This is intended to be an interactive session with active participant dialogue.