Frequently Asked Questions
Cal Poly is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). We hope that the information that follows might answer questions that you have about the significance and process of reaffirming Cal Poly's accreditation.
What is university accreditation?
American colleges and universities are granted accredited status following a sustained review and quality assurance process carried out by one of seven federally-recognized regional organizations. These accrediting organizations are in turn represented by experts and representatives from similar colleges and universities, who provide a rigorous institutional-level peer review. As our accreditor explains, “the accreditation process is designed to build a culture of evidence, promote a commitment to institutional improvement, [and] validate institutional integrity.” Accreditation is meant to be a formative and reflective experience, and not a punitive one; members of the university community are encouraged to participate openly and honestly in the process.
Who accredits Cal Poly?
The WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as certifying institutional eligibility for federal funding in a number of programs, including student access to federal financial aid. WSCUC is an institutional accrediting agency serving a diverse membership of public and private higher education institutions throughout California, Hawaii, and the Pacific as well as a limited number of institutions outside the U.S. Through its work of peer review, based on standards agreed to by the membership, WSCUC encourages continuous institutional improvement and assures the membership and its constituencies, including the public, that accredited institutions are fulfilling their missions in service to their students and the public good.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) was previously incorporated as a single entity that encompassed three different accrediting commissions. When Cal Poly last reaffirmed its accreditation, the accrediting commission still was known as WASC. In 2012-2013 the three Commissions re-incorporated as separate entities that share the same “WASC” acronym but are otherwise separate organizations with independent scopes and governance structures. The entity within WASC that accredits Cal Poly is now known as WSCUC, standing for WASC Senior College and University Commission. Here they are referred to both as WSCUC and as The Commission.
Why is accreditation important to Cal Poly?
Accreditation assures our campus community and partners that Cal Poly is rigorously evaluated and meets or exceeds standards of performance, integrity, and improvement agreed on by our peer institutions. Accreditation also enables our students to qualify for participation in federally-funded programs, including financial aid and research, and assures the value of a Cal Poly degree to the state of California, prospective employers, and graduate schools. It also assures Cal Poly’s value to current and prospective faculty and staff members and reaffirms the university’s importance to the Central Coast community.
The process of reaffirming our accreditation is an opportunity for us to undergo an institutional-level process of peer review, to discuss what is important to all members of the Cal Poly community, to analyze our strengths and challenges, to assess and support ongoing campus initiatives, and to discuss how to achieve our university goals. The idea of “reaffirmation” of our accreditation also allows us to proceed with a strength-based, not deficit-based, approach to evaluating our university’s performance according to widely accepted standards.
What does WSCUC expect from Cal Poly?
WSCUC wants us to be clear and committed to our institutional mission, strategic in our use of available resources, and capable of demonstrating the educational effectiveness of our programs, both curricular and co-curricular, in achieving student learning, student engagement, and student success (including timely graduation).
What are the WSCUC Standards of Accreditation, and where can they be found?
WSCUC calls upon institutions to ground their mission, capacity, and effectiveness in three Core Commitments: (1) Student Learning and Success; (2) Quality and Improvement; and (3) Institutional Integrity, Sustainability, and Accountability. From these three commitments, WSCUC has derived four Standards of Accreditation, which are used as a basis for judgment in accreditation reviews:
- Standard 1: Defining Institutional Mission and Acting with Integrity
- Standard 2: Achieving Educational Objectives and Student Success
- Standard 3: Assuring Resources and Organizational Structures
- Standard 4: Creating an Institution Committed to Quality Assurance and Improvement
WSCUC-accredited institutions are diverse in terms of mission, character, and type. The Standards are designed to be broad enough to honor that diversity, respect institutional mission, and support institutional autonomy. Institutions must demonstrate that they are in substantial compliance with the four Standards and 41 related Criteria for Review in order to become and remain accredited.
Where can I find Cal Poly’s WSCUC previous accreditation documents?
Previous Cal Poly accreditation documents can be found at our "Institutional Records" page.
Where can I submit any comments or questions about Cal Poly’s accreditation?
At the present time, all comments or questions can be submitted to Andrew Morris, Interim Director of Academic Programs and Planning and Accreditation Liaison Officer, via this form.