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In the most important senses, No. No software package can stand in for the substantial stuff—a faithful vision and mission, sound educational method, faculty and staff who care for your students and love the material, dedicated governance, institutional and financial stability.
Then again, in many important senses, Yes. The initial accreditation process, while rightly focused on the matters of substance, also looks at how your college uses technology to help you accomplish the important things. And even afterwards, the process is, as the Philosophy of ABHE Accreditation says, “designed to foster ongoing systematic self-study with the goal of continuous institutional improvement.” Software can’t stand in for the substance, but it can facilitate it; accreditation focuses on the substance, but requires accurate collection, presentation, and analysis of information to do so.
Where will good software benefit you?
Accreditation keeps the whole institution in view; here are some of the particular areas where your software can help or hinder the process:
Institutional Effectiveness & Planning: How well does your college execute its mission and vision? This depends in part on the fluidity and effectiveness of your day-to-day operations. Your software plays a big day-to-day role, and should make it easy to “show your work” in this part of the accreditation study.
Institutional Resources: Do you have the facilities, personnel, and finances to support your mission? Good software helps manage these things and make them more useful to everyone at your college.
Learning Resources: Do you have adequate tools to fulfill your educational mission, philosophy, and method? The right software works in concert with your other resources to make them more accessible to your students.
Enrollment Management: What are your recruitment, financial aid, and retention plans? How do you assess them? Well-rounded software doesn’t just track this data—it provides tools for reporting and analysis.
Student Services: Can you adequately serve your students—regardless of location or instructional system? As online and distance learning become more important to higher education, good software will be indispensable to your student services.
Administrative/Academic Patterns & Procedures: How do you guide your students through their education? How accurate and secure is your record-keeping? The heart of college software is precise, useful, and private academic information. Your software simply rises or falls based on how it handles student records.
Not all software is created equal. Information problems often plague small colleges, and these problems, more often than not, stem from inadequate software. Transcripts stored in word documents. Grades stored on spreadsheets. Student information in homemade databases. Historical data in dozens of formats. If this is what you have to work with when you’re working through accreditation—well, suffice it to say, it’s a lot of work with a lot of chances to make substantial errors.
If you’re pursuing accreditation, consider how Populi can help. Populi is a web-based college management system that handles academics, admissions, billing, and a lot more. It combines SIS and LMS in one package. It’s secure, useable, affordable—with free implementation and support. So, while we can’t handle the truly important stuff, we do a great job with the “merely-very-important” stuff—your information, how it’s handled, and how it helps your college do the things that matter.