Westfield State University is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Accreditation is a status granted to educational institutions or programs that have been found to meet or exceed stated criteria of educational quality. Accreditation in the United States is voluntary, non-governmental, and self-regulatory. Accreditation evaluation by the NEASC Commission on Institutions of Higher Education is a decennial activity undergone by virtually every college and university in the region.
Accreditation has two fundamental purposes - to assure the quality of the institution or program, and to assist in the improvement of the institution or program. The CIHE/NEASC accreditation process consists of three distinct components: institutional self-study, visiting team on-site evaluation, and commission review and action.
Westfield State University was first accredited by NEASC in 1957, and its most recent accreditation renewal took place in 2012. As part of the reaccreditation process, the university undertakes a year-long self-study. The institutional self-study is a comprehensive and rigorous self-examination, using the Standards for Accreditation as a guide. The self-study challenges the institution to measure and verify its achievements, and identify ways in which the institutional objectives may be better achieved. It provides a vehicle for the institution to reflect on its strengths and weaknesses. The self-study describes what the institution does, appraises how well what it does achieves its objectives, and projects the future actions that will be necessary to either continue or strive to achieve its objectives. Thus, long after the self-study has been completed, it may be used as an integral part of an ongoing institutional planning process.
The self-study process is followed by a three-day campus visit by a team of peer evaluators comprised of faculty and administrators from similar CIHE/NEASC accredited institutions, which seeks to assess the institution in light of the self-study that it has prepared with respect to the Standards for Accreditation. The conclusions of this evaluation are summarized in a written report that addresses not only the institution's successes in fulfilling its mission, but also areas where improvements should be made. This report is considered to be advisory to the Commission.
In addition to undergoing a comprehensive evaluation every ten years, institutions accredited by CIHE/NEASC are required to submit an interim report during the fifth year of the accreditation cycle. The interim report typically addresses concerns or recommendations raised during the previous accreditation process, and updates the Commission on any significant changes that have taken place.