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Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment

Office of Planning and Decision Support

Institutional Effectiveness

Institutional Effectiveness  

East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, masters, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees.  Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, telephone (404) 679-4500, or, for questions about the accreditation of East Tennessee State University. 

As required by SACSCOC:

  • ETSU engages in ongoing, comprehensive, and integrated research-based planning and evaluation processes that focus on institutional quality and effectiveness and incorporate a systematic review of institutional goals and outcomes consistent with its mission. (Core Requirement 7.1: Institutional planning)

  • ETSU identifies expected outcomes of its administrative support services and demonstrates the extent to which the outcomes are achieved. (Standard 7.3: Administrative effectiveness)

  • ETSU identifies, evaluates, and publishes goals and outcomes for student achievement appropriate to the institution’s mission, the nature of the students it serves, and the kinds of programs offered. ETSU uses multiple measures to document student success.  (Core Requirement 8.1: Student achievement)

  • ETSU identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of seeking improvement based on analysis of the results in the areas below:

    • student learning outcomes for each of its educational programs;
    • student learning outcomes for collegiate-level general education competencies of its undergraduate degree programs; and
    • academic and student services that support student success. (Standard 8.2: Student outcomes)

ETSU’s institutional effectiveness process requires academic programs and academic and student support units to identify expected outcomes directly related to the mission of the institution or program.  Units develop an assessment plan for each outcome that identifies the measure, the criteria necessary for success, and a schedule for data collection and analysis.  Units develop improvement plans as indicated by the data.  Units rate the effectiveness of improvements after subsequent data is collected and adjust improvement plans accordingly.

In addition, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Quality Assurance Funding (QAF) program provides a funding incentive to encourage continuous improvement of programs and services.  The QAF program encourages all public institutions in Tennessee, including ETSU, to build comprehensive evaluation systems whereby they can reliably measure student learning.  Through the QAF process, ETSU measures student learning and engagement through a variety of means:

  • General Education Assessment

    This standard provides incentives to institutions for improvements in the quality of their undergraduate general education program as measured by the performance of graduating students on an approved standardized test of general education; ETSU uses the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) to assess students’ critical thinking skills following completion of the general education core.

  • Major Field Assessment

    This standard provides incentives for institutions to improve the quality of major field programs as evaluated by the performance of graduates on approved examinations. ETSU uses a variety of means to assess students’ knowledge within their chosen field of study, including national standardized exams, licensure exams, and locally-developed assessments that are approved by discipline experts external to the institution.

  • Academic Program Evaluation   

    This standard provides incentives for institutions to achieve and maintain program excellence and accreditation.  All undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs at ETSU are evaluated through discipline-specific accreditation, program review, or academic audit on a regular basis.

  • Institutional Satisfaction Studies

    This standard incentivizes institutions to improve the quality of programs and services as evaluated by surveys of key stakeholders, including students (via the National Survey of Student Engagement), faculty (via the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement), and alumni (using the Performance Enhancement Group’s Alumni Attitude Survey).

  • Adult Learner Success Initiatives

    This initiative incentivizes institutions to address unique needs and improve services for adult learners through both qualitative (institutions perform a self-study, gather feedback from adult students and develop an action plan to better serve the needs of adult students) and quantitative (institutions work to increase the retention and completion rates of adults) means.

  • ETSU also regularly evaluates student access and success through a standard that incentivizes institutions to increase the number of graduates from select focus populations.  ETSU’s focus populations include students in health programs, low-income students, male students, undergraduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and veterans.

Finally, according to the SACSCOC policy statement on institutional obligations for public disclosure, an accredited SACSCOC institution “is obligated to provide to its students, constituents, and the public information about itself that is complete, accurate, timely, accessible, clear and sufficient…[including] statements of its goals for student achievement and the success of students in achieving those goals. Information on student success may include reliable information in retention, graduation, course completion, licensure examinations, and job placement rates and other measures of student success appropriate to institutional mission.” ETSU publishes metrics for the following Student Achievement Goals and Outcomes on its website at

  • ETSU strives to increase the number of graduates from our programs while maintaining high academic standards

    East Tennessee State University is committed to increasing the level of educational attainment in the state and region. ETSU awards degrees in over one hundred baccalaureate, masters, educational specialist, and doctoral programs, including distinctive interdisciplinary programs and distance education offerings that serve students from the region and beyond.

  • ETSU strives to increase the critical thinking skills of our students.

    Employers and graduate programs value the ability to think clearly, solve problems, and evaluate arguments, and ETSU is committed to increasing the critical thinking skills of our students. The values and skills developed here will prepare our graduates to become productive, enlightened citizens who actively serve their communities and the world. ETSU uses the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) to assess the critical thinking skill of our graduating students.

  • ETSU strives to successfully prepare students for licensure exams.

    Several disciplines at ETSU require state and/or national licensing examinations in order to practice or meet employment requirements. Licensing examinations serve as one indicator of program quality.


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