Institutions receive accreditation from either a regional or national accrediting body. Generally, it’s the institution that receives accreditation which covers all the programs offered by that institution at the time of the accrediting visit. There are other accrediting bodies that accredit individual programs only, and that form of accreditation is referred to as specialty accreditation. Recently, we received notice that our Emergency and Disaster Management program had received specialty accreditation from the Foundation of Higher Education. I asked Dr. Chris Reynolds, Program Manager for our EDM program and our Fire Science program, to provide a little background on what the FoHE accreditation means for this program.
In 2007, the Emergency and Disaster Management program of the American Public University System initiated its accreditation request with the Foundation of Higher Education for Disaster and Emergency Management and Homeland Security. The Foundation of Higher Education (FoHE), working through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Higher Education initiative, along with practitioners and academics from around the world, developed a set of emergency and disaster management educational standards based on a hierarchy of educational objectives (much like Bloom’s Taxonomy). These emergency management standards are centered on emergency management “best” practices, as defined by NFPA 1600 and the FEMA Higher Education initiative.
FoHE accreditation consisted of an in-depth analysis of our program with a team of assessors. The assessment team conducted student interviews and an in-depth examination of our program objectives and student outcomes. The process concluded with an on-site visit with the assessment team. FoHE measures a university’s performance against 23 Standards of Excellence. These standards are measured against general education programs, emergency management curriculum, and overall resources that impact educational quality. Compliance with standards is measured by performance criteria, expressed as “indicators.” A program can be determined to in “compliance,” “partial compliance,” or “non-compliance.” In order to be accredited, a program must comply or partially comply with all 23 Standards of Excellence. Our program was successful in each of these indicators. Additionally, FoHE determined the quality of our student performance was one of the determinant factors that ultimately led to APUS achieving accreditation.
It is noteworthy that American Public University System’s Emergency and Disaster Management program is the first 100% on-line university to achieve this distinction. This also means that APUS’s Emergency and Disaster Management program is recognized among its peers as being among the top higher educational emergency management institutions in the United States.