Western Carolina University UP Program First Postsecondary Program for Students with ID to be Accredited by New Agency

A person in purple shirt holding a certificate standing in the middle of four professionals

The Inclusive Higher Education Accreditation Council (IHEAC), a newly formed non-profit agency serving as the accrediting agency for postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disability, announced on May 8, 2023 that the Western Carolina University (WCU) University Participant (UP) Program has been fully accredited for a period of seven years. The UP program underwent a self-study and a site visit in March 2023 in order to be considered for accreditation. This is the first program to be accredited by the council.

IHEAC Board President, Stephanie Smith Lee, said, “The Council is delighted to award accreditation to the outstanding WCU UP program and appreciate their willingness to be the first to undergo accreditation. The documentation provided, site visit, peer reviewer report, and strong support from the university clearly demonstrate that the UP program merits accreditation.”

The model program accreditation standards that serve as the basis for accreditation were developed over a period of ten years by two Think College National Coordinating Center (NCC) Accreditation Workgroups, as part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The current NCC Accreditation Workgroup has developed a process for accrediting programs using those standards, including a self-study, guidance manual, and plan for piloting program accreditation.

Dr. Kelly Kelley, UP Program Director and Professor at WCU said, “I am so proud of our program. I believe that receiving IHEAC accreditation highlights the quality of the educational experience our students have here at Western Carolina. I am pleased to be the first program to go through this newly established accreditation process. While the process was rigorous, it is clear that our field will benefit from the collaborative, thoughtful approach to accreditation.”

The NCC launched the IHEAC in 2023 with pioneers in inclusive postsecondary education and notably, all parents of individuals with intellectual disability, Madeleine Will, Stephanie Smith Lee, Elise McMillan and Tom Sannicandro are the founding board of directors for the Council. This historic accomplishment was highlighted in a recent Inside Higher Education article.

The photo shows Stephanie Smith Lee, IHEAC Board President, presenting Dr. Kelly Kelley of Western Carolina University with a recognition certificate from the Inclusive Higher Education Accreditation Council.

For more information, contact Dr. Martha Mock, Executive Director, Inclusive Higher Education Council martha.mock@iheacouncil.org or 585-276-3363