A “process of external quality review created and used by higher education to scrutinize colleges, universities and programs for quality assurance and quality improvement” (Eaton, 2015, p. 3). Accreditation is divided into two types - institutional and specialized. Although both are designed to assure fundamental levels of quality, the former focuses on the institution as a whole while the latter focuses on academic pre-professional or specialty professional programs such as law, business, psychology, and education, or services such as counseling centers within the institution. Campus communities typically use a self-assessment process to prepare for accreditation team visits. Although the CAS standards can provide a foundation for accreditation self-study, CAS is not an accrediting body.
“Actions taken to gather, analyze, and interpret information and evidence to support the effectiveness of institutions, departments, divisions, or agencies” (Timm et al., 2013, p. 86). Data gathered through the assessment process are used to improve overall quality, practice, and decision-making.
An “intentionally developed sequence of activities that ensures coherence from program planning through implementation and assessment of outcomes” (Davis Barham & Dean, 2013, p. 7).
A criterion used for comparison to measure and evaluate a program or service; a reference point.
A phrase used to refer to a method, approach, or program that is thought to represent a widely accepted and exemplary approach to enacting work within a functional area. The term can also be an indicator of an aspirational level of achievement; CAS standards are not intended to represent best practices except in the sense that they are identified through a widely-informed development and consensus process; they instead represent a threshold of good practice that is meant to be essential and achievable across settings.
The informal name for the printed publication entitled CAS Professional Standards for Higher Education that presents the CAS General Standards and standards and guidelines for functional areas and preparation programs. The first iteration of the CAS Blue Book was published in 1986; in recent years a new edition has been published every three to four years.
Informal term used by CAS referring to the General Standards when they appear within individual functional area standards.
The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) is a consortium of over 40 higher education professional associations representing over 115,000 professionals, many with international constituencies. CAS promotes the use of its professional standards for the development, assessment, and improvement of quality student learning, programs, and services. CAS was established in 1979 with the purpose of helping to foster and enhance student learning, development, and success at institutions of higher education through the development and promulgation of professional standards of practice. Prior to 1992, the consortium’s name was the Council for the Advancement of Standards for Student Services/Development Programs.
CAS Council of Representatives.
The body of representatives from professional higher education associations in the U.S. and Canada that have joined the CAS consortium, pay annual dues, and keep their memberships informed about CAS standards and related initiatives. Although each member association may designate two official representatives to act on its behalf at CAS Council meetings, each association has only one vote during Council meetings. All new or revised standards must be approved by the full Council. Additionally, up to three public directors are appointed by the Governing Board to provide insight to the Council on a range of issues related to higher education.
CAS Governing Board.
The body of CAS officers, including president, past-president, president-elect, and members-at-large elected by the CAS Council of Representatives. The Executive Director and Editor serve ex-officio. This body is responsible for specific leadership and business operations of CAS, including managing finances and keeping records of all meetings. The CAS Governing Board meets periodically to address CAS governance issues, consider standards drafts prior to Council review, and manage the business of the Council between Council meetings.
CAS Guiding Principles.
The fundamental assumptions that undergird the work of CAS and guide its initiatives derived from the theories and conceptual models implicit within human development, group dynamics, student learning, organizational management, and administration that inform the work of higher education professionals who support students. The guiding principles for CAS can be organized into five broad categories: Students and Their Environments; Advocating for Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Communities; Organization, Leadership, and Human Resources; Ethical Considerations; and Learning-Conducive Structures, Resources, and Systems.
CAS member association.
A higher education professional association that has joined the CAS consortium, pays annual dues, and keeps its members informed about CAS standards and related initiatives. Member associations appoint one to two representatives to the Council to speak on their behalf and provide ongoing support and resources to the organization’s members.
CAS Public Representative.
An individual elected by the CAS Council of Representatives to represent the public at large. CAS by-laws call for the appointment of public directors who do not represent a specific functional area or professional association but rather view higher education from a broader perspective.
CAS standards and guidelines.
Published criteria and related statements and information designed to provide personnel within college and university programs and services with established practices against which to benchmark, build, evaluate, and self-assess programs and services within a specific unit. The CAS standards and guidelines include all sets of functional area standards, cross functional frameworks, the Master’s Level Student Affairs Professional Preparation Program Standards, and the General Standards.
Official recognition by a governmental or professional body attesting that an individual practitioner demonstrates knowledge and can apply learned skills to meet established standards or criteria. Criteria most often include formal academic preparation in prescribed content areas and a period of supervised practice with successful completion of a standardized test of the practitioner’s knowledge. CAS does not offer individual certifications of any kind.
Activities that take place outside the classroom but reinforce or complement classroom curriculum in some way. Activities are typically ungraded and may not offer any form of academic credit, but they serve to support student learning, development, and success.
Adherence to a standard of practice or preparation. Compliance with the CAS standards implies that an institution or program meets or exceeds the fundamental essential criteria established for a functional area program, service, or master’s level professional preparation program.
Periodic updates (every 6-10 years) to the CAS standards and guidelines that are unique to an individual functional area. Comprehensive revisions are charged, reviewed, and approved by the CAS Council, and are researched and drafted by a revision committee comprised of functional area experts and CAS Council Representatives. (see also: general revision)
Consistent with institutional mission, constituents are defined as those with whom a functional area engages or forms mutually beneficial relationships in support of its mission, and may include students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, employers, community, prospective families, affiliated partners, and donors.
Introduction to a set of CAS standards that offers sufficient background and perspective on the functional area (or General Standards) to assist in understanding and applying the standards and guidelines. Provides context to the nature, history, foundational principles, and current issues influencing the general and functional area standards.
Functional area standards are divided into twelve criterion categories (i.e., parts) that help focus assessment efforts. The twelve criterion categories, arranged according to the CAS Guiding Principles including: Mission; Programs and Services; Student Learning, Development, and Success; Assessment; Access, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice; Leadership; Human Resources; Collaboration and Communication; Ethics, Law, and Policy; Financial Resources; Technology; and Facilities and Infrastructure.
An approach for addressing emerging, evolving, and ongoing issues or topics from a multi- and inter-disciplinary perspective through teams of higher education professionals from different fields or functional areas. When referred to as “Cross-Functional Frameworks”, refers to resources developed by CAS outlining the actions personnel should take to address issues that transcend any one functional area. These are similar to functional area standards, but for issues requiring collaboration among multiple functional units.
cross-functional team framework.
The set of specific standards and guidelines that apply to a strategically coordinated cross-functional team tasked to address complex, emerging, evolving, and ongoing issues or topics through solutions and actions informed by multidisciplinary perspectives, philosophies, knowledge, and practices.
“The ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the [person]” (Hook et al., 2013, p. 2).
Relating to the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college that leads to certification, licensure, or a college degree.
A focus on the perceived weakness(es) and or problem(s) of individuals or a group.
Consistent with institutional mission, designated clients are defined as those who are also eligible for the services and assistance of a program that are commonly offered to students, and may include alumni, faculty, staff, and community members.
See student learning and development domains and dimensions.
See student learning and development domains and dimensions.
Equity-centered assessment describes assessment that is both equitable and serves as a vehicle to advance assessment. It is an umbrella term that includes types of assessment that integrate equity such as bias-free assessment, culturally responsive assessment, anti-racist assessment, and decolonizing assessment.
A process that “applies judgment to data that are gathered and interpreted through assessment” (Palomba & Banta, 1999, p. 4). The terms assessment and evaluation are often used in tandem to represent the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data that is then used to judge the outcome of a process or achievement of a goal.
Frameworks for Assessing Learning and Development Outcomes was a book published first in 2009 that provided a compendium of assessment tools and instruments to measure CAS Learning Domains and Dimensions. The FALDOS was updated in 2020 to focus more on the process of assessment learning and developing rather than listing assessment tools/instruments.
A process to determine the extent to which students are progressing through a certain learning or development goal; used to provide continuous or frequent feedback to help shape, modify, or improve the program or service while it is happening.
A distinct grouping of activities, programs, and services within higher education that can be differentiated by its purpose, mission, focus, policies, practices, staff, budget, and the professional interests and backgrounds of its practitioners. In many cases, functional areas are what are often referred to as offices or departments, but CAS uses the term functional area to indicate a program or service that may not have the separate organizational structure typically associated with a department. Examples of functional areas include academic advising, housing and residential life, leadership, and internships. Typically, functional areas are represented by one or more professional associations on the CAS Council of Representatives.
functional area standards and guidelines.
The set of specific standards and guidelines, with the embedded general standards, that apply to one functional area program or service. Often referred to as “the CAS Standards for (insert functional area name)”. As of March 2023 there are 48 sets of CAS functional area standards.
Regular updates (every 3-5 years) to every set of CAS functional area standards in conjunction with updates to the CAS General Standards. The General Standards are embedded within each set of CAS standards and articulate common expectations across all CAS functional areas. The General Standards are revised and agreed upon by the entire CAS Council and implemented in coordination with the CAS Editor. (see also: comprehensive revision)
The essential level of practice agreed on by the profession at large, as represented by CAS, which applies to all functional area programs and services. The General Standards are a core, global set of standards that articulate common expectations (e.g., expectations that are relevant across all higher education institutions and their programs and services regardless of their specialties). The General Standards espouse student learning, development, and success as fundamental to mission and program. Each general standard is embedded in every set of functional area standards. These boilerplate criteria are presented in bold type and use the auxiliary verb “must,” as do all CAS standards. Note: General Standards are capitalized when referring to the document that lists all general standard statements. The term general standards is not capitalized when referring to a specific general standard statement embedded within functional area standards.
A statement used to clarify or amplify professional standards. Although not essential for acceptable practice, a guideline provides institutions with a description of enhanced practice that can assist in establishing, assessing, and improving programs and services. Guidelines help programs and services move beyond the essential standards to more fully address the needs of students or the institution. CAS guidelines use the auxiliary verbs "should" and "may" and appear in regular (i.e., not bold) typeface.
Extent to which program is implemented as designed.
institutional programs and services.
Refers to the higher education functional areas and the professional preparation programs that CAS supports with standards and guidelines. These institutional programs and services may reside in student affairs, academic affairs, academic units, auxiliary services, enrollment services, and other higher education operational units. A key component of their mission is the provision of programs and services to students in support of learning, development, and success.
CAS construes leadership in several ways. Leadership can be defined by one’s position, role, and responsibilities within an organization structure and hierarchy. For example, CAS has defined the leader of a functional area as a person with organizational authority for the functional area and as the person who provides management and supervision and who leads strategic planning and program advancement. Underlying CAS’s principles of leadership is a commitment to the cultivation of leaders within a functional area. To that end, leadership may be shared or distributed among personnel. Leadership may also be non-positional, which recognizes that anyone in an organization may provide leadership by understanding the potential impact of their decisions and their influence on individual and group actions; by taking initiative to advance program mission, goals, and values; and by holding oneself and others responsible and accountable for acting ethically and with integrity.
learning and development outcomes.
Statements that describe significant and measurable change occurring in students as a direct result of their interaction with an educational institution and its programs and services. Learning and development outcomes identify what the learners will know, appreciate, and/or be able to do as a result of engaging with the program or service. The CAS standards identify six broad student learning and development domains, as well as related dimensions, or elements of the domains, that students should accomplish as a result of their higher education experiences. Institutional programs and services must assess achievement of learning and development outcomes.
The design, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of work policies, processes, and procedures within a functional area to maintain and improve efficiency and productivity.
“Instruments, devices, or methods that provide data on the quantity or quality of the independent or dependent variables” (Timm et al., 2013, p. 87).
The strategies, techniques, and tools for collecting information about a specific topic or to determine the extent to which outcomes are achieved.
Multifunctional Area Guide.
A resource developed by CAS to provide options for implementing self-studies for more than one functional area simultaneously.
Multipartial, also called omnipartiality, conveys an equal engagement with, respect for, and care about all students and stakeholders; a practice that supports facilitators in giving equal attention to multiple identities and experiences. Multipartiality supports facilitators in giving attention to those identities and experiences that might be absent or unheard.
The intended outcome for a program or service. When compared to “outcomes”, “an objective is a target to aim for, while an outcome is the conclusion of an action” (Barkley & Major, 2016, p. 20).
outcomes, student learning and development.
See learning and development outcomes.
See program outcomes.
Refers to full-time and/or part-time faculty, staff, administrators, and paraprofessionals (e.g., student employees, interns, graduate assistants, and volunteers). In other words, all individuals involved in the functional area, inclusive of employees across structures of pay. Replaced the term faculty and staff which appeared in some earlier editions of the standards.
Professional Preparation Program Standards.
A set of standards developed and promulgated for purposes of providing master’s level student affairs administration and related programs with criteria to guide the professional education and preparation of entry-level practitioners in student affairs.
Within the CAS Standards the term refers to either: (a) institutional structure such as a department, unit, or sub-unit (e.g., the orientation program) or (b) institutional activities or events, such as an invited lecture, a workshop, a social event, or a series of organized presentations over time (e.g., a “lunch and learn” program).
A measure of the results of a program or service-level goal (e.g., increased satisfaction, increased retention); often used to include operational outcomes, which represent elements of the program’s functioning (e.g., cost per student).
Articulation of how a program or service is intended to accomplish its goals and clarifies the causal connections between activities students engage in and intended student learning and development outcomes.
Activities, processes, and initiatives that are intended to ensure that those accessing available programs and services will benefit from them and achieve intended outcomes. The CAS self-assessment approach is a form of quality assurance.
The written and oral communications interpreted through identification of recurring patterns and themes. Such measures may be used to evaluate written products, presentations, focus groups, interviews, observations, or open-ended survey questions.
The numerical values that may be yielded and analyzed statistically. Graduation rates, grades, retention rates, and Likert-scale survey items are quantitative measures.
“Involves the collection of information for the purpose of gaining knowledge, developing theory, or testing concepts and constructs” (Timm et al., 2013, p. 87).
Self-Assessment Guide (SAG).
An operational version of the CAS standards and guidelines designed to provide users with an assessment tool that can be used for self-study or self-assessment purposes. A SAG is available for each functional area for which a set of CAS standards exists.
An internal process by which institutions and programs evaluate their quality and effectiveness in reference to established criteria such as the CAS standards and guidelines. This process, often used to prepare for institutional and specialty accreditation, results in a formal report presenting the findings of the internal evaluation implemented by institutional employees. For accreditation purposes, this report is then validated by an external committee of peers from comparable institutions or programs.
The recommended process by which the CAS standards and guidelines can best be used to assess, evaluate, and improve institutional programs and services. This approach calls for institutions and programs to establish, maintain, and enhance the quality of their offerings and environments by using the standards to evaluate themselves. CAS believes that each institution and its programs can and should seek to assess, evaluate, and identify ways to improve its own practices rather than relying on external agencies to do so.
An individual statement (or group of statements) framed within the context of a functional area or professional preparation program designed to provide practitioners with criteria against which to judge the quality of the programs and services offered. Each individual criterion statement, or standard, reflects an essential level of practice that, when met, represents quality practice and performance that any college or university could reasonably achieve. Each CAS standard statement (e.g., “Programs and services must develop and define the mission of the functional area”) uses an auxiliary verb (i.e., "must"), is presented in bold print, and is agreed upon by the CAS Council of Representatives representing higher education at large.
The generic and capitalized term used for a set of CAS standards and guidelines designed for a functional area or professional preparation program (e.g., Career Services Standards). The term Standards may also be applied to the compilation of all sets of functional area and professional preparation program standards and guidelines published as CAS Professional Standards for Higher Education (i.e., the Blue Book).
An interactive and inclusive process conducted amongst constituents to identify the direction, purpose, and future end state of an organization and its objectives, goals, and steps to achieve. It is a “guide detailing the shared vision of what the unit desires to become and a plan of how to get there” (Burt & Schuh, 2017, p. 310).
student learning and development.
Individual growth that is an intended outcome of engaging with functional area programs and services. Student learning and development refers to the changes that result when students are exposed to new experiences, concepts, information, and ideas; the knowledge, understanding, and personal growth are generated, in this context, from interactions with higher education learning environments.
student learning and development domains and dimensions.
Known as “CAS domains,” they represent six broad categories of student learning and development outcomes: knowledge acquisition, construction, integration, and application; cognitive complexity; intrapersonal development; interpersonal competence; humanitarianism and civic engagement; and practical competence. To comply with CAS standards, institutional programs and services must identify relevant and desirable outcomes from pertinent domains, assess their achievement, and articulate how the programs or services contribute to each of the domains. Each domain includes a number of more specific outcome dimensions, and CAS also provides examples of outcome statements.
student learning and development outcomes.
The intended and actual results of a program or service related to students’ skills, knowledge, attitudes, habits of mind, and psychosocial development.
Student success is the aggregate of many aspects of the student experience, including academic success, connection to the campus, developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and preparing for entrance into the global society and workforce. Institutions may define student success for their population, with consideration of student goals, and evidence of learning and development. Those attempting to measure students’ academic success often point to rates of year-to-year retention and percent of students who persist to the completion of their goals. Those attempting to measure the effects of connection to the campus, belongingness, and development of interpersonal and intrapersonal success often look to retention and/or researched indicators of growth and development; they also might compare and contrast their respective populations' outcomes with outcomes of similar populations or the overall college success rates.
Used to evaluate student learning and development, skill acquisition, or quality of the program or service upon its completion.
The workplace activity in which a functional area employee has the responsibility and authority to hire, transfer, suspend, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees. Supervision may also include the ability to adjust grievances or effectively recommend such action.
Application of principles, theories, research, and practices intended to make products, communications, facilities, campus grounds, environments, learning (in and out of the classroom), programs, and services accessible and usable by people of all ages and abilities.
REFERENCES Barkley, E. F., & Major, C. H. (2016). Learning assessment techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass. Burt, B. A., & Schuh, J. H. (2017). Strategic planning and finance in student affairs. In J. H. Schuh, S. R. Jones, & V. Torres (Eds.) Student services: A handbook for the profession (6th edition), (pp. 308-326). Jossey-Bass. Davis Barham, J., & Dean, L. A. (2013). Introduction: The foundation. In D. Timm, J. Davis Barham, K. McKinney, & A. R. Knerr (Eds.), Assessment in practice: A companion guide to the ASK standards (pp. 3-8). ACPA-College Student Educators International. Retrieved from https://myacpa.org/publications/ Eaton, J. S. (2015, November). An overview of U.S. accreditation. Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Retrieved from https://www.chea.org/overview-us-accreditation Hook, J. N., Davis, D. E., Owen, J., Worthington Jr., E. L., & Utsey, S. O. (2013). Cultural humility: Measuring openness to culturally diverse clients. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(3), 353-366. Palomba, C. A., & Banta, T. W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. Jossey-Bass. Timm, D. M., Davis Barham. J., McKinney, K., & Knerr, A. R. (2013). Assessment in practice: A companion guide to the ASK standards. ACPA: College Student Educators International. Available from http://www.myacpa.org/commae
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