Mission, Vision, and Purpose
Setting the standard for quality in higher education.
CAS, a consortium of professional associations in higher education, promotes the use of its professional standards
for the development, assessment, and improvement of quality student learning, programs, and services (CAS, 2015).
CAS was founded to implement several profession-wide initiatives, with emphasis on the developing and promulgating professional standards. The purposes of CAS are outlined below:
- To establish, adopt, and disseminate unified and timely professional standards to guide student learning and develop support programs and services and related higher education initiatives.
- To promote the assessment and improvement of higher education services and programs through self-study, evaluation, and the use of CAS standards.
- To advance the use and importance of professional standards among practitioners and educators in higher education.
- To develop and provide materials to assist and support practitioners and educators in the use of professional standards in higher education.
- To promote and encourage higher education systems and institutions to focus attention on the assurance of quality in all educational endeavors.
- To promote inter-association efforts to address the issues of quality assurance, student learning and development, and professional integrity in higher education.
- To establish, adopt, and disseminate unified and timely professional preparation standards for the education of student affairs practitioners.
- To promote the assessment and improvement of professional preparation graduate programs for student affairs administrators through the use of CAS standards for assessment, evaluation, and self-study purposes.
CAS exists to accomplish complementary tasks. A primary purpose is to provide a forum in which representatives from higher education organizations meet and interact for purposes of seeking consensus on the fundamental principles of “best practices” that can lead to enhanced professional standards. CAS provides a forum wherein all voices can be heard in the creation of timely, useful standards to guide practice. CAS encourages viable links among professional associations, most of which focus on highly specialized functions, and this collaboration results in the creation of standards that represent a profession-wide perspective rather than a narrow and limited viewpoint.
Not only does CAS provide a vehicle for developing functional area and academic preparation standards, but it also provides a credible profession-wide entity to promulgate standards and related materials and to encourage practitioners to apply the standards effectively in their work with students. The CAS consortium speaks with a single voice that bridges numerous specialty areas and can represent the profession-at-large on matters concerning professional standards and quality assurance.
Approved by CAS Board of Directors
November 18, 1994
Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.
- George Washington, 1787
The CAS Purpose
The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) develops and promulgates standards that enhance the quality of a student’s total learning experience in higher education. CAS is a consortium of associations in higher education whose representatives achieve consensus on the nature and application of standards that guide the work of practitioners. CAS derives its authority from the prestige and traditional influence of its member associations and from the consensus of those members in establishing requirements for high-quality practice.
The CAS philosophy is grounded in beliefs about excellence in higher education, collaboration between teacher and learner, ethics in educational practice, student development as a major goal of higher education, and student responsibility for learning. Taken together, these beliefs about practice shape the vision for all CAS endeavors.
- The beliefs about excellence require that all programs and services in institutions of higher education function at optimum level.
- The beliefs about collaboration require that learning be accomplished in concert by students and educators.
- The beliefs about ethics require that all programs and services be carried out in an environment of integrity and high ideals.
- The beliefs about student development require that the student be considered as a whole person in the context of a diverse population and a diversity of institutions, that outcomes of education be comprehensive, and that the total environment be structured to create opportunities for student involvement and learning.
- The beliefs about responsibility require that the institution recognize the rights and responsibilities of students as its citizens and that it provide an array of resources and learning opportunities that enable students to exercise their responsibility to take full advantage of them.
CAS collectively develops, examines, and endorses standards and guidelines for program and service areas in higher education. The CAS approach to ensuring quality educational experiences is anchored in the assumption that its standards and guidelines can be used in a variety of ways to enhance institutional quality. They can, for example, be used for design of programs and services, for determination of the efficacy of programs, for staff development designed to enhance the skills of those providing professional services, for programmatic self-assessment to assure institutional effectiveness, and for self-regulation purposes.
The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education was established in 1979 as the Council for the Advancement of Standards for Student Services/Development Programs, a consortium of professional associations representing student affairs practitioners committed to assuring quality programs and services for students. Members of 32 established professional associations directed their interests, talents, and resources to develop and promulgate professional standards and guidelines based on state-of-the-art thinking about educational programs and services. From the beginning, CAS employed an open process of consensus-building among the representatives of member associations as the primary tool for producing its standards and guidelines.
The Council published the original set of 16 functional area standards and the academic preparation standards in 1986, with a grant from American College Testing (ACT). In 1988, CAS developed a Self-Assessment Guide (SAG) for each set of functional area standards to facilitate program assessment and evaluation. Each SAG is an operational version of a functional area standard designed to provide practitioners with a detailed instrument for self-assessment.
The Council’s current name and expanded mission were adopted in 1992, to be inclusive of all programs for students in higher education, including those serving undergraduate, graduate, traditional, and nontraditional students. CAS now oversees the development of standards for new service areas and the systematic review and periodic revision of existing standards and guidelines.
The CAS Approach to Self-Regulation and Self-Assessment
Self-regulation is an internally motivated and directed institutional process devoted to the creation, maintenance, and enhancement of high-quality programs and services. CAS believes this approach is preferable to externally motivated regulation, because those within an institution generally have the clearest perceptions of its mission, goals, resources, and capabilities. The essential elements of self-regulation include
- institutional culture that values involvement of all its members in decision making
- quality indicators that are determined by the institution
- standards and guidelines in quality assurance
- collection and analysis of data on institutional performance
- commitment to continuing improvement that presupposes freedom to explore and develop alternative directions for the future
The success of self-regulation depends on mutual respect between an institution and its members. Within the self-regulated institution, individual accomplishments are valued, goals are based on shared vision, systems are open and interactive, processes are carried out in a climate of mutual trust and caring, conflicts are mediated in the best interests of the entire community, and achievements are recognized and rewarded. Such an environment stimulates individual and group initiatives and fosters self-determination of goals. In a self-regulating environment, members identify quality indicators in consultation with a variety of internal and external constituencies and stakeholders, including professional associations.
These indicators may include professionally derived standards, such as those of CAS, which comprise the views of many professional practitioners and professional associations. Self-regulation relies on the willingness and capacity of the organization to examine itself meticulously, faithfully, and reliably, and then to assemble the pertinent results of that examination into coherent reports that constituents can comprehend and use. Such reports are essential for recording the evidence assembled in self-study, for displaying synthesis and analysis of information, for fostering the broad participation of members in the self-regulation process, and for registering benchmark results and conclusions for future reference.
Finally, the self-regulation process relies on the institution’s capacity to modify its own practices as needed. A culture that supports self-regulation must operate in a climate that permits members to make independent choices among reasonable alternatives. These choices constitute a commitment to constant improvement of educational practices and of the health of the organization.
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Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS). (1986). CAS standards and guidelines for student service/development programs. Iowa City, IA: American College Testing Program.
Eaton, J. S. (March/April 2001). Regional accreditation reform: Who is served? Change Magazine, 39-45.
Miller, T. K., & Prince, J. S. (1976). The future of student affairs: A guide to student development for tomorrow’s higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.