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Accreditation, Death, and Taxes

Accreditation, Death, and Taxes

A well-known phrase tossed around about life, particularly among baby-boomers is: “There are two things in life that are certain – Death and Taxes!”  This time-tested idiom suggests that most things in life can be avoided, but you will surely eventually meet your maker and Uncle Sam will eventually find you to collect on your taxes even after you’ve passed away.  We do a lot during our lives to prepare for these two inevitable events.  We withhold from our paychecks, save receipts, and manage deductions to prepare for every April 15th.  We buy life insurance and write wills to help prepare for our departure from this world.

If you are involved in higher education, you might very well argue that there is a third inevitable event to add to the list:  Accreditation.  You won’t outrun it, and someone will certainly come calling to collect.  So, why do we find so many institutions are unprepared?  They KNOW it’s coming.  And unlike death, which can take us by surprise, accreditation dates mimic the tax deadline.  We know how to be prepared for death and taxes, but do we know how to be prepared for accreditation?

I have done my own taxes for the last 4 years.  It’s not fun, but with minimal preparation and a basic knowledge of Quickbooks and the e-filing system, I managed.  In the past year, my family’s income has become more diverse.  My spouse and I both switched jobs, my kids claim income from livestock projects (yes, remember, I’m the Texan with 2 Ag degrees that found her way to IR, Accreditation and Assessment), and I just am not sure I’m the best person for the job anymore. So, I hired a C.P.A.  Best. Move. Ever!  The process had become less sustainable, so I increased my level of preparation.  The same can be done for accreditation.  Network drives filled with word files and spreadsheets might work for a while, but with the climate of higher ed and accreditation constantly turning up the heat, you need more to be prepared.

Enter the accreditation management software platform.  Now, sure, you can do this yourself as well, but is it sustainable?  Not a chance.  There are reasons C.P.A.s do what they do, and likewise is the case for the accreditation software package.  Also, consider the following: do you hire a separate C.P.A. for your spouse, your kids, your farm accounts?  No.  All are intertwined and a central handler is smart….and saves you money.  This is also true with accreditation software.  Do you have separate platforms for assessment, planning, and accreditation?  Of course, not!.  You want to keep it all in one place to save time, effort, and yes, even the almighty dollar. So, tax day, accreditation visit day…..both predictable.  But what about those times when you can’t always see what’s coming?

I, like many others, have several documents filed in case of my untimely death.  A living will or DNR, a life insurance policy, a last will and testament.  Others may even have an established burial/memorial plan.  Do I know when my number will be up?  No.  Hopefully not for a very long while.  But, I want to be prepared.  This is how I look at those times when accreditation requirements blind side you.  That’s right.  I’m talking about the ‘unbeknownst to the liaison’ substantive change.  Are you prepared?  Are all of your proverbial ducks in a row?  Again, management software goes a long way as life insurance for your accreditation livelihood.  Continuous documentation of all things associated with accreditation means you are ready at a moment’s notice. The ground work has been laid, just publish it.  Your higher ed ‘beneficiaries’ will thank you!

So the next time you consider accreditation to be one of the three unavoidable things in life, just remember:  If you can prepare for death and taxes, you can prepare for accreditation.

Crystal Braden , Lead Consultant

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