Overview of CEPH’s consideration of accrediting standalone baccalaureate programs

In response to national discussions on the expansion of baccalaureate public health education and to requests from baccalaureate programs in community health education, the Council undertook a multi-year process, involving public comment and meetings with key stakeholders, to consider accreditation of standalone baccalaureate public health programs.

Baccalaureate degrees housed in schools of public health have been accredited for over 10 years. In 2007, the US Department of Education officially expanded CEPH’s scope of accreditation to explicitly include baccalaureate degree programs. In 2008, CEPH began accrediting baccalaureate programs affiliated with Master of Public Health programs located outside of schools of public health.

In 2011, CEPH revised its criteria for public health schools and programs, creating a new criterion that explicitly addressed the curriculum of baccalaureate public health degrees affiliated with its existing accredited units.

History and process

CEPH began to consider accreditation of standalone baccalaureate public health programs in 2001, at the request of programs in community health education. Over the next several years, the Council continued these discussions as more and more accredited schools of public health added baccalaureate programs to their units of accreditation. As the Council began to learn more about undergraduate education through its existing schools, in 2008, it expanded the opportunity for baccalaureate programs located in the same organizational unit as MPH programs (eg, using the same faculty and administered within the same departmental structure) to also be included within the programmatic unit of accreditation. During this time, CEPH stakeholders continued to ask CEPH to consider quality assurance in baccalaureate programs administered in colleges and universities without master’s-level public health.

In 2009, CEPH conducted an organizational comment period intended to ascertain opinions about the possibility of accrediting baccalaureate programs in public health which were not affiliated with an existing school of public health or MPH program. The comment period indicated overwhelming support for exploring development of a mechanism for quality assurance in undergraduate public health education and training. Comments also emphasized the importance of consultation with affected parties in the development of any system.

On February 6, 2011, CEPH brought together a group of public health and educational leaders to discuss quality issues related to bachelor’s degrees in public health. Members of the group were selected not only for their individual expertise, but also to ensure that varying perspectives from government and private public health organizations, potential employers and academic institutions were represented.

The group was tasked with providing recommendations to the Council about how to proceed with quality assurance in baccalaureate public health degree programs, particularly those developing without the benefit of affiliation with an accredited school or graduate program in public health. The group arrived at the following consensus statements:

  1. Given the rapid growth in undergraduate public health in all types of higher education institutions, accreditation might be necessary to assure quality in baccalaureate-level public health majors.
  2. Accreditation is an iterative, collaborative process that takes time and must involve key stakeholder groups.
  3. Principles of quality should apply to all baccalaureate-level public health majors, whether in schools of public health, affiliated with graduate public health programs, or in colleges or universities without graduate-level public health training.

During 2011-2012, CEPH engaged workgroups composed of internal and external stakeholders and continued discussion on the possibility of accrediting standalone baccalaureate public health programs. In October 2012, the Council agreed, in principle, to an initial draft of a set of accreditation criteria.

In January 2013, CEPH convened in-person and distance-based focus groups of faculty members and leaders from standalone baccalaureate programs. Fifteen participants took part in the two focus groups. The programs represented five community health programs, one historically Black university, programs ranging in size from 80-1500 students and a geographic distribution Maine to Minnesota to Florida. Some programs represented are housed in departments while others are interdisciplinary, drawing across schools and colleges within the university.

CEPH considered all comments submitted during this comment period at its June 2013 meeting. At that time, the Council adopted the criteria, after incorporating revisions that arose from the public comments.

The Accreditation Procedures were amended at the September 2013 Council Meeting. The procedures were amended to include Standalone Baccalaureate Programs as a unit of accreditation.

The Application Template for Standalone Baccalaureate Programs is now available. The Council is now accepting applications for Standalone Baccalaureate Programs in public health.

Please feel free to contact CEPH’s Executive Director Laura Rasar King or Deputy Director Mollie Mulvanity with questions or requests for additional information.

For a visual representation of this timeline, please visit the Road to Baccalaureate Accreditation