Revised NASPAA Accreditation Standards

September 18, 2019
NASPAA Accreditation Standards: Proposed Revisions


From Chandler Stolp, NASPAA Standards Committee Chair

Over the past 2 years, I have had the privilege to lead an engagement with NASPAA membership, leadership, and external stakeholders as we considered the future of public service education through the lens of the NASPAA Accreditation Standards. The NASPAA Standards Colloquium and revisions process opened a dialogue into important questions about the scope of the accreditation standards and their impact on public service, in particular on the themes of global accreditation and new developments in our field.

With this letter I am transmitting to you the revised standards for your consideration on an up-or-down ballot at the October 18 NASPAA business meeting in Los Angeles. The 2019 Standards reflect an inclusive and deliberate process, led by your peers. With these revisions, we celebrate this growth, sharpening our expectations for student learning and renewing our commitment to what makes our field unique-- public service values.

Since 2009 and the last generation of NASPAA standards,  we’ve come to rely on an increasingly multisectoral workforce to serve public needs and solve public problems. Data is everywhere, and the next generation has to lasso and marshal it for public purposes, and to protect the individual. Ten years ago, we wanted accreditation processes to be welcoming to non-US schools. Now we recognize the standards themselves must be global in mission and scope. Every school of public service must prepare the next generation for the global effort to advance sustainable development-- protecting the planet while trying to improve citizens’ economic and social well-being. This sustainability commitment is being integrated into governance, and we must train students to be forensic in defense of effective governance, to act transparently, with accountability, and actively encouraging participation in civic life. And then, we measure inclusion not just by who is present, but by whether they are participating.

In consideration of feedback from peers through listening sessions, surveys, and committee discussions, the Standards Committee offers specific revisions to address areas for growth first highlighted in the July 2017 Dear Colleagues letter from then-President David Birdsell:

  • Nonprofit at the Core: the revisions establish nonprofit management as fundamental to public service education. Changes to language throughout the Standards, including the universal required competencies, explicitly integrate the third sector.
  • Global accreditation: the revisions highlight critical public service values such as transparency, accountability, participation, and equity, which align with NASPAA’s goals to support effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions, and serve as hallmarks of public service worldwide.
  • Cultural Competency: Also important in the global public service values discussion, the revisions incorporate equity, support, retention, and responsiveness into the Standards, retaining the flexibility necessary to accredit in different contexts, while emphasizing the role diversity, equity, and inclusion must play in public service education.
  • New Developments: The revisions target the universal required competencies to ensure they are as multisectoral as the field of public service, rigorous with regard to critical analysis and decision-making, and adaptable to the rapidly changing needs and environments of the field, be they technological, geographic, or otherwise.

In revising the Standards, the Committee has performed a balancing act: enhancing the inclusivity, flexibility, and global scope, without increasing the burden on schools,  or making it harder than it has been to attain accreditation.  The Standards Committee takes this opportunity in these revised standards to restate NASPAA’s longtime commitment to striving to be formative and developmental in our accreditation process, not exclusionary or punitive. We celebrate quality, we commend these Standards to you for your vote, and  we hope to welcome each and every NASPAA member school  into our accreditation program when it is right for them.

With thanks to our many colleagues who engaged these topics with thoughtfulness and a strong vision for the future,

Chandler Stolp

Chair, NASPAA Standards Committee