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UP Program becomes first in country to be accredited

UP Program accredited

From left to right, Martha Mock, Madeline Will, Kelly Kelley (WCU UP Program director), Stephane Smith Lee (IHEAC Board President), and Debra Hart.

By Marlon W. Morgan

Western Carolina University’s University Participant Program has become fully accredited by the Inclusive Higher Education Accreditation Council.

The program is the first to be accredited by IHEAC, a newly formed nonprofit organization serving as the accrediting agency for postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disability. The accreditation is for seven years.

“It is such an honor to be a part of a community that supports inclusive postsecondary education for individuals with intellectual disability having the same opportunities as everyone else at Western Carolina University,” said Kelly Kelley, professor and director of the UP Program.

“We are excited to be the first accredited program in the country. We appreciate all the workgroup members, peer reviewers, facilitators and observers that have worked so hard to make this a true reality for so many IPSE’s across the country that are interested in pursuing accreditation.”

In March, officials from IHEAC came to Cullowhee for a two-day site visit. Peer reviewers were able to talk to students, staff and faculty of the UP Program to gather their experiences and expertise.

The model program accreditation standards that serve as the basis for accreditation were developed over a period of 10 years by two Think College National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroups.

“The Council is delighted to award accreditation to the outstanding WCU UP Program and appreciate their willingness to be the first to undergo accreditation,” said Stephanie Smith Lee, IHEAC Board President. “The documentation provided, site visit, peer reviewer report and strong support from the university clearly demonstrate that the UP Program merits accreditation.”

The UP Program provides an inclusive, two-year, on-campus living experience for college-aged persons with intellectual disability. The goal of the program is to facilitate UP students’ transition from secondary school to adult life with education, employment and independent living.

For more information about the UP Program, visit

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