ACCGC. You never heard of it? Accrediting Council for Collegiate Graphic Communications. Doesn’t ring a bell? It is a group of dedicated graphic arts educators and industry suppliers who foster graphic arts education at the college level. Accreditation is how colleges and universities serve professions and industries—by making sure that educational curricula meet the needs of professions and industries.

The concept of the academic ivory tower is long gone. Education, at every level, is there to meet the needs of society. We need engineers to help build bridges and programmers to help build computers. We need graduates who will build the printing industry of the future. We need to blend the practical with the theoretical—the how and the why.

Why does accreditation matter? Because the people who will run the printing industry of the future have to learn the thinking to do it somewhere. Occasional training is not a substitute for the analytical skills developed in college programs. You should not hire a college graduate to run a press; you should hire them to assist in managing an operation with presses, or analyze new equipment, or implement quality programs.

The mission of the ACCGC is to provide creditable accreditation standards used to promote and encourage baccalaureate-level educational programs in graphic communications. That is a mouthful. ACCGC brings administrative and instructional personnel and personnel in the graphics industries together. Accreditation engenders professional standards and encourages excellence, integrity, and continuous improvement.

It is all part of the checks and balances that also include advisory committees as well as associations like the International Graphic Arts Educators Association (IGAEA). We must educate educators, streamline curricula, and involve printers and print suppliers. No one constituency has all the answers.

Accreditation represents the primary mechanism for addressing issues of educational quality across graphic communication programs at different schools. Accreditation is a continuing process which does not end with attainment of initial or renewed accreditation status. The goal is not to make all college programs alike; the goal is to make all college programs understand their relationship to the industry.

Many years ago, a local printer wrote to the president of RIT and said I was doing a terrible job because he hired one of my students and they could not do paste-up. I had to explain to the president, an economist, that paste-up is an old skill. College programs that still teach camera skills and film stripping, for instance, are not meeting the needs of an industry that is all digital. Accreditation essentially makes sure we are teaching the things that matter.

ACCGC has six schools among its roster of accredited programs: California University of Pennsylvania, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (in the process of reaccreditation), Ferris State University (completed reaccreditation in 2008), Florida A&M University (in the process of reaccreditation), Pennsylvania College of Technology, and University of Wisconsin-Stout. New York City College of Technology and University of Houston were visited by teams during 2009 and the reports are being finalized. Two universities (Georgia Southern and Western Illinois) and one community-college (Rock Valley College) are in the pipeline for an accreditation review by the Council.

The goal of baccalaureate degree programs in graphic communications is to prepare students for productive technical, managerial, and/or marketing careers in our industry. Accreditation procedures assist collegiate educators to develop and strengthen graphic communication academic programs whether the programs are separate majors, minors, or concentrations within an academic major, such as industrial technology.

I am fortunate to be a teacher with colleagues in over 30 higher-ed programs in the US. Many fulfill their mission with limited resources, but always find a way to serve their students. There has been a decline in enrollment in graphic arts programs at the college level. High school students do not see the graphic arts as a viable career path. There have been abortive efforts to promote printing programs to high schoolers but they fell flat. ACCGC helps in the re-thinking needed to make college-level printing programs more relevant and more promotable. The so-called education summit has done little to help.

The ACCGC is an independent body professionally supported by leaders in the collegiate educational area and by the management personnel in the graphic communications industry. The ACCGC Council Board of Directors is comprised of eleven educators and eight industry personnel and is dedicated to the improvement and recognition of collegiate level curricula in graphic communications. ACCGC is a tax exempt body and is supported through industry contributions and educational accreditation fees. It is supported through a “Sustaining Corporate Affiliate” program. Currently, Bowe Bell+Howell, Kodak, FujiFilm, Heidelberg, INX, Leo Burnett, Quad Graphics, and Xerox are corporate affiliates—but more are needed.

Now your know. ACCGC is the acronym that is helping to improve graphic arts education.