SDSU re-accreditation evaluation to occur Nov. 2-4

David Michaud

David Michaud

From Nov. 2 to 4, SDSU will be facing an accreditation evaluation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The evaluation focuses on five criteria that each school must meet in order to become and stay accredited. Institutions that fail in any of these areas will not become accredited.

“If we were not accredited we wouldn’t be eligible for certain government funding, such as financial aid,” said SDSU Provost Laurie Nichols, “and that would pretty much shut us down. I think somewhere around 80 percent of students receive some type of financial aid, whether from the Pell Grant or through loans.”

There are five criteria that each school must meet in order to become and stay accredited. They are mission and integrity, preparing for the future, student learning and effective teaching, acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge and also engagement and service.

For the past two years, SDSU has been self-evaluating all aspects of the university. The evaluation was completed by 18 committees, comprising more than 200 individuals. Each committee consisted of faculty from all across campus and included at least one student on each committee. The committees completed the self-study in August 2009.

The accreditation team will consist of eight individuals that work for different institutions across the Midwest. The team has been sent the results of the self-study. When the team arrives they will be brought to the university in order to evaluate SDSU further and to cross-check that all the data in the self-study is correct. One way that students can communicate with the visiting accreditation team is to go to the open forum that is being held on Nov. 2 from 1-2 p.m. in the Lewis & Clark room of The Union.

“We are very optimistic and excited (about the evaluation),” said Nichols, who oversaw the self-study team. “Of course there is a little bit of nervousness, but that just helps keep us on our toes.”

SDSU has been accredited every year since 1916.

“We are not worried about not getting accredited. It’s not going to happen,” Nichols said. “The person who oversaw the everyday activities of the self-evaluation was Mary Kay Helling and she did a wonderful job.”

During SDSU’s last evaluation in 2000, the visiting committee outlined four areas of concern, according to the self-study booklet: strategic planning, diversity, maintenance and repair and ADA accommodations.

The committee said that “SDSU lacks experience with a comprehensive, integrated strategic planning process that charts direction, delineates objectives, specifies action plans and connects budgetary costs to the action plans” regarding strategic planning.

Yet Mary Kay Helling, associate vice president for academic affairs, contends that this is one of the areas where SDSU has made the most progress.

“One good example of an area we changed was strategic planning,” said Helling. “We looked at it at every level of the university and really overhauled it.”

Regarding diversity, the committee said that the university has not yet formulated strategies and concrete plans to address its diversity goals. “While some faculty and students are actively involved in diversity-enhancing activities, others are either ambivalent or resistant to enhancing the environment for diversity,” the committee found.

Maintenance and repair issues also worried the committee.

“Maintenance and repair of an otherwise aging physical plant is becoming increasingly problematic. There is a $50 million backlog of deferred maintenance projects,” said the committee, highlighting that handicapped access continues to be a campus-wide issue.

Not all students are aware of what accreditation is or what it does.

Simone Cournoyer, a sophomore early childhood education major said, “I don’t know what accreditation is. I never thought of it when I was choosing a school.”

The results of the SDSU self-study are open to the public and can be found on the Internet.

The Web site is On that page, students will be able to access the study and see the results that SDSU has provided to The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.