What does accreditation mean anyway?

Jordan Jones

Jordan Jones

One and a half years ago, SDSU administrators began a two and a half year process to remain accredited.

Mary Helling, associate vice president of academic affairs, said some of the university’s success can be attributed to its accreditation processes and ratings. For the accreditation process, SDSU must issue a report that proves the benefit, value and credibility of the university. In other words, the college must prove that it operates as it claims, said Helling.

To begin the reaccrediting program, first SDSU organized multiple committees to evaluate performance and assess what information is needed to meet accreditation standards. Second and currently, administrators are conducting a self-study during which they examine many aspects of how campus performs. Third, officials from the North Central Association of Higher Learning Commission (NCA-HLC) visit the institution and make a report. After this, the report is reviewed by a few committees and then heads back to SDSU to improve on any of its shortcomings.

Campus accreditation affects many areas of a university. For example, credits earned at a university that is not accredited may not transfer. Helling also said that graduate schools are more likely to admit students that completed their undergraduate degree at an accredited college.

According to the NCA-HLC Web site, “Many organizations choose to consider the accredited status of the college at which the credit or degree was earned as one factor in the transfer decision.”

The accreditation process not only allows more opportunities for students, but it helps to keep universities accountable.

“It helps us study ourselves,” said Helling, who described the process as a method to find “strengths, needed changes and recommendations.”

For SDSU, a full accreditation removal is very unlikely. If the assessment does not go as administrators hope, the low scoring areas will then have to be re-examined the next year or possibly be reassessed five years from now instead of the normal ten.

To ensure the success of SDSU’s accreditation efforts, the administration assembled 17 committees. These consist of faculty members and one student representative per committee. Each committee is responsible to evaluate the university’s performance on a number of various subtopics.

Associate Professor Harriet Svec said one of SDSU’s value assessment areas is leadership. SDSU proved its competence on this value when one of the deans left and one of the department heads had to cover the dean’s position. The department head was able to cover because of a leadership program from Harvard. SDSU supported the travel and expense for the extra training, showing that leadership is valued at SDSU, said Svec.

Other things that the committees look at include: budgets, scholarships, number of majors, number of teachers, number of courses offered, internships, clubs and employment outlook for graduates.

SDSU’s self study began January 2007. The visit from the NCA-HLC will take place Nov. 2 to 4, 2009. A survey will also be soon available for students on MyState Online to discuss how the campus is performing.