UI prepares self-study report to renew accreditation
Before the accreditation team sets foot on campus, months of work has already been put into the accreditation process.
The work is shown through the University of Idaho’s self-study report, a document that provides an in-depth look at how UI fulfills its mission, which is provided to accreditors before their visit.
“When you think about it, the self-study is over 200 pages long. It’s like writing a book for all practical purposes,” said Katherine Aiken, interim provost and executive vice president.
An accreditation team from the Northwest Commission on College and Universities (NCCU) will visit campus Monday through Wednesday to observe various parts of the university.
It is the job of the accreditation team to see how closely the self-study report matches up with their observations and to receive any extra information about the university, Aiken said.
Aiken said the accreditation team is comprised of faculty, staff and administrators from a number of NCCU accredited universities.
“It’s always good to have colleagues from away from the institution come and look at your efforts,” Aiken said.
Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Jeanne Stevenson, who was tasked with overseeing the accreditation process for UI, said the accreditation team would review their experiences on campus and create a list of positive attributes about the university, as well as recommendations for improvements.
“It should be an opportunity to affirm what we are doing and the way in which we meet the standards for the commission,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson said accreditors have specific areas they will focus on throughout their three-day visit, such as student services and financial resources.
While the accreditors have specific assignments, Aiken said they also have free reign of the campus, and might even sit down with a student in the Idaho Commons for an impromptu conversation.
Given the history of accreditation at UI and the work put into the self-study report, Aiken said she is confident UI has met the accreditation qualifications.
A few years ago, Stevenson said the accreditation organization switched from a 10-year accreditation process to a seven-year process. She said the NCCU then staggered the university’s accreditation times and UI’s fell on 2015.
Aiken, who is also qualified to serve as an accreditor, said accreditation agencies have changed their emphasis over the past 10 years, becoming more focused on student learning and assessment, instead of on faculty. She said a push for more accountability within higher education from the federal government and the public caused a change in the emphasis of the accreditation process.
“The public and students are a lot more concerned about what have been the benefits of a university education and what skills have people actually learned for their investment,” Aiken said.
There are serious consequences if UI were to not receive accreditation, Aiken said. Unaccredited universities are not eligible for federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants, and credits earned would not be transferable for students, she said.
She said many federal and private grant agencies only provide funds to accredited universities. Unaccredited institutions also have a difficult time attracting talented faculty and staff, Aiken said.
In addition to looking over the organization and structure of the university, Aiken said the accreditation team would focus on analyzing the undergraduate experience and not make any visits to extension campuses.
Aiken said it is unusual to have a new president and a new provost during the final step of accreditation. But, Aiken said she is looking forward to appointed Provost John Wiencek beginning the process again once he starts in June.
“Once this is done, then it will be great because Provost Wiencek will be starting strategic planning at the University of Idaho and the seven-year evaluation cycle,” Aiken said.
Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ryantarinelli