ASU in final stages of reaccreditation
by Anna Oakes
Appalachian State University is moving closer to a 10-year reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools, with a final report due to SACS in August.
The U.S. Department of Education states that the goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.
To receive reaffirmation of its SACS accreditation, ASU must demonstrate compliance with 92 SACS Principles of Accreditation. The final report from ASU will address five recommendations from a SACS team that visited campus in April.
"We are very pleased with the final report, and these remaining issues are important but not difficult to address," said Bobby Sharp, director of the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning at ASU.
The onsite SACS committee recommended that ASU develop a standardized, institution-wide process for faculty evaluation, including dean-level reviews of annual evaluations. The committee also recommended the development of standards in the hiring process of faculty candidates whose experiences are used to compensate for a lack of formal academic training.
In addition, the committee had several recommendations for ASU's first Quality Enhancement Plan. The QEP is a new accreditation requirement instituted since ASU's last reaccreditation in 2002.
The QEP serves as a roadmap that addresses a well-defined topic related to improving student learning, according to ASU's QEP website. ASU selected "Global Learning: A World of Opportunities for Appalachian Students" as its QEP topic. The five-year plan emphasizes strengthened international activities offered both at home and abroad and earlier in a student's college career.
SACS' recommendations for the QEP include adopting a more narrow scope focused on metrics that more directly address student learning. Direct assessment measures include tests and evaluations of student work; an example of an indirect measure is surveying students on their own improvement.
The final two recommendations direct ASU to develop a clear and systematic budgeting process for the QEP that ties specific actions and activities to funding and to create an explicit and detailed action plan on how it will assess the QEP goals and outcomes to measure progress and success.
Sharp said the SACS team that visited in April also paid particular attention to 13 SACS principles with which ASU was found to be non-compliant in a November 2012 off-site committee report, including the assessment of student learning outcomes, handling of student complaints and adherence to and enforcement of academic policies, including procedures related to student-athletes.
Sharp said the onsite committee "cleared" those 13 issues after the April visit to campus. The committee noted several of ASU's strengths in its report.
"The Onsite Reaffirmation Committee was impressed by the general environment of the Appalachian State campus, from the standpoint of both the friendliness and spirit of the students, faculty and staff, as well as the condition and cleanliness of its physical facilities," the report stated.
"The committee also noted a genuine camaraderie among faculty and staff -- people appeared to work well together and were respectful and supportive of one other," it added. The report also commended ASU for its dedication to providing educational programs at numerous off-campus sites.
Sharp praised Georgie Donovan, chairwoman of ASU's SACS compliance certification, for her "outstanding leadership" throughout the reaccreditation process.
SACS will announce is reaffirmation decision in December 2013.