Bloomsburg University’s fulfillment of 14 Standards of Higher Education will be evaluated next week when a team from the Middle States Commission visits the campus. The results will affect Bloomsburg’s eligibility for federal financial support.
Middle States, dedicated to evaluating and maintaining educational excellence in this part of the country, is responsible for accrediting degree-granting institutions in this region. In order for an institution to continue receiving federal support in the form of student aid, grants, and scholarships, a college or university must be accredited and continually re-accredited by the Commission.
The visitation team will be on campus from Monday, April 6 through Wednesday, April 8 gathering information that will determine the university’s fulfillment of the established “14 Standards in Characteristics of Excellence.” The team consists of eight senior faculty and administrators from other universities within this region.
A steering committee was appointed to conduct a self-study and to prepare for the visit. Chair of the Middle States steering committee, Dr. Dick Baker of accounting, says that the members of the visitation team have never been to Bloomsburg’s campus before, but they will be attaining information through primary and secondary processes. “The visitation team will be interviewing administrators, faculty, staff, and students, as well as reviewing university documents, reports, and other evidence to determine if the university is in compliance with the 14 Standards of Excellence,” said Baker. Re-accreditation visits occur at institutions just every 10 years.
The Steering Committee was officially appointed in November 2006 by then University President, Jessica Kozloff. The committee grew to nearly 100 volunteers and was responsible for completing the self-study.
The self-study is required prior to the formal visit, and the timeline for it is designed by the Middle States Commission. Bloomsburg’s Committee was on task, falling within a month on virtually all of the activities, according to Baker.
He feels strongly that the university will measure well against the Middle States standards. “The overall consensus is that Bloomsburg University is a strong, vibrant institution that provides a quality education at an affordable cost to a diverse student population in compliance with the standards,” he said.
However, Baker indicated that special attention was spent in the area of General Education, anticipating the visitation team to take an extra-close look at Bloomburg’s requirements in that area. “These are areas that the Middle States Commission has been stressing for all re-accreditation visits for the last several years,” said Baker.
Task forces, created to review areas which Bloomburg would be evaluated in, met several times with the Steering Committee from April to December 2007. Based on the recommendations of the Steering Committee, a General Education task force was created.
The group is co-chaired by Dr. John Riley and Dr. Jonathan Lincoln, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Dean for Undergraduate Studies. According to Lincoln, it has been about 30 years since the general education requirements have been assessed. “The University reviews the effectiveness of all academic departments and programs on a regular basis,” explained Lincoln. “However, because General Education does not belong to any one area, it has been left out of the review circle.”
The task force has relied on various surveys on academic progress and student engagement and satisfaction, as well as data comparisons. The group is now reviewing General Education programs at other institutions. “The task force has held discussions with departments and is currently working with departments and faculty to learn how they view and implement the goals of General Education courses,” said Lincoln.
The reports gathered by the task forces were reviewed by the Steering Committee between April and June of 2008 and used to formulate the self-study report, which was submitted to the Commission about six months ago.
Baker is confident that campus community will handle the Commission interviews well next week. “Our students, faculty, and staff have always been the university’s best ambassadors. The most important thing is to cooperate with any member of the Middle States Visitation Team who you may be asked to talk with. Answer their questions to the best of your knowledge, and if you don’t know the answer, it is alright to say so,” said Baker.
“The re-accreditation process is a team effort and everyone who has worked on the self-study deserves the thanks of the entire university,” he added.
There will be an open meeting with the visitation team at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7 in the Schweiker Room of the Andruss Library. All members of the university community are welcome to attend. The visitation team will present their findings at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8 in the Schweiker Room, which is also open to the public.