Multiple recommendations to improve the University were provided by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission in a report released in December 2018. This comes after an in-person visit by the organization in October 2018.
WSCUC’s report suggested increased data collection of students, improved campus communication, and addressing the school of law’s low passing rate of the bar exam.
Reaccreditation by WSCUC is a multi-year process during which a team of external volunteers from other accredited institutions reviews a college by the association’s standards.
WSCUC conducted the review to measure the University’s ability to provide a meaningful degree to students.
USF’s most recent reaccreditation process began in 2016. Under Title IV, a policy that governs how education institutions receive government money, colleges and universities must be accredited to receive federal financial aid.
Overall, USF was commended for its integration of the Jesuit mission into its program. “They did see us as very mission-aligned, very honest, very genuine and successful,” said Shirley McGuire, senior vice provost of academic affairs at USF.
McGuire lead the institutional report, a self-study of the University submitted for WSCUC’s review.
Data collection of student learning outcomes is a priority of both the acting accreditors and the University. “They would like us to have better information and data about our students,” McGuire said. “And that, we’re very eager to do.”
The University’s own institutional report stated that “communication, transparency, consistency, complaint management, and accountability can still be improved.”
WSCUC came to the same conclusion in their review, recommending for the University to, “build expertise in program review and planning at the department and program level, and support professional development for the assessment of learning outcomes in both curricular and co-curricular programs.”
Issues like communication are “always a challenge” for institutions, Osborn said. He added, “I think that USF and all of us in these administrative positions can look to improving how we communicate with each other.”
McGuire also recognized the law school’s pressing need to “transform.” The WSCUC review noted the school “has seen its students’ bar passage rate fall significantly below the California mean and its post-graduate employment rate is below its peers. As a result, the USF Law School has become unranked by U.S. News and World Report.”
“Our dean of the law school already knows this. She has a plan and has submitted it to our accreditors,” McGuire said.
The issue of housing, which every student faces at the University due to limited on-campus housing availability and the astronomically high rent in the city, was mentioned only twice in the 58-page report. The accreditors supplemented the high cost of both apartments and dorms with the school’s construction of the multi-million dollar residence project that began in late July 2018.
“What does it mean to get a degree from this institution?” WSCUC Vice President Richard Osborn said, explaining the association’s process. “In other words, is there meaning to the degree beyond just taking classes?”
“There’s no question that USF is going to have their accreditation renewed,” Osborn said. “The question is how long will it be renewed.” The WSCUC will meet on Feb. 21 to determine the length of USF’s reaccreditation.
For students eyeing a future of graduate school, USF’s reaccreditation is indispensable.
“I think school accreditation is important for student[s’] degrees to be transferable to different careers and other institutions if they continue onto grad school,” senior Vivienne Pismarov said in a text. “If schools aren’t accredited, it can make future academic and career development very difficult.”
The entire report and timeline of USF’s reaccreditation are available on the Office of Assessment and Accreditation Support web page.