USF is approaching the final phase of its scheduled accreditation, which occurs every six to ten years. From Oct. 8-10, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WASCUC) will be visiting the University.
Accreditation grants USF many opportunities, including eligibility for financial aid. It also protects the interests of students by ensuring that the educational standards have met or exceeded the expectations of accreditors.
WASCUC reviews universities based on 41 standards, including the clarity of institutional purposes, achieving educational objectives and integrity and transparency. Prior to the visit, the University evaluates itself to ensure it is congruent with these standards. Over the past two years, USF has been engaged in a self-study provided by WASCUC in order to ensure that the it is meeting the requirements to qualify for accreditation. The USF-commissioned steering committee, who directs the self-study, scores the University in each of the standards anywhere from a 1 to 3. They are also asked to rank the importance of the issue being addressed.
“We want to be the best,” Shirley McGuire said, who is senior vice provost for academic affairs. McGuire’s role includes overseeing the University’s accreditation, among other responsibilities.
Deborah Panter, the University’s WASCUC liaison, serves as the chair of the committee. She also, along with Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Allen Ziajka, hosted a Q&A session on Sept. 24 for students interested in attending the accreditation visit meetings.
“Accreditors exist, because this is another reason for them to trust us,” McGuire said. “When you’re accredited, that means that any classes you take here can transfer to other schools, your degree has meaning and value, [and] that means that your future employer and any school can trust you. [It] also helps us get grants and scholarship money.”
Panter noted that accreditation “makes students eligible for federal financial aid. Students who are at schools that aren’t accredited aren’t eligible to receive [this] money.”
The University has to go through multiple phases before the accreditation visit. These include the forming of the steering committee and the self-study in addition to writing eight sections of the institutional report.
“One of the things WASCUC really believes in, that we do too, is improvement,” McGuire said. “You’re never satisfied with just being at the level you are, you always want to be better.”
“I think another area is communication,” Panter said. “Things are changing. Students don’t necessarily read emails [and] faculty don’t necessarily read emails the way they used to. So we’re always looking for better ways to communicate out to our campus community. I think there’s room for improvement there [and] we’re striving to be better so that we reach people where they are and talk to them.”
Sophomore Ankhiluun Zandan became aware of the University undergoing re-accreditation through an email.
“I think going to an accredited school is pretty important because it helps students know that their school meets the standards of quality they paid for,” Zandan said. “Since we are investing our time and money for our education, I think it’s best to choose an institution where we feel satisfied or happy at. It just depends on where each person feels happy getting their education, [and] for me that means ensuring my school is accredited.”
For faculty and staff, “accreditation shows that they are working at an institution that they could be really proud of and they can know in their hearts that we’re serving the students that come to us.” McGuire said.
When the WASCUC team visits, the University hopes that the different groups represented on campus will voice both what they enjoy about USF and any of their concerns.
WASCUC representatives will host town halls for students, faculty and staff to voice concerns on the following dates:
Open meeting with students, Oct. 9, 3:00-3:45 p.m., McLaren 252
Full-time faculty, Oct. 9, 9:10-9:55 a.m., McLaren 252
Part-time faculty, Oct. 9, 9:10-9:55 a.m., McLaren 250
Staff, Oct. 9, 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., McLaren 252
On Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the WASCUC team will be holding a campus-wide session in McLaren to go over their findings.