Accreditation: reaffirmation of what makes colleges maintain excellence

Posted Thursday, October 19, 2006 - 12:00am

Every ten years the College of Eastern Utah undergoes a difficult accreditation process to maintain its prestigious Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accreditation and makes recommendations for the college to improve. Every five years, it goes through an interim report or follow up for reaffirmation of accreditation to make sure the recommendations have been met. This first process took place in 2001 and the second process took place on October 3-4 with two evaluators visiting the Price campus.

The interim process, said Greg Benson, Ph.D., who coordinated the CEU document, should answer any concerns and recommendations mentioned in the initial accreditation process in 2001. Nine standards were listed in the document.

Some of the standard one recommendations included writing a more relevant mission and goals statement and asks if this statement has been reflected in the educational program and/or functioning of the institution? It also asks what are the institution's expectations of itself and how does it assess itself regarding achievement of those expectations?

In answering the standard one assessment about the college's institutional mission and goals, planning and effectiveness, CEU told of its demographic and economic difficulties that has led to close monitoring by the Board of Regents and State Legislature. "CEU is clear regarding its function as a comprehensive community college and possesses a record of successfully educating students over many years," says the report.

Its mission statement has minor revisions made in 2004 that indicates the college will work with senior institutions in the state to provide access to bachelor's degrees at CEU. This emphasis is "intended to meet the needs of students who wish to advance their education while remaining in the CEU campus areas and increase the number of area residents with bachelor's degrees as a basis for economic development in the region," says the report.

The standard two recommendations asked about changes in the educational program and their effectiveness. This covered graduation requirement changes and any new or discontinued programs. The educational assessment component discussed how the institution assesses its educational programs and its expectations regarding achievements of its students.

The graduation requirements and program changes include the associate of arts and science degrees now requires that students compete a "oral communication-intensive" course.

The report discussed apprenticeship programs offered at industry request in recent years through the college's electronics, machine tool technology and welding departments.

The division of continuing education developed an impressive array of outdoor recreation offerings while the Western Energy Training Center is a promising new venture that is funded in part with a $2.7 million grant form the U.S. Department of Labor.

CEU dropped its debate program and closed its Moab center in a cost-cutting move.

Standard three addressed students. It addressed questions concerning admissions, grading, non-academic programs and student support services.

The student services area of the college improvements include the addition of a federal TRIO program in 2001. This program works with first-generation college students, low-income students and students with disabilities to help them succeed in college, graduate, and/or transfer to a four-year school to obtain a bachelor's degree.

Financial aid has encouraged students to submit federal applications via the Internet. Various auxiliaries at the Price campus instituted changes in recent years to enhance quality and value for students.

The Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Program is a new resource for CEU students. GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is another new program aimed at raising the number of low-income students in college.

Standard four addressed the faculty. It's questions concerned new policies affecting faculty, changing characteristics of the faculty, salaries and benefits, and substantive performance evaluation of all faculty.

The report shows the faculty relatively stable over the past five years. More than 80 percent of current full-time faculty was with the college in 2001. Gender shows two-thirds male and one-third female, the same proportion in 2001. On average, 70 percent of all instruction is provided by full-time faculty.

Faculty are provided with an attractive benefits package including sick leave, health, dental, long-term disability, life, retirement, holidays and tuition.

Standard five addressed the library and information resources. Its guidelines asked if the library/learning resources and laboratories have kept pace with the growth of the instruction programs, especially with computer science and health technologies.

The report states that as a member of the Utah Academic Library Consortium, CEU has access to sources numbering in the millions, including bound volumes, full-text periodicals, journals and serials, and electronic books.

Recommendations are solicited from faculty on a regular basis regarding acquisitions for their respective disciplines. Computers in various areas of the library (lab, reference and staff) are replaced according to a regular three-year schedule.

Standard six addressed the governance and administration of the college. The accreditation report addressed what significant changes in the governing board, leadership and management of the institution has been made.

The reports states that CEU operates as part of the Utah System of Higher Education, which consists of 10 public institutions governed by the Utah State Board of Regents. Although executive functions have essentially remained constant since 2001, duties have periodically shifted and positions redefined.

Standard seven addressed the finances on campus. The report asked questions about the financial structure and condition of the institution.

The report says that over the past five years, CEU has experienced some financial and enrollment challenges. The demographics of Southeastern Utah noted a net loss, thus seeing a decline in school-age children. Over the past 15 years, the area population that CEU was built to serve has dropped by more than one third in the last 15 years.

Scholarship expenditures have averaged approximately $200,000 more than available scholarship revenues each year, resulting in a deficit of $800,000 over the past four years.

During the five-year period, the combined deficits in food service and housing grew from approximately $300,000 to $550,000. The total debt service for housing is $550,000.

At present, the constraints CEU faces include: each traditional out-of-area student represents a cost of at least $2,000; housing debt service represents a fixed cost of $550,000, the colleges operating budget cannot be premised upon annual fund raising and all accumulated deficits must be paid from current revenue sources.

Standard eight addressed the physical facilities on campus. Were new buildings added or others demolished?

New construction added the Reeves Building (60,000 square feet), facilities maintenance building (8,000 square feet) and a five-megawatt electrical substation. An office building, warehouse and shop (former Willow Creek Mine buildings) were acquired for the Western Energy Center.

Renovation projects on the Price campus included the athletic center, career center, computer-business building, SAC building and a large-scale campus tunnel project.

Standard nine addressed the institutional integrity. The report asked the institution how it ensures high ethical standards in its treatment of students, faculty and staff.

Students are represented on most major committees to ensure high ethical standards in the treatment of the CEU community. ASCEU representatives meet regularly with college administration and campus forums are held to voice concerns. They also review and comment on tuition increases and annually review the use of student fees allocated to college departments.

The faculty is represented on all major committees and conditions of tenure are detailed in the academic freedom, professional responsibility and tenure document. They participate in an annual review with their division dean.

Professional and classified staff are represented on all major committees and are guaranteed fair and equitable treatment by a number of college personnel policies.

A human resources director was hired and is making sure each employee has a current job description and evaluates positions with regard to salary equity.

Part 2 of the accreditation report will focus on CEU's long-term planning strategies in the November 2, 2006 edition of The Eagle.

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