Peer reviewers from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges are going to visit the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from Monday, Feb. 10 through Thursday, Feb. 13 to determine whether or not the university will be reaccredited.
The group of peer reviewers, which is made up of faculty from other universities, will be making sure the university is in compliance with SACSCOC regulations. They will focus on areas where the SACSCOC found the university’s compliance certification, a document the university puts together that provides data showing the university is meeting SACSCOC requirements, unsatisfactory.
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Jordan Kellman, Ph.D., who said he led the effort to create the compliance certification, said it’s common that the SACSCOC finds some issues with a university’s initial report as the university is given many opportunities to fix any compliance problems the SACSCOC may have found.
“Everybody gets some non-compliance findings from that first report because they know you have all kinds of chances down the road,” Kellman said. “You have five chances to get in compliance and show that you're in compliance.”
Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Blanca Bauer, Ph.D., said most of the issues the SACSCOC had with UL Lafayette’s compliance report had to do with problems with documentation.
“There are items where sometimes, maybe we didn't give enough information. There's one that we submitted on review of the mission statement, one of the simplest ones of all, but somehow the text got cut off. So the most important part of the documentation we needed to give them didn't show up on the electronic report,” Bauer said. “So we got cited because we didn't give them that piece of evidence.”
Kellman also said a lot of the documentation needed for the compliance certification was difficult to obtain.
“I'm quite sure that all our faculty will be found to be qualified for what they're teaching, but often their transcripts were collected 25, 30, 35 years ago when they came here, and they're not always easy to find,” he said.
The reaccreditation process takes place every 10 years and determines whether or not the university will be able to receive federal funding. Students at accredited universities are also able to transfer credits to universities all over the nation and in some cases internationally.
According to OnlineCourses.net, universities that have lost their accreditation are often forced to close. The site advises any college student attending a university without accreditation to transfer immediately.
According to Kellman, the SACSCOC had much fewer issues with UL Lafayette’s 2020 compliance certification than it did with the university’s 2010 compliance certification.
“We had more compliance issues in 2010 than we did this time,” he said. “We were much newer to the process in 2010, and we had much less ability to gather data about the university.”
The peer reviewers will also be looking at the university’s quality enhancement plan meets SACSCOC’s standards. A QEP is a specific plan of action to improve the university, which every SACSCOC accredited university is required to make in order to be reaccredited.
UL Lafayette’s QEP is called Advance: Student Research Experience, and it’s intended to create more research opportunities for undergraduate students, which Bauer claims UL Lafayette is currently lacking.
“Our students don't have the opportunities that other institutions or other students do to engage in these kinds of (research) opportunities,” Bauer said.
Bauer said she is confident UL Lafayette will meet all the requirements for reaccreditation.
“There's no doubt in my mind, they're going to be reaccredited. I have done this type of work as far as helping schools do reaffirmations for all of my career, for almost 30 years. This is the fourth full decennial reaffirmation I've done and this is probably the institution that's been in the best shape,” she said.
While Kellman said the process of preparing for reaccreditation was difficult, he felt the process was helpful for the university as a whole.
“This is a very healthy process of self-examination for the university. It's a good thing for us to take stock of all of our processes and our operations and effectiveness of how we operate. We always learn a lot about ourselves from these and we certainly have this time,” Kellman said.