What accredidation means to students

As many students don’t know, UAA is just finishing up a lengthy reaccreditation process. The process is important because if all of the colleges at UAA are once again accredited, it indicates to students and the public that the university is providing a quality education.

On Monday and Tuesday of last week, an evaluation team of two meant with faculty and staff to determine how the colleges have improved and how they have earned their reaccreditation. There was a student forum scheduled, but none attended. It wasn’t highly publicized, however, and it begs certain questions, such as do students care about the reaccreditation and why should students care?

It is important to note that every student’s future rides on reaccreditation, because if your college fails to receive it than the degree you earn is useless.

The evaluation team had planned to ask to students if they are satisfied with their colleges. Over the past decade, UAA has built a level of credibility when it comes to education, but whether Alaska students would recommend it to friends and family is uncertain.

The main complaints with colleges tend to be the following: course curriculums of some colleges do not fully educate the students and do not benefit to their prospective careers, enough courses are not being offered for students to graduate in a timely manner, and there is not enough advisors in the departments to handle all of the students needs. In addition, concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of general advisors. The general advisors do undertake a larger workload having to deal with a copious amount of new students, a number that is growing every year.

Programs are addressing these problems, such as the Office of Student Affair’s MAP-Works program that focuses on student aid and retention, but the outlets for voicing deeper concerns with the colleges are underwhelming to say the least.

If students had taken the time to step before the evaluation team last week, it is questionable as to whether or not comments would be taken into full consideration. Students may have more of a chance bringing their complaints to their colleges’ professors. The faculty could then present those grievances to the accreditation committee, but students have filled out the teacher evaluation forms semester after semester to see little to no change.

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The deans and faculty present to the committee what they have improved upon since the previous accreditation, so students’ criticisms hold little merit behind closed doors. Our professors were taught through the tried and true methods they are now using to teach their own classes. While students view the current methods of instruction with a critical eye, the ingrained system will take much more effort from the student body if change is to occur.

Another outlet of getting your voice heard is student government. Lack of student interest, however, keeps students from using this tool that is, and always has been, at their disposal.

Therein lies the biggest hurdle to students seeing the change they want in the university. General lack of interest was probably the largest indicator that the reaccreditation committee took from the open forums. Not one student felt strongly enough to take the time and offer comments, good or bad. Instead, students were busy worrying about passing their next exam in order to keep their federal aid intact.