NWCCU responds: UA accreditation concerns resolved

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

After the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities’, or NWCCU’s, previous accreditation concerns, the accreditation agency reaffirmed that UA is on the right path.

The UA Board of Regents met on Oct. 28 to finalize a response to the NWCCU’s letter. This letter, received on Sept. 26, brought up concerns that the University of Alaska was not meeting two accreditation standards related to decision-making procedures.

Board of Regents Chair John Davies, UA President Jim Johnsen and Chancellors Rick Caulfield, Cathy Sandeen and Dan White of UAS, UAA and UAF, respectively, wrote a joint-response letter to the NWCCU. The UA officials sent this ad hoc report electronically on Oct. 30. The three chancellors also included individual letters.

The joint response reassured the NWCCU that UA’s government structure is functioning properly and outlined roles and guiding principles for the university to follow going forward, manager of communications and marketing of UA’s Office of Public Affairs Monique Musick said in a press release on Oct. 28.

The response also expressed to the NWCCU that the UA Board of Regents, president and chancellors share its concerns.

“We have been and will continue working closely with NWCCU, are following up with the commission and holding an emergency meeting of the board to ensure that we are working together effectively and inclusively, with a clear understanding of our respective roles and responsibilities,” the UA Office of Public Affairs said on the UA News Center webpage.

The UA officials agreed to dedicate more time to gathering feedback from chancellors, faculty, students and staff on deciding how to consolidate administration and academia to reduce spending.

- Advertisement -

“That input is being received through extensive public process, a recently completed survey and faculty, staff, student and community participation in a series of expedited academic program and unit reviews,” the UA Office of Public Affairs said.

The NWCCU acknowledged UA’s responsorial letter with a positive letter on Nov. 1. The commission stated that it was satisfied that UA is meeting accreditation requirements.

“It is clear that the Board of Regents, system office and institutions are moving forward collectively to clarify the roles and responsibilities throughout the system,” NWCCU President Sonny Ramaswamy said in the letter. “You are also creating opportunities for inclusive dialogue regarding the future structure of the University of Alaska system as you develop a path forward to solve the funding and enrollment challenges that threaten the state’s institutions of higher learning.”

While UA is on the right path, there is still work to be done.

The Board of Regents voted on asking individual departments to conduct expedited program reviews on Oct. 7, rather than having statewide expedited reviews. UAA is reviewing all academic programs and the other universities are reviewing select programs.

This is a multi-step process that will continue until April 2020, Sandeen said.

“First, we’re collecting data, and these program review documents are being prepared,” Sandeen said.

Johnsen and the chancellors will report to the Board of Regents in November with feedback results, unless more time is needed, according to the UA Office of Public Affairs.

“Eventually, our campus will make decisions, the colleges will make recommendations and we will make recommendations to the Board of Regents, who will make the final determination,” Sandeen said.

The Board of Regents, president and chancellors plan to keep UA community members and stakeholders in the loop regarding UA decision-making.

“We have to continue to do the work to clarify roles between the presidents and the chancellors, and we need to do a better job of having an inclusive process around major changes that affect the whole university, and we are on the right path,” Sandeen said.