WKU starts preparing for re-accreditation

WKU is gearing up for re-accreditation, a process that is especially important for students relying on federal financial aid.

Without an accreditation, WKU students would no longer be eligible for federal aid.

The agency that issues re-accreditation won’t decide on WKU’s status until December 2015, but the university is already preparing.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said the university is starting to prepare a report for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the group who will review WKU for accreditation, because it is a long process.

“It’s a fairly comprehensive assembly of information,” Emslie said. “…We were re-accredited last time, 10 years ago, with no essential difficulty.”

President Gary Ransdell said he doesn’t fear the university’s accreditation, but said the process’ length is worth taking into account.

“It’s just an arduous process,” he said. “It gets an institution’s attention because it takes a lot of work and planning, and you can’t afford to fail the process.”

Emslie said the university is confident they are compliant with the principles, but they just have to gather a lot of information together to show the agency.

In September 2014, the university will submit a compliance report, showing that they fulfill the requirements for accreditation. Prior to the decision, an on-site review team will come to campus in spring 2015.

“I am told that when the SACS review team is on campus, they will stop students,” Emslie said.

Because of this, Emslie said when it gets closer to the review, they will make sure students are aware of the re-accreditation efforts.

Ransdell said the entire campus will have to “gear up” to prepare.

“You make sure that all your academic programs are in order,” he said. “We will appoint someone to lead us through, and the whole campus will be involved in the accreditation process, to some extent.”

Sylvia Gaiko, associate vice president for Planning and Program Development, said there are several committees, each dedicated to working on one group of principles so that no one will have to write the entire report.

For example, Gaiko said one committee will look at faculty and make sure they have the appropriate credentials, while another will look at the legal statutes of the university. In total, there are close to 13 committees.

Gaiko said she thinks this process is an excellent opportunity to assess what WKU is doing well and what might need to be modified.

“I find it a very rewarding process because what you do is answer basic questions and it just allows you to review what you’re doing on the campus and it reaffirms the quality programs that you have,” Gaiko said.

Emslie said another feature of maintaining accreditation is the Quality Enhancement Plan — something that shows an effort to improve the institution.

“You’ve got to comply with the principles and you have to show you’re doing something to move the university forward in some meaningful way,” Emslie said.

He also said the accreditation process is a good opportunity to reflect on how things are going at the university, while moving forward.