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Published: Thursday, 11/2/2000

Owens College accreditation hinges on evaluation team

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Owens Community College is nearing the finish in its quest for reaccreditation.

The state of the college and its self-study - a mammoth document of more than 300 pages that was 18 months in the making - were evaluated during a three-day campus visit this week by a team from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Accreditation is a lengthy, voluntary process colleges and universities undertake to show they conform to certain standards involving everything from educational offerings to their financial condition.

The eight-member team of evaluators left yesterday after meeting with Owens administrators, faculty, and students. A decision on Owens's bid for reaccreditation could be made as soon as January, according to Dr. Robert Appleson, associate director at North Central.

Part of the team's goal was to see how the community college has dealt with concerns raised during the reaccreditation process it went through 10 years ago, he said.

Some of those concerns involved improving Owens's marketing strategies, making its employees more representative of the area population, and involving students in governance activities.

Since then, Owens has pursued an aggressive, targeted marketing campaign, which partly has been responsible for its 84 per cent increase in student enrollment since 1994, said Dr. Paul Unger, vice president of academic affairs and director of the self-study.

To improve employee diversity, Owens advertises position openings in minority publications, and it has created a position in the human resources department to help with variety within the institution, he said.

Students still are not involved in governance activities, but they serve on numerous committees.

Dr. Dotty Muir, Owens's new vice president for student development, is examining what student government at the college might be like, he said.

A follow-up visit by North Central took place in 1994 when Owens made the transition from a technical college to a community college. The suggestion then was made to develop a core curriculum for all students rather than just individual department standards. That has been done, Dr. Unger said.

“The self-study process is a time for everyone at the institution to examine ourselves,” he said. “We found areas where we were very proud and feel maybe we need to emphasize more, and we found areas of deficiency.”

There are about 1,000 institutions accredited in North Central's jurisdiction, which includes a region of 19 states. In any given year, about 150 to 200 of those schools receive comprehensive visits for reaccreditation, according to Dr. Appleson.

The University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University are accredited. UT is recruiting about 100 students, staff, and faculty members to gather information for its next self-study, which is expected to be completed in January, 2002. BGSU will begin the process next year, university officials said.

Institutions seeking accreditation are evaluated with regard to five criteria. They must have a fitting mission, integrity, appropriate resources, a proven ability to accomplish their educational and other purposes, and a good plan to remain viable for the future, Dr. Appleson said.

Not many institutions lose their accreditation. But when they do, it's after a lengthy process that includes visits by consultants and a probation that generally lasts one year, he said. “You don't want to humiliate an institution. But if they really have a problem and they can't find their way, then maybe it's the best thing,” Dr. Appleson said.

Students at unaccredited colleges and universities are not eligible for some kinds of federal financial aid and could have problems transferring credits to other institutions, he said.



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