University completes process of reaccreditation this week

A team put together by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges will visit USC this week for the final part of the university’s reaccreditation process.

Every 10 years USC goes through the reaccreditation process, which gives a school credibility as an institution of higher education, said Robin Romans, associate provost for Undergraduate Programs and accreditation liaison officer.

“Accreditation is a process of quality assurance that’s developed in the U.S. It’s a way to ensure that institutions are fulfilling their mission and meeting the public’s expectation of accountability,” Romans said.

All top universities in the nation are accredited, Romans said, with the WASC being the sole institution that can accredit schools in California.

Attending an accredited university benefits students immensely, he said.

“It certainly says that your degree is of high quality,” Romans said.

Accreditation is also necessary for universities to be able to award government aid from state or national grants.

It takes three to five years for universities to go through the accreditation process, which consists of three stages. The process for USC’s most recent accreditation began in 2005, and the school is expected to be reaccreditated in February.

According to Romans, the chances of USC not getting reaccredited are next to zero; the process doesn’t worry the university.

“We know USC will be reaccredited,” Romans said. “For USC, the important part of accreditation is what we learn from peers at other academic institutions who serve on our visiting team.”

The first stage is the institutional proposal, which was submitted to the WASC committee in October 2005. In this report, the university accreditation team stated the mission of USC and what it hoped to accomplish. Goals cited in the report were to achieve interdisciplinary education and to be a learner-centered institution, according to Romans.

After the WASC accreditation committee accepted USC’s proposal, the university moved on to stage two: the capacity and prepatory review. In this report, USC had to show the WASC that the university had the capacity and means needed to fulfill the goals in the first report.

The committee answered questions regarding the diversity and competence of its faculty, among other things. Similar questions were answered about the student population. The report also focused on undergraduates and how to improve qualifications, increase retention and graduation rates, and enhance diversity.

The visiting team, chaired by former president of Harvard University Derek Curtis Bok, includes six distinguished faculty members from universities around the nation and one from New Zealand.

“One of the interesting parts of accreditation in the U.S. is that it includes a peer review component,” Romans said. “When they review our presentation, visit campus and make recommendations, they do so from the vantage point of faculty members at other research universities.”

When the visiting team comes to campus, they will meet with several groups and write a report,  with recommendations to USC. The team  will then be talking to faculty, various administrators, staff members and students.

Any student can and is encouraged to participate in the accreditation process by sending an e-mail to Commenters’ identities will be held from USC’s accreditation team.

Romans says that it is important for the WASC committee to see what students have to say because it could raise issues that the university might have overlooked, and this can lead to new recommendations or critiques for USC.

“It’s important that your institution learns from itself. You foster a culture of self-improvement that way,” he said.