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August 22, 2006

CAMPUS COMMUNITY WORKS ON REACCREDITATION EFFORTS

The University of Houston is undertaking a two-year project that, if all goes well, will culminate in the reaffirmation of UH’s accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

The designation is essential to the future of the university and the students it serves, said the administrator overseeing UH’s efforts.

“Accreditation is critical to any university or college. It affects such significant factors as federal and state funding, which are based on whether an institution is accredited by the appropriate regional agency,” said Jerald W. Strickland, director of UH’s SACS reaffirmation of accreditation.

SACS accredits institutions of higher education throughout the 11 southern states and parts of Latin America. Accreditation indicates that an institution maintains clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that it is successful in achieving those objectives.

To gain or maintain accreditation, an institution must comply with SACS principles of quality enhancement, policies and procedures.

The evaluation is voluntary and occurs usually every 10 years. The last time SACS reaffirmed the university’s accreditation was in 1998. In fall 2005, administrators began preparing for the next accreditation, which will, in addition to the campus, cover UH courses taught at UH System at Sugar Land and UH System at Cinco Ranch.

UH President Jay Gogue appointed seven committees — leadership, compliance management, compliance certification, academic policy audit/advisory, faculty standards, assessment and information technology college support — comprised of faculty, staff and administrators to work on the project. Committee members must develop and submit a compliance certification document and a quality enhancement plan (QEP) by fall 2007.

The document requires UH to provide evidence that the university is following its mission and is compliant with SACS policies and principles, Strickland said.

To prepare the document, UH administrators must analyze the breadth of the university, including governance and administration, financial stability, faculty credentials, academic programs and policies, library and other learning resources, student support services and facilities.

For example, UH is now gathering the academic credentials, curriculum vitae, résumés and profiles of all professors and instructors who will teach this fall and in the spring, Strickland said. UH also must submit syllabi for all courses taught during these two semesters.

“We have begun collecting these documents and data for the compliance certification report. We will complete the process by late next spring,” Strickland said.

Work on selecting the QEP, which will focus on improving student learning during a five-year period, will begin this fall.

“We plan to involve the entire university in the process, much like we did in developing the UH System strategic plan,” Strickland said. “The QEP must make good academic sense, and must have a reasonable chance of success. We must have the budget to fund the plan.”

After the submission, the SACS commission will review and comment on UH’s online compliance certification documents and will send a team to campus between January and April 2008. The team will assess educational strengths and weaknesses and provide a written evaluation, which may include recommendations, to the university. The commission will base its final decision, which is expected to be announced in December 2008, upon the team’s report.

“This is a great opportunity for the University of Houston to step back and review its institutional effectiveness, what we are doing and how we can improve, In addition, the reaffirmation process will provide the university with up–to-date and sage advice from experts in higher education,” Strickland said.

Visit http://www.sacs.uh.edu/default.htm for more information on the UH SACS reaffirmation of accreditation.

Francine Parker
fparker@central.uh.edu