Suffolk Preparing for Re-Accreditation
Since 2009 Suffolk has been undergoing the process of re-accreditation through the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE), which is specifically geared to give accreditations to schools across New England.
The last time that Suffolk was accredited, more cooperation was established between the College of Arts and Sciences, Sawyer Business School and the New England School of Art and Design so students can transfer between the three schools more easily.
This time, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) will be focused on students receiving 48 credit hours per week as determined by syllabi and public disclosure of information so that students and parents can be informed about things such as graduation, retention and employment rates.
Suffolk created a self-study for accreditation, based on the mission statement and what needs to be improved in order to fulfill it.
According to Sebastian Royo, the NEASC campus coordinator, if Suffolk cannot come up with its own standards and work up to them, then America could become a “centralized, hierarchical, universal, bureaucratic” society, in which the government standardizes higher education.
“The self-study is a great deal of work, but it is a very rewarding process,” said Dr. Robert Rosenthal, the co-chair for the sub-committee on Organization and Governance. “It enables us to determine the things that we do well, designate areas for improvement, and align our resources to meet our goals for educating our students.”
Once the study was set for the university, eleven subcommittees were chosen. These subcommittees were formed based on the eleven standards set by the NEASC, and are made up of faculty, administrators, students, and alumni. The process must be as transparent as possible, so it is important that members from the entire community are included.
In January, a document that outlines the plans will be available for the Suffolk community to comment on. This report will include a description, evaluation and projection for each of the eleven standards set by NEASC. Not only will it be available online, but Royo and Joanna Kriesel, also from the accreditation, will be interviewing the Suffolk community in order to gain feedback.
The entire process commences in a site visit between Oct. 20 and Oct. 23 of next year.
A site team, which has five to seven professors from other schools, will also be interviewing people at Suffolk to fill in any gaps or answer any questions that they may have about the report.
According to Royo, this is where it is important that Suffolk is transparent. In their observations, the site team will be looking for if Suffolk is hiding anything, which will reflect poorly on their recommendations to give an accreditation or not.
NEASC and CIHC are not looking for perfection at Suffolk, but rather to see whether the university recognizes its problems and plans to fix them.
President McCarthy understood that Suffolk has had problems in the past with planning, so he wanted to make that his first priority in the process. This is why the strategic plan which was introduced by President McCarthy in October is so important.
This year, Suffolk is seeing an unprecedented degree of scrutiny. The NEASC accreditors are more focused on getting evidence that Suffolk is truly working on improving the school.
According to Royo, it was easier before to just say that things were getting fixed and then not do anything about it, that is no longer the case.
“I’m totally convinced that it is the right thing to do,” Royo said. He acknowledged that in order for the school to receive federal grants, it should prove that its putting the money to good use and that the students are getting a truly valuable education.