Consent to PSU seven-year accreditation plan to be voted on Sept. 15

Thursday, Sept. 15 the Portland State Board of Trustees will likely consent to a Year One Self-Evaluation Report to be submitted to Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a regional oversight committee which grants accreditation in order to continue receiving federal funds such as FAFSA for students and research and grant funding.

“All colleges and universities that receive federal funds must be accredited by a regional accreditation agency,” said Brian Sandlin, accreditation and state authorization coordinator for the Office of Academic Affairs, who helped write the plan to be approved Sept. 15. “These regional agencies ensure compliance with Department of Education policies,” Sandlin said.

Every seven years all colleges and universities that receive federal funds must file a seven-year plan to continue accreditation by the federal government.

“We are accredited and have been since 1955. We are in no danger of losing accreditation,” Sandlin said.

The report was heavily based on PSU President Wim Wiewel’s “Four Year Strategic Plan.” Both have five core themes including “evaluate student success”, “advance excellence in teaching and research”, “extend our leadership in community engagement”, “expand our commitment to equity” and “innovate for long-term stability.”

These reports are filed in years one, three and seven, until a new seven-year cycle begins. It is a peer-reviewed process according to the PSU website.

There was one objection to the document at a preliminary examination Sept. 8. “Pressure to quantify results in performance indicators [does] not actually measure success relative to the objective,” said Board Member Maude Hines, specifically referring to the first core theme of the document, “evaluating student success.”

Initiatives in the document focused on cultural-specific programs are measured in some cases by the number of graduates rather than a qualitative look at how the programs help students.

“They should be measured by how much they help students, perhaps by measuring how many programs are available and how many students they serve, or by surveying the students they serve,” Hines stated in an email with the Vanguard.

By charting graduation rates we could qualitatively evaluate programs’ success, Wiewel said.

NWCCU is an independent non-profit membership organization which is the regional authority for the Department of Education to issue accreditation based on “educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher education institutions,” according to their website. They oversee seven states in the northwest region.

The document must be approved and sent to the NWCCU by Sept. 16.