Dixie State University is in the clear — for now.
DSU is on its way to becoming a bona fide institution, and the most current letter of reaffirmation of accreditation arrived March 17. Upon receiving DSU’s Year One Report, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities recognized DSU as fulfilling its mission and core theme objectives, which are a culture of learning, values and community.
“Everything is good, (and) our accreditation is reaffirmed,” said Debra Bryant, NWCCU liaison officer and business assistant professor.
Bryant said accreditation provides students and faculty assurance in the institution and its degrees.
“Faculty [who] work at accredited universities know they work for a successful and approved university, (which makes it) easier to find another job,” she said. “Students can have confidence that the accredited universities will provide recognized education and degrees.”
The comprehensive report and the evaluators’ report were announced to faculty and staff and posted on the accreditation link on the DSU homepage, Bryant said. The information isn’t secret, and she said most institutions don’t post their evaluators’ report.
“We believe in transparency,” Bryant said. “Our employees need to know the evaluator’s responses.”
According to the Comprehensive Evaluation Committee Report, DSU’s self-evaluation report included several errors.
Although the report cites several errors, it mentions the fact that the errors can be explained by the short amount of time in which the report was put together.
One error that was mentioned was that the self-study noted staff performance appraisals have been conducted annually by supervisors. However, staff members who were interviewed said they had not been evaluated in several years.
At least two faculty and administrators who were interviewed noted that the pool of qualified adjunct faculty available is being exhausted. According to the report, there is a disproportionate number of students compared to faculty, and many departments suffer from a small percentage of full-time faculty.
The faculty to student ratio is 1-to-24. Data in the report reveal the average instructional credit hours per faculty member is 15.5, which is higher than the Utah Board of Regents’ recommended value of 13.5. In the educational resources section of the report, DSU used tuition from increased enrollment to hire new faculty in national searches.
The comprehensive report also noted although DSU has made progress in developing specific, measurable benchmarks, the efforts remain incomplete and continued improvement is needed. Some of the benchmarks depend on satisfaction surveys, which have been planned but not developed.
Students, faculty and community members should refer to the “Comprehensive Evaluation Committee Report” to view more specific commendations and recommendations.
Approval of reports
Dixie submitted two special reports in the most recent evaluation: a request for approval to offer full online programs and a comprehensive substantive change report.
The substantive change report assured NWCCU with proof that DSU has the capacity and resources to fulfill its new university status and mission. The One Year Report letter approved this notion. Also, the reaffirmation letter agreed that DSU has the correct processes and resources in place to provide quality online programs.
Bryant said the biggest challenge during this process was getting all of the information together.
“The Substantive Change report, for example, was over 500 pages long,” Bryant said.
Another challenge Bryant faced was that this accreditation process is so new, and DSU was one of the first schools to go through the new seven-year-cycle process.
“Both [DSU] and the NWCCU were in a learning mode for the new process,” Bryant said. “We got it done … but there are always commendations and recommendations from evaluators.”
Bryant said with the Year One Report approved, Dixie is now working toward preparing its Year Three Report, which is to show it is meeting NWCCU standards, due in September 2015. Once each of the Year One, Three and Seven Year Reports are accepted, DSU’s accreditation will be completely reaffirmed.
“Maintaining accreditation is like the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge,” she said. “We are always in the process of doing it.”