Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Accredited: To Be or Not to Be?

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Accredited: To Be or Not to Be?

Article excerpt

The trend toward attaining accredited status may have reached a plateau, according to figures released by the National Recreation and Park Association/American Alliance of Leisure and Recreation (see Table 1). The 1980s witnessed an appreciable increase in the number of institutions achieving and/or renewing accredited status. But data available for the 1990s suggest that a leveling effect has occurred that poses numerous questions.

TABLE 1. NUMBER OF
RECREATION PROGRAMS
ACCREDITED
1977 =  3   1983 = 41   1989 = 84
1978 =  9   1984 = 47   1990 = 92
1979 = 16   1985 = 51   1991 = 92
1980 = 21   1986 = 64   1992 = 90
1981 = 28   1987 = 73   1993 = 92
1982 = 33   1988 = 81

Are these current numbers the extent of the colleges and universities that desire or qualify for accreditation? Is the accreditation process too involved for institutions? Is it too costly? Is accreditation perceived as "not of value" to those institutions that have chosen to forego this procedure? Is the optimum number of accredited programs 92? These are just a few of the questions that need to be examined.

The accreditation process involves extreme cooperation and involvement among faculty, students, alumni, administration, and community. The involvement of faculty can be seen as a key element in a successful accreditation attempt. If the majority of the recreation faculty are not in favor of or do not perceive accreditation as valuable to the institution and to the students graduating from that curriculum, they will not expend the effort it takes to prepare the self-study (a critical aspect of accreditation). They may choose to engage in a cost/benefit analysis prior to committing their institution to the process. This undertaking not only involves the cost required to print multiple copies of a self-study, host an accreditation team, and participate in the formal Council's findings at the National Congress, but it also involves the cost of the combined faculty members, time, energy, and stress. Are the perceived benefits great enough to justify the costs? That is the question each department and administration must answer prior to seeking accreditation.

The following is a firsthand account of the authors, experiences associated with the actions necessary for accreditation. The authors would agree that the process is arduous, detailed, and involved, yet they only can offer praise for the process. The list below outlines the very real benefits that we experienced because we dedicated our energies to work through to task completion. Perhaps this list may inspire faculty of institutions not yet accredited to make the commitment or, at minimum, challenge them to undergo a self-study. An institution need not formally apply for accreditation to receive the benefits of the self-study process.

1. Praise from administrative units (e.g., provost, college dean, other departments and/or president). Simply by announcing our intention to seek accreditation, our recreation program suddenly garnered much positive attention on campus. During and after the site visit of the visitation team, we continued to be an agenda item of the administration; and after accreditation was secured, accolades reached a peak when the Board of Regents recognized our accomplishment.

2. Pulling alumni together. Both in the self-study and with the visitation team, we used alumni as a means of gathering suggestions and critiques in evaluating the program. This action bonded faculty and former students. Their input proved to be of great value.

3. Involving students. By involving students in the process, we not only received additional information but the students also felt more ownership in their education. And they seemed to follow the progress of the accreditation steps almost as eagerly as the faculty.

4. Evaluation of the program. Even if an institution does not proceed with accreditation (due to lack of faculty numbers or lack of other resources), the faculty of the recreation program should still consider doing a self- study using the standards and criteria contained in the booklet, "Standards and Evaluative Criteria for Baccalaureate Programs in Resources and Leisure Services. …

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