Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Colleges and Universities Must Not Rest on Their Laurels

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Colleges and Universities Must Not Rest on Their Laurels

Article excerpt

Institutions must gear up to face new challenges, such as ensuring campus security, keeping up with technology and maintaining quality.

Recent publicity on accountability suggests that the issue is a new one; however, accountability of institutions of higher education has been around, at least in the South, since the early 1900s. Ensuring that institutions offer quality educational programs and services and that they have measurable student learning outcomes have been hallmarks of accrediting bodies, both regional and specialized, since their inception. In addition to ensuring quality, an institution that successfully meets accreditation standards signals to the general public that the public's interest is being protected, to the federal government that the institution is eligible to receive federal and state grants and loans, and to the higher education community that the institution has adequately prepared its students to meet the challenges for advanced degrees.

While graduation and job placement rates, as well as course completions and licensure rates are traditional measures of accountabil- ity, much more goes into assessing effective- ness at colleges and universities. Issues such as the quality of teaching and leadership, as well as appropriate academic and student support services, adequate financial and physical re- sources, and measurable student learning outcomes - or what we expect students to know when they graduate - are all compo- nents of the assessment of quality examined during the accreditation

Though institutions with smaller enrollments often have more difficulty meeting established standards because of limited resources (fiscal and personnel), the issues are not theirs alone. Reductions in state budgets have resulted in increases in tuition at both public and private institutions in order to ensure the maintenance of a quality environment for students.

With a significant increase in the number of minority students entering our institutions, it is becoming more difficult for minority-serv- ing institutions to compete with traditional institutions for their enrollment because the latter often have better financial aid packages to offer and more resources. But there is also the mistaken perception that our historically Black colleges and universities (82 of which are located in the 11 states served by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) are of lesser quality than other institutions. Given that all institutions accredited in the Southern region must undergo a rigorous reaffirmation process using the exact same principles of accreditation, it is illogical to think that one institutional type is of lesser quality than another. …

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