UAF gets put to the test

Kara Perkins/Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 11, 2011

Last week, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) became one of the first accredited institutions to be evaluated under a new set of standards recently implemented by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The evaluation is a check-up on the university, a form of quality control, according to Joseph Fedock, the evaluation team’s chairman. Now, every seven years the entire university comes under the commission’s scrutiny so it can keep its accreditation.

NWCCU organizes evaluations to gauge the level of quality provided by colleges and universities. Accredited universities meet all formal official requirements of academic excellence, curriculum and facilities. 

“Your ability to receive federal financial aid is tied to your university’s accreditation standard,” evaluator Anneliese Ripley said. She is the dean of Outreach and Research at the University of Montana-Western.

This group of evaluators gathered information in various ways. They factored in student, staff and public opinion, tying in statistics like UAF’s graduation rate.

The team offered students and staff the opportunity to share opinions and concerns about the university in meetings Oct. 3 and 4. The team led panel discussions on campus, taking questions and receiving responses in separate staff and student meetings. The commission also invited the public to comment, provided they submitted their insights and concerns by Sept. 5.

In a faculty and staff meeting, the evaluators asked employees whether they have the resources to fulfill the themes and goals of the university. Some employees said they need to buy their own office supplies, including pens and sticky notes.

Evaluators in the student meeting asked about the quality of student resources and advising. Four students attended the meeting. Back-and-forth dialogue continued between evaluators and students for a full hour.

“I have nieces and nephews who might be considering UAF in their future, so it concerned me when I heard we had accreditation evaluators on campus,” 66-year-old Charlotte Yates said. Yates takes classes at the university.

The presence of these evaluators isn’t a negative reflection on UAF. While it gives faculty and students the opportunity to voice their opinion, this process is part of a standard procedure. This process helps institutions identify issues and areas of improvement, evaluators explained.

“Institutions are required to go through this full-scale evaluation to assess the institution according to standards,” Fedock said.

Accreditation evaluators explained that the new seven-year cycle would allow the commission to provide UAF with some suggestions. Throughout the cycle the commission would check in to assess the university’s progress toward the recommended goals. Fedock presented the evaluators’ recommendations to the university in the Davis Concert Hall Oct. 5. NWCCU will evaluate progress throughout the seven-year cycle.

“I’m glad that someone’s doing their job – if you do everything you’re supposed to do, everything runs smoothly,” UAF sophomore John White said.

The commission’s separate elected board of members will decide in early 2012 how NWCCU will respond to the evaluators’ findings.


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