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An Update on Accreditation
An interview with Gary Arnell, Vice President of Administration.
The Statesman (TS): George Wythe College has been working towards accreditation for some time now. Where do things stand?
Gary Arnell (GA): We began formal discussions with the American Academy for Liberal Education (www.aale.org) in June of 2006. The application process, which is fairly involved, was completed in September of that year. Our application was accepted by the Academy and a preliminary site visit was conducted in March of 2007. During the nine months leading up to that visit, our faculty and administration underwent a comprehensive and time-consuming “self-study.” This process entailed a thorough review of our processes and systems as they related to the Academy’s Standards and Criteria requirements. A preliminary version of this report was submitted to the Academy last year and a final draft will be submitted later this summer. During the latter half of 2007, the Academy underwent its regular recertification process with the U.S. Department of Education, during which time applications were put on hold. Now that the Academy has been recertified we are proceeding with the remainder of the accreditation process. Our final site visit is scheduled for September 2008 at which time the site team will submit their report and recommendation to the Academy. George Wythe will then be discussed at the next Academy board meeting currently scheduled for December 2008. We anticipate a decision would be announced by the board in the Spring of 2009. The most likely results of that board meeting would be either that George Wythe is granted preaccreditation status or that the board return with a number of specific recommendations for us to follow prior to being preaccredited.
(TS): How is preaccreditation different from accreditation?
(GA): Any institution that has never been accredited before must first be preaccredited. For all intents and purposes preaccreditation is the same as accreditation, meaning that a “preaccredited” institution has all the same rights and privileges as an accredited institution. The only difference is that a shorter interval of time passes between recertifications. Once preaccredited, George Wythe College will be up for review in 3 years or so. Once accredited, the college will be reviewed every 5 to 10 years.
(TS): Why is George Wythe College seeking accreditation?
(GA): The main reason we are seeking accreditation is so that international students can attend George Wythe College. There is a global need for statesmen and we have students from many other countries who want to attend our on-campus programs that are unable to do so because the college does not have the accreditation status required by the U.S. State Department to grant student visas. There are secondary reasons why accreditation is desirable including the transferability of credits and convenience for applicants to graduate programs at other institutions. Furthermore, many private scholarship opportunities list accreditation among their application requirements.
(TS): AALE is a national accreditor, not a regional accreditor. What does this mean for the college and its graduates?
(GA): The U.S. Department of Education recognizes and certifies both kinds, but regional accreditors have been around much longer than national accreditors. Some colleges and universities have not updated their admissions requirements to include the newer type of accreditor and others do not accept credits or degrees from national accreditors for reasons political or otherwise. Accreditation agencies are privately funded and compete with one another for college dollars. Regional agencies resent the “encroachment” of national accreditors on their territory and sometimes these skirmishes – which have little to do with quality of education – negatively impact the very students that accreditation is supposed to benefit. We encourage our graduates and prospective students who are interested in continuing their education elsewhere to contact those institutions and discuss their situation with the admissions department or dean of the college they wish to attend. In any case, even without accreditation, George Wythe College students have successfully been moving on to MBA, law and other graduate programs elsewhere and we are confident accreditation will only make this process easier in the future.
(TS): Why didn’t the college choose a regional accreditor in the first place and just avoid this conflict altogether?
(GA): An accreditor’s standards have the potential for shaping the mission and methodology of a school – for better or for worse. Many accreditors, colleges and universities have given themselves over almost entirely to the notion that the purpose of higher education is vocational training. While job and career training is valuable and very important the means of instruction and student assessment in such programs can be antithetic to classical, leadership-oriented, liberal education. As we considered seeking accreditation our first priority was to the integrity of our mission. We determined to forego accreditation and its benefits rather than engage in relationships that might undermine our unique philosophy and way of educating. Happily, we found in AALE an organization as committed to liberal education as we are. As we have worked to respond to the Academy’s Standards and Criteria we have been pleased to find that their requirements for evaluation and assessment have only improved our administrative systems and given us opportunity to articulate our unique academic processes.
(TS): What programs, specifically, will be affected by accreditation?
(GA): Currently, we are only seeking accreditation of our on-campus, undergraduate degree in Statesmanship. Once that program is accredited we may seek accreditation of our off-campus undergraduate programs, graduate programs and doctoral program – most likely in that order.
Note: Please visit http://www.aale.org/pdf/2007S&CwithnewAppendicesonassessmentfinal.pdf to review the Academy's Standards and Criteria requirements. For more information about George Wythe's accreditation efforts, click here.
Gary Arnell is Vice President of Administration at George Wythe College and has overseen the accreditation process since June 2006.PrintShare this article with a Friend