Reaccreditation plan emphasizes student success

Matt Leonard
Staff Writer

Students who have long groaned for better academic advising and standardized general education requirements may see such changes implemented if the university’s 10-year reaccreditation plan is approved.

The new Quality Enhancement Plan , part of the 10-year reaccreditation process, is claimed to make changes to improve education for VCU students.

These changes are organized within four pillars of the QEP. The first and second pillars are specifically aimed at student success while the third and fourth pillars focus more on the learning environment.

As a member school of the SACSCOC, VCU must meet the guideline for reaccreditation the organization set. The newest of these requirements is a QEP, which creates a plan and budget for fixing some of the university’s problems.

VCU had an exit interview with SACSCOC on the morning of Feb 6. In this meeting SACSCOC recommended affirmation or not and recommended whether the university should adopt its Quality Enhancement Plan, said Gardner Campbell, vice provost of learning innovation and students success who helped to co-sponsor the plan.

“Even if the QEP is approved and we’re reaffirmed, SACSCOC will surely have recommendations that we will take very seriously,” Campbell said.

A compliance report VCU filed in September began the process for reaccreditation. SACSCOC used this report to ensure VCU met the standards set by the accrediting agency so the agency can continue to accredit the university.

The SACSCOC team visited VCU’s campus’ last week, including the satellite campus in Martinsville. The organization wanted to ensure that the documents VCU submitted in the compliance report match what they see in person, Campbell said.

“This is a collegial process,” Campbell said. “They’re not here to be police, to scold us or slap out hands. They’re here to help us enhance what we are doing.”

Enhancement of the university operations is a relatively new goal of the SACSCOC, Campbell said. Now in the process of reaccreditation, all member schools must lay out a QEP targetting areas in need of improvement within a university. The QEP is not simply another Quest for Distinction for VCU, Campbell said, referencing the university’s strategic plan.

“Not every worthy program is mentioned in the QEP,” Campbell said. “We have to target particular areas of urgency and opportunity.”

Completion of tier two of the general education curriculum is the goal of the first pillar. Along with this first pillar contains plans for a noticeable overhaul of the general education classes.

Campbell said the school is working toward a campus-wide general education curriculum.

“No matter where you are in the university we plan to have a 30-credit universal general education curriculum,” Campbell said.

The second pillar will garner greater digital use among students.

“We want to make web creators, not just web users,” Campbell said. “We want students to be able to showcase the work they do on a web setting.”

Advising will be the focus of the third pillar. There will be resources allotted to create a new position: associate vice provost of university advising.

The fourth pillar focuses on making  the career center a more vital environment in the growth process of students.

“The focus of the QEP is learning that matters and building a culture of generalizable education,” Campbell said.

“It’s not general education, though that’s part of what we’re working on. It’s education that spreads its influence through every phase of a student’s life. It’s substantial and lasting impact beyond any single course or focus or degree.”

More than $2 million has been put aside to help pay for the QEP, either through reallocation of funds or new funds. Campbell said this amount shows the schools commitment to the QEP.

This money will come from both reallocated funds and new funding. The reallocated revenue will come from moving around staff and resources into positions to meet the goal of the QEP, said John M. Wiencek, senior vice provost for administration and strategic initiatives

“The new funding has been long in our planning,” Wiencek said. “We submit a plan to the legislature each biennium which outlines our financial needs for new initiatives that will evolve over the next six years.”

Wiencek said the funding for the QEP will likely be a priority to the university because it is a staple of their Quest for Distinction.

VCU will not receive final word on reaccreditation until the SACSCOC meeting in December 2014.

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