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Archive for Wednesday, October 6, 2004

KU committee preparing for accreditation process

October 6, 2004

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The committee hoping to renew Kansas University's accreditation has nearly completed a report outlining all the university's activities.

The report is 300 pages. And that's the condensed version.

"We try to find selective examples and data where we can, because we can't cover it all," said Barbara Romzek, the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who is leading KU's accreditation committee. "If we tried to be exhaustive, it would be even longer."

The report, a self-study explaining how KU is meeting its mission of teaching, research and service, is the first step in the accreditation process through the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The association, which has accredited KU since 1913, renews accreditation every 10 years. Maintaining accreditation allows KU to grant degrees and accept federal money.

The 22-member committee planning KU's accreditation proposal began meeting in 2002. It will submit its report to a 12- to 15-member North Central evaluation committee, which will review the report and visit KU from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. The committee will be led by Charles Nelms, vice president at Indiana University.

Although renewal of KU's accreditation is all but certain, Provost David Shulenburger said the university didn't want to take anything for granted.

"It's not a risk one wishes to take," he said. "We really want to put our best foot forward."

In the last accreditation process, North Central evaluators said they "considered the University of Kansas to be a strong, mature academic institution with a number of very impressive schools and programs." Strengths, they said, included a commitment to teaching, the library's understanding of faculty needs, and super research efforts.

Suggestions for improvement included increasing diversity, making computer networking a high priority and increasing the strength of the graduate school. KU has responded to all three of those areas in the last 10 years.

Romzek said it was too early to know what improvements might be suggested during next year's review, especially because North Central has changed its criteria in the past 10 years. Previously, the association was focused on inputs such as number of faculty and students. Now, its focus is on outputs such as graduation and retention rates.

"Right now it's a little early to tell," she said. "Going through accreditation using new criteria, that's always a little bit of a crapshoot."

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