Accreditation team to grade UHV

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

April 5, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 5, 2014 at 11:06 p.m.

University of Houston-Victoria administrators face a critical test next week: a visit by the university's accreditation agency, which grants the institution the ability to offer degrees.

A team of 10 volunteer auditors from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges will be on the UHV campus Monday through Wednesday.

A preliminary report by the commission will be given to UHV on Wednesday, and a final ruling on whether the campus gets to maintain its degree-granting status will be released in December, said Jill Fox, UHV director of assessment and Quality Enhancement Plan co-organizer.

"I'm very confident about the visit," Fox said. "If they have any concerns, we'll have four months to adjust those and submit additional documents."

The visit comes during a time of uncertainty for UHV.

Last month, UHV President Phil Castille resigned four days after a vote of no-confidence by the UHV Faculty Senate.

The vote came soon after the University of Houston System Board of Regents approved moving the University of Houston-Sugar Land campus to the University of Houston's control, which would boot more than half of UHV's faculty and programs off the Fort Bend County campus.

But those changes should not affect the accreditation, university officials said.

Wayne Beran, UHV acting president and vice president for administration and finance, said, "internal affairs are not a factor" in regards to the upcoming site visit.

However, the commission's 2012 Principals of Accreditation states that the process "involves a collective analysis and judgment by the institution's internal constituencies."

Pamela Cravey, commission spokeswoman, said she could not comment on how internal affairs could affect a specific case but said finances are a factor.

"We can't really speculate," Cravey said.

UHV already has passed the financial portion of the re-accreditation process, and the on-site auditors will be examining other areas, Beran said.

"We passed all of the compliance requirements for our finances - every bit of it," Beran said. "We have no issues with the financial part of the process."

The auditors will focus on the university's Quality Enhancement Plan aimed at improving student engagement, Fox said.

UHV's plan, "Living and Learning: Teaming Up in Jaguar Village," links students living in the same residential hall in the same core classes their freshmen year and creates an emotional and academic support system for students throughout the year, Fox said.

By entwining academics with an improved student life environment, UHV wants to improve its retention rate, said Uppinder Mehan, UHV associate provost and Quality Enhancement Plan co-organizer.

"That's our hope," Mehan said. "All the literature we've looked at shows that residential communities go a long way to helping retention."

UHV Provost Jeffrey Cass said after its last review from the commission, the university had 20 areas, or dings, they had to respond to.

"We created a response report to show how we met standards," Cass said.

The dings UHV received were minor and involved documentation of the university's mission statement and hiring qualifications for adjunct professors, Cass said.

"The really good news is that SACS COC (the commission) had no problem with our federal responses, passed us on general education, and our assessments were fine," Cass said.



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