By Jonathan Meilaender
Saint Vincent’s efforts to retain accreditation have met with success. While the Middle States Commission on Higher Education have yet to deliver an official verdict on re-accrediting the college, a site visit that concluded on March 26 found Saint Vincent to be in compliance with the association’s guidelines on assessment.
The site visit came as a response to the monitoring report Saint Vincent submitted in early March. The report details the efforts of the college to comply with accrediting requirements. That report, in turn, was part of a process that began last year when Saint Vincent received a warning for failing to comply.
Saint Vincent was found lacking in two areas. First, the college failed to establish a clear and uniform assessment process—that is, a standardized, data-driven system of measuring academic outcomes. Second, the college lacked sufficient oversight and planning to ensure that the assessment that took place led to results that could be implemented; there was no “assessment of the assessment.” (More details on assessment and its process can be read in The Review’s previous article about Saint Vincent College’s accreditation.)
The site visit was a “small team visit,” conducted by three Middle States representatives. The team reported its conclusions in a public presentation given the morning of March 26. Dr. Peter Miller, a Middle States team member and provost of the University of the Sciences, delivered the report.
“[...] Based on a review of the monitoring report and appendices, interviews, and other institutional documents, the team affirms that the institution meets the requirement of affiliation under review,” he said.
Miller went on to praise individual elements of Saint Vincent’s response.
“First, the college filled the vacant position of Director of Assessment and Institutional Research by appointing Ms. Julia Cavallo to the role in May 2018. This appointment ensured that someone would have academic assessment as a primary job responsibility,” he said.
Miller also praised the decision to write an assessment guide, a valuable resource for the faculty and schools of the college that helps lay out clear assessment guidelines for everyone. And he praised the formation of an assessment committee, comprised of Cavallo and representatives of each school.
Furthermore, the Middle States report suggested, the college has already made an effort to implement results gained from assessment to make concrete changes to curricular offerings, such as the core curriculum.
Nevertheless, Miller offered some criticism as well. In particular, he suggested that more clarity is necessary in assessing the Core, which, of course, makes up a large percentage of the credits each SVC student takes.
“It is not totally clear what role the academic assessment committee plays in the assessment of the core curriculum,” the report read.
In particular, Miller suggested that it is unclear how the assessment committee works together with the committee responsible for the Core. Further, he added that, “it is unclear who, in this process, is ultimately responsible for the assessment of the core curriculum assessment.”
The Middle States report also suggested that Saint Vincent expand assessment procedures to cover graduate programs in the same way as undergraduate ones.
Ultimately, the report recommends that Saint Vincent be re-accredited. The report will be officially submitted to Middle States by April 9, and a final decision on Saint Vincent’s Middle States report will be made by June 27.
The report’s presentation was well-attended by Saint Vincent faculty and staff, including the college President, Br. Norman Hipps. Hipps expressed his gratitude for the dedicated efforts of the Saint Vincent community to meet the requirements for re-accreditation within only a year. In particular, he thanked Cavallo for her tireless work in bringing the college into compliance. For now, Saint Vincent’s future is safe.