Accreditation extended, but qualified
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UNLV must adjust to financial strain, realign with research goal
After its spring 2010 comprehensive accreditation review, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has extended UNLV’s accreditation indefinitely.
But the NWCCU required the university report by spring 2011 on progress in two categories where it did not measure up.
In a letter to UNLV President Neal Smatresk, NWCCU President Sandra Elman explained that due to budget cuts, UNLV’s research goals are no longer realistic based on former plans, and that the school needs improvement in educational assessment.
“The committee notes that the university states intention of becoming a ‘very high research’ institution and that this goal is consistent with UNLV’s mission and strategic priorities,” Elman said. “At the same time, the committee observes that budget reductions and attendant program and services adjustments have resulted in a serious decline in support services to faculty seeking or administering extramural funding.
“This combined with increased teaching loads (as a result of further budget reductions), appears to compromise the realization of this priority.”
Elman related the evaluation committee’s recommendation that UNLV work to establish and protect policies, structures and resources adequate to meet the needs of research activities.
The school has 12 months since last semester’s assessment to work on this goal and report back to the NWCCU.
UNLV was also asked to continue improving how it measures and responds to student learning.
“Since the 2007 focused interim evaluation visit, significant but uneven progress has been made across the university with respect to educational assessment,” Elman said.
She recommended assigning responsibility to deans to lead implementation of and accountability for meeting UNLV’s policies on student learning assessment. She established a one-year deadline for documentation of that progress as well.
Elman said that if UNLV fails to measure up to expectations after the one-year period, the NWCCU may request a report on the remaining issues or require the university to host one or more evaluators for a special review.
Despite observing effects of budget reductions on UNLV’s faculty to reach its goals, Elman praised the university’s fundraising efforts through the Division of Educational Outreach.
She praised many of UNLV’s goals and projects, especially citing the school’s ability to rally against threats of loss in tough financial circumstances.
“The Commission commends [UNLV] for its exceptional sense of community with solidarity in the face of literally unprecedented fiscal challenges that were countered by a commitment to transparency and inclusiveness in critical planning by the administration and [faculty] senate,” Elman said.
She applauded the success of the Invent the Future Campaign, started by former President David B. Ashley and continued by Smatresk, in pushing capital improvements.
Elman expressed appreciation for the University Libraries’ work, as well.
“The Commission finds laudable… the libraries’ leadership in promoting greater information literacy as an integral part of the student learning experience, and an exemplary commitment to providing modern and spacious library facilities in support of teaching and research,” she said.
The NWCCU also commended progress at the Clinical Simulation Center at the dental school on the Shadow Lane Campus and praised the community outreach work conducted through the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic, the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution and the student externship program at the William S. Boyd School of Law.