April 02, 2009

Accreditation review process falls short

Source: RA 2009

A shift toward greater federal oversight of colleges and universities is making it difficult for faculty to shape the academic tone at their campuses, a national expert on accreditation told NYSUT higher education leaders Thursday.

"Institutions need to be in charge of their own destiny, and we've lost the sense that academic direction and leadership comes from the college or university," said Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

The council represents 3,000 colleges and universities, all of which go through arduous periodic accreditation reviews. Colleges must undergo the process to qualify for federal funding.

Accreditation reviews are time-consuming and stressful, said Ellen Schuler Mauk, who chaired the program at the Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference. Schuler Mauk is president of the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College and heads the NYSUT Higher Education Council.

"What starts out to be a wonderful opportunity for self-examination ends up feeling like an operation without anesthesia," Schuler Mauk said.

Several higher education leaders pointed out that accreditation reviews have not lessened the problems they face: faculty shortages, overcrowded classes and reduction or elimination of course offerings.