Commission gives Edison State College officials 14 recommendations for reaccreditation

Edison State College President Kenneth Walker

Edison State College President Kenneth Walker

Video from NBC-2

A three-day reaccreditation visit at Edison State College culminated Thursday with 14 recommendations for improvement.

President Kenneth Walker and the school's trustees are confident they can meet them all by June when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools commission will rule on the college's accreditation status.

"We will respond and we will be a better institution as a result," Walker said.

A commission of 10 SACS members briefed Walker and fellow administrators Thursday morning on the 14 areas where the school is out of compliance with 80 commission standards. The conversation was live streamed for press and public to watch from a separate room.

"There were no surprises," Walker said. "We really expected what we were going to get here. We know there are areas we need to make improvements on."

Among the recommendations, the commission emphasized integrity of academic programs as they are related to course swapping problems that arose this spring.

The commission also reviewed the college's Quality Enhancement Plan, which is part of every college's reaccreditation process. Each college plans and executes a project to improve the institution, which the commission then evaluates.

Edison chose to implement an orientation-type class for all new students called the cornerstone course. The course aims to improve critical thinking skills and increase retention rates.

The commission recommended narrowing that plan — perhaps implementing a pilot program of the cornerstone course first — and hiring more faculty to teach the class so it is implemented smoothly.

"We want to do it a step at a time," Walker said.

The commission noted a need for full-time faculty to ensure quality of academic programs.

Walker acknowledged hiring more full-time professors is an expensive prospect. Scaling back the cornerstone class could make room in the budget, which already has provisions for employing more full-time faculty.

"We did budget for it," Walker said. "If we narrow the (Quality Enhancement Plan) focus, that cost may come down some."

The college has been overwhelmed by controversy in recent months with a course-swapping scandal, miscommunication about the school's unaccredited nursing program and underqualified teachers in classrooms. Barry Goldstein, chairman of the commission, said after the briefing there was nothing unusual about the Edison visit.

"It was a normal process we go through with any institution," he said.

Goldstein confirmed what he'd already written in letters and emails to Walker that unsolicited information provided by fired Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Atkins was indeed unsolicited. That information led to more recommendations from the commission during its visit pertaining to course swapping problems at the school.

Trustee Pamella Seay — one of four new trustees appointed to the Edison board by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this month — said she agreed with the 14 recommendations the commission made, and is confident the college can meet all of them.

"I do know that it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort," she said.

The commission will give the college a written report with more detailed recommendations in about a month.

14 recommendations for Edison State College reaccreditation:

■ Provide evidence of safeguards to protect integrity of academic programs.

■ Demonstrate that all degree programs meet course requirements.

■ Ensure the number of full-time faculty is adequate to support the mission and ensure quality of academic programs.

■ Define and publish organizational structure for administering of policies.

■ Demonstrate the college has qualified academic officers.

■ Provide evidence of the contractual relationship between the institution and the foundation and the liability associated with that relationship.

■ Narrow the focus of the Quality Enhancement Plan.

■ Develop an assessment plan for the Quality Enhancement Plan.

■ Measure effectiveness of educational programs.

■ Measure effectiveness of administrative support services.

■ Identify expected outcomes for community public service as it applies to the mission and assess extent to which the college achieves them.

■ Provide evidence that baccalaureate admissions policies are clear and enforced in a consistent manner.

■ Implement and enforce policies related to course substitutions.

■ Provide evidence that undergraduate program requirements are consistently enforced.

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