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USF shapes up for renewal of SACS accreditation

In an attempt to improve the quality of undergraduate research and be reaffirmed from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), USF is currently working on renewing its accreditation for 2005.

Kathleen Moore, associate vice president of academic affairs and educational outreach at USF, said university accreditation involves comparing one institution to another to see if they meet the same standards of higher education.

“If a student were going to apply to graduate school in a college in Georgia or another state, they most likely have to have an undergraduate degree that is from an accredited university,” Moore said. “If not, they may have to take additional classes to comply.”

It also ensures each individual institution is meeting the same standards. The accreditation is important when interacting between either private schools or schools from other states because most will respect an accredited institution, Moore said.

Moore added that USF has been working on reaffirming its accreditation for the past five years, and it involves all aspects of the university. Accreditation for a university happens every 10 years and culminates in a final report to SACS.

“I am hoping that we will get reaffirmed in 2005,” she said.

USF received its first accreditation in 1965 and was last reaffirmed in 1994.

There are two parts to receiving accreditation, Moore said. There is institutional accreditation, which deals with the university as a whole. There is also specialized accreditation, which deals with special professional programs that need separate accreditation.

“Programs such as teaching, engineering, nursing and mass communications are what fall under special accreditation,” she said.

These special program accreditations in the end result in a more valuable degree, Moore said.

For the past five years, Moore said, the university has been working to complete a report that will be given to SACS and its site committee.

Cecille Hadgu, senior secretary for the associate executive director of SACS, said since USF is expecting to receive accreditation again in 2005, a team of 15 or so will not visit the campus until it’s closer to the reaffirmation.

Hadgu said the team comes to the university to examine every aspect of the university, which includes its programs for undergraduate and graduate studies, publications, faculty, residence halls and several other sections of USF.

“The team will come for about three or four days and make sure the university has complied with all the criteria,” Hadgu said. “Usually almost 100 percent of the time a university does not fully comply and has to follow up with a written report to the committee.”

Moore said gaining reaffirmation to USF’s accreditation is aiding the students in two ways. One, she said, is for transferring credits.

“If a university does not have accreditation and a student tries to transfer his or her credits over to that institution, they may not do so because of having no accreditation,” Moore said.

The second factor, Moore says, is the most important factor: receiving financial aid.

“The federal government is using accreditation as a criteria to approve the university to receive money for financial aid for its students,” she said.

In order to have the final report for SACS, Moore said, there are a number of committees around that are working on the different aspects that will be looked at by the site committee.

Georg Kleine, associate dean of the Honors College, is one of the faculty members working to improve one aspect for the report: undergraduate research.

In order to aid the process, Kleine has set up lectures for faculty, staff and undergraduate students to inform them about university operations.

“We want to introduce the idea of undergraduate research,” Kleine said. “We want the students to realize what a university is about and increase their knowledge of research and discover different opportunities.”

Kleine added that one area in need of directing more attention to undergraduate research is the social sciences and humanities departments.

“These classes do not have labs and it is harder for the students to understand research,” he said. “Allowing undergraduates to attend these lectures will allow them to bring fresh ideas.”

Moore said the effort of these lectures is intended to improve undergraduate education as a whole.

The outcome, Kleine said, will allow students to contact him or other professors who are eager to learn more about research and help out.

“When being reaffirmed we need to show the SACS that we are a university that is serious about changing our culture,” he said. “And have the individual students see a whole new world and possibly career by working on research with a professor.”