Accreditation still on the line for USF language program

A USF language program that saw its accreditation stripped and then restored earlier this year will face another review later this summer, when it must submit a report to the commission that examines its academic merit.

The English Language Program (ELP) – formerly the English Language Institute – must provide documentation
to the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) by July 15 showing that it is still governed by the University and proving that any recent changes to the program are not reason to remove its accreditation again.

In April, the ELP lost accreditation when the CEA found that it was outsourced under the wing of INTO USF, a program that the University established in January with a private, for-profit international firm called INTO that aims to recruit foreign students.

At the time, the CEA, which is recognized by the Department of Education, claimed that the University failed to report that the language program became a part of INTO, which meant a violation of the standards the agency uses to determine accreditation.

USF officials informed the CEA last month that the ELP remains a University-run program and abides by the necessary criteria for accreditation. Provost Ralph Wilcox said to The Oracle in April that aside from recruiting, USF controls the program’s primary functions, including curriculum, faculty and student development – three of the 10 accreditation standards.

As a result, the CEA restored the program’s accreditation May 28, but determined that the University needs to show more before a final decision is made in August, when the commission will meet to review the University’s report.

Theresa O’Donnell, executive director of CEA, said a compromise was met between the two entities that will “give USF an opportunity to tell us that there is an English Language (Program), nothing has changed in terms of our standards and that it is fully within the control of the University.”

O’Donnell said there is a possibility that the program will lose its accreditation again if it fails to prove it meets the required standards, which also include areas such as facility management, administration and money handling.

“(The CEA) hasn’t been shown yet that (the ELP) still remains as a whole the way it was when it was accredited,” she said. “We basically are giving them an opportunity to show us that there is not a change of ownership and to show us where there have been changes in other aspects of the program.”

Kathleen Moore, USF associate vice president for academic affairs and director of e-campus, said she expects the commission to validate the University’s position on the issue.

“There’s always the possibility that they could vote us down, but when they have all the information they need, which we will provide in the report, it’s difficult to imagine that they would have any basis to not accredit us because we believe we’re in compliance with their standards,” she said.

Through documentation, the ELP must show how it reports to the University, Moore said. Previously, it went through the dean of Arts and Sciences and then to the provost. Now, the program reports directly to the Office of Academic Affairs.

O’Donnell said a decision may not be made immediately because the commission may want to conduct a site visit to verify the University’s claims. She said that is normal procedure for any accrediting agency.

Moore said she doubts that a visit will be necessary, as the issue is organizational in nature and not something that the University should be expected to prove through physical evidence.