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INTO keeps English accreditation

A nearly two-year-long threat to the accreditation of USF’s INTO English language program (ELP) came to a favorable conclusion for the University, as it announced Monday that its appeal to regain accreditation had been approved.

INTO USF is a for-profit partnership between USF and the United Kingdom-based company INTO, which recruits, educates and helps international students transition culturally to the U.S. USF’s appeal to regain accreditation on behalf of ELP was granted by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), the same body that revoked it in April 2010, said INTO Director Glen Besterfield. Revocation was because of the categorization of the program rather than any indictment of its academics, he said.

“They basically accredited only two types of programs,” Besterfield said. “The ‘institutional’ program is like your local mom-and-pop English institution that’s set up on a shop corner or in a building, and then they will accredit what they call ‘programmatic’ courses of study like those found at a college or university.”

Besterfield said accreditation was lost after the CEA “didn’t feel comfortable” placing USF’s ELP in either category because so much of the program, including academics, instruction and program planning, is subcontracted to the third-party INTO. However, Besterfield and INTO are still directly answerable to USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. Although CEA revoked INTO USF’s accreditation, Besterfield said it was never truly lost because USF had the option to appeal, which they did.

“I wouldn’t say accreditation was lost – it was never lost,” he said. “We did lose it for a period of time before we met with CEA, but that didn’t affect anything (financially and academically) and we appealed and the institution made a decision to reinstate.”

USF’s appeal was made in July 2011 and the CEA then visited INTO facilities on campus and interviewed INTO personnel in admissions, student services, immigration and faculty as part of its appeal review. In December, the CEA worked to accommodate programs like INTO.

Kevin Burke, director of communications for the Office of the Provost, said Wilcox traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit the CEA’s headquarters and argue for accreditation. He said CEA’s reversal in this matter is rare.

“Accreditation reinstatements are, in general, rare,” Burke said. “An accrediting agency will regularly adjust their accreditation to look at new things like online classes and changes in pedagogy. But it’s fairly rare that an accreditation agency will adjust its policies to accommodate a specific instruction as they have here.”

The amendment created by the CEA in response to INTO’s situation allows for evaluation of a third type of English program. This affects several other universities that subcontract aspects of their ELP, such as Western Kentucky University, Northeastern University and James Madison University. The “third box” allows for the inclusion of “intensive English programs with a direct reporting line within the administration of universities and colleges, including community colleges, that are accredited by a regional or other institutional accrediting body,” according to the CEA website. Burke said not appealing the decision was never an option for the University.

“Accreditation is important in any program,” he said. “It (allows for) third-party endorsement (of a program), an adherence to standards (and) third-party reviews that monitor whether theseprograms are up to snuff in their quality and delivery to students.”