NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University was recently reaffirmed in its accreditation following a months-long process that produced a 508-page granular assessment of all aspects of the school, from student success to credentialing for faculty members.
Reaffirmed in December by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which oversees 11 southern states from Texas to Virginia, accreditation impacts everything, including federal funding and the integrity of credit hours. The reaccreditation process occurs every 10 years, and reaffirmation is vital to the university.
“You’ve got to have it,” said Dr. Marc Guidry, SFA associate provost. “If we didn’t get it, we’d be out of business tomorrow.”
Of the 73 standards over which SFA was assessed, the association found the university in compliance with 72. The one outlier was related to core curriculum assessment. It is under a one-year monitoring report that Guidry expects to be resolved in the fall.
“All we need to do to show compliance with this standard is provide data showing our attempts to make continuous improvements to student learning of the core objectives: empirical/quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, communication, social responsibility, personal responsibility and teamwork,” Guidry said.
In 2011, when SFA was last reaffirmed for accreditation, the university garnered eight monitoring reports. Looking at the improvement from then to now, and citing positive comments made to him by accrediting officials, Guidry said the university “came out with flying colors.”
While the reaffirmation process started in 2018, the workload was heaviest throughout 2020 and up through spring 2021. The hefty, 508-page Compliance Certification Report contained a trove of data gathered by SFA’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Office of Institutional Research. A big part of the electronic file submitted was the 1,800 links to university programs, policies, finances and governance.
Since the last reaffirmation, the university has upgraded its internal systems for credentialing faculty members, maintaining an adequate number of full-time faculty to support SFA’s mission and goals, and tracking student learning and success. There are now protocols in place to conduct annual, five-year and 10-year academic program reviews.
Previously, SFA had only done academic program reviews once every seven years, and they were much less comprehensive than the new process, Guidry said.
The accreditation process is always difficult and time consuming, and always on the horizon. Though 2031 might seem like a long way away, the five-year “mini reaffirmation” is already on the to-do list.
“We’re always gearing up for these assessments,” Guidry said.
To read more on SFA’s active accreditations, visit sfasu.edu/accreditations.