Oswego State has begun preparations for re-accreditation of the college.
The Middle States Commission, made up of faculty and administration from other colleges in the area, will visit Oswego State in order to make sure the college fills the 14 "Characteristics of Excellence" required to be re-accredited, said Julie Pretzat, associate dean of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts and co-chair for the re-accreditation process.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education re-accreditation process happens every 10 years and includes a self-study and external review designed to help evaluate Oswego’s progress and plan for the future.
The Characteristics of Excellence this year "have a much greater emphasis on student learning outcomes," said Elizabeth Dunne Schmitt, chairperson of the department of economics and co-chair for re-accreditation. The Commission is more focused on making sure students are learning what they need for their majors, and that the college is working to support the students the best it can.
This year is more of a planning year for Oswego State, Pretzat said. She is helping to set up work groups of staff, students and faculty to make up the Steering Committee for re-accreditation. Each group will focus on one of the necessary criterion.
The 14 Characteristics that the Committee will examine include: mission and goals, planning, resource allocation and institutional renewal, institutional resources leadership and governance, administration, integrity, institutional assessment, student admissions and retention, student support services, faculty, educational offerings, general education, related educational activities and assessment of student learning.
These groups will collect data next year, asking questions such as "Do faculty have the right credentials?" and then they will report their findings back to the Commission in the following years.
Re-accreditation is essential to Oswego State’s future, Pretzat said. It is "an affirmation that we’re heading in the right direction, planning ahead, addressing challenges on the campus."
"It’s a long, involved process, and it probably should be a long, involved process," said Julie Blissert, a member of the Steering Committee. It looks at "all the parts that are important to achieving our mission."
"It is very important," added Schmitt. "Any campus that receives federal funds must be accredited."
Were the college to be denied re-accreditation, it would first be put on "probation," and students would no longer receive financial aid. Other colleges would also not accept transfer credit. The college would not be supported by the federal government.
However, said both Pretzat and Schmitt, Oswego has little to fear.
"I don’t see that happening at all," Schmitt said.
"I couldn’t see that happening over the next 10, 20 years," Blissert said. "We are a viable institution."
"We’re doing a great job of meeting almost all of the criteria," Pretzat said. She added that the re-accreditation process is not something Oswego should worry about. Rather, it is "an opportunity for us to brag."
"[Oswego] has a lot of strengths," added Schmitt.
"Certainly there’s room for growth," clarified Pretzat, "but we’re doing a good job."
The SUNY system already keeps a close eye on all state schools, making it difficult for any of them, including Oswego, to degrade so much that re-accreditation may not happen. Still, the long re-accreditation process must continue.
Earlier this week, the Steering Committee sent out a student survey to a random pooling of Oswego students. Both Schmitt and Pretzat urge those students who received the survey to fill it out, as it "gives everyone an opportunity to speak about [Oswego’s] strengths and weaknesses," said Pretzat. The Committee is hoping to get a large amount of student input as the re-accreditation process begins.