WASC tests SF State in accreditation review

Students meet to discuss accreditation at the W.A.S.C. open forum on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Photo by Samantha Benedict / Xpress

By Matt Saincome and Ellie Loarca

SF State went through an evaluation of their standards and practices by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges last week. Accreditation allows SF Sate students to receive financial aid, transfer to graduate schools, and shows that the University is being held to certain standards of education. 

“Pretty much what we do is meet with all sorts of students here and all over campus. We hear what’s important to your university. We will write something up and say, ‘Here are some things you have done really well, and here are some things you need to work on,'” Dorothy Leland, chancellor of UC Merced and representative from WASC, said. 

Every department goes through a three-stage process every six years. WASC looks at the assessment of students and structure of the University based on many sets of rubrics.

“It gives us a sense of how good we are doing. It puts us on call, because we know that WASC is going to be coming, so we put in place these practices that they expect and it improves the quality of our university,” Linda Buckley, associate vice president of academic planning and development, said.

Twenty-eight departments on campus have special accreditations not related to WASC. These specialized accreditations can mean a lot to some departments, and essentially nothing to others.

For example, engineering majors, from an unaccredited program, need to pass a licensing test before they can be qualified to practice engineering. The department of engineering has a specialized accreditation from ABET, an organization specializing in disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology, according to their website. Without it, potential engineering majors might be deterred from attending SF State.

According to Buckley, other departments like computer science have decided to back out of specialized accreditation programs because they believe they hold their standards to be higher than that of the accreditors. There is no licence test for computer science majors, so they don’t lose much by backing out.

A meeting was held for students to voice their opinions, but only a handful of students showed up, which included two representatives from Associated Students Inc., and a couple other stragglers who wanted to share their experiences at SF State. Leland conducted a questionnaire asking students to evaluate how SF State has impacted their educational experience.

“Being involved with advocacy on campus has helped me figure out exactly what I want to be in the future,” Sonya Soltani, vice president of external affairs for ASI, said.

Students made it clear that what SF State needs to improve is bridging the gap between being a student and being a graduate.

Leland stressed that the voice of the student is what really helps WASC evaluate the University.

“We read all the emails and comments, writing letters can in fact have an impact,” said Leland.

At the final exit interview, the WASC team gave a brief preview of what is to come in their official report. They emphasized the importance of helping students cope with the high cost of living near SF State, urging the University to do more to help students who live in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive city according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“We recommend San Francisco State University continues to focus on strategies to alleviate special challenges faced by faculty and staff by virtue of your membership in the CSU and your location in San Francisco such as housing costs and long commutes. We will point this out in the report we think that this particular challenge will because more important as the full-time residential student population grows and students support needs change with that growth of the full time residential student population,” Leland said.

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