Feb 13, 2007

SACS gives LU academic approval for 10 more years

by David Thompson, News Reporter
Current and future Liberty students, faculty and administrators have been given the honor of institutional recognition for their efforts to achieve academic excellence.

The Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted Liberty the reaffirmation of its accreditation for another 10 years.

The reaffirmation carries with it the authority to award fully recognized associate, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.

“Liberty University, as an institution accredited by (SACS) meets or exceeds the same standards for faculty, facilities, Library resources, financial health, and so on, as other accredited public and private institutions in the region,” said Dr. Boyd Rist, Liberty’s provost and vice-president for academic affairs.

“Education in a distinctively Christian environment is in no way inferior to other colleges accredited by SACS, such as UVa, Duke, or the University of Georgia,” he said.

According to the SACS Web site, www.sacs.org, accreditation hinges on three criteria.
The first is based on the appropriateness of the institution’s mission statement, as it relates to higher education. The second judges its fiscal and physical ability to achieve its mission.

Finally, the third criterion is that the school remains consistent with its mission, in terms of its educational purposes, and that it accomplishes its objectives.

The SACS Web site details the steps of the accreditation process. First, the institution completes a compliance certification, which details its compliance with the standards of the accrediting organization.

Next, the institution submits a “Quality Enhancement Plan” that informs the accrediting organization of its plans for improvement, notably in the area of student learning outcomes based on “institutional assessment.”

There are three critical  steps in the peer review process, beginning with an off-site review, an on-site review, and the final review by the Commission on Colleges, which “makes the final decision on reaffirmation.”

Liberty has been accredited since 1980 and has never lost the distinction. According to Rist, the loss of accreditation would produce significant negative publicity for the university, with possible consequences.

Those consequences would include much greater difficulty in student recruitment and the loss of much of the federal financial aid currently available to students.

The loss could also affect the university’s financial stability and impact the vitability of the institution as time progressed.

For some students, accreditation is a subconscious thought that is taken for granted when applying to a university, but for some it makes or breaks the decision as to whether to attend a particular school.

“If (Liberty) hadn’t been accredited, I wouldn’t have come,” said Spencer Drake, a senior at Liberty.
“I think, especially, for a Christian school, (accreditation) is the defining factor, because if you are not on par with (the secular world) they ridicule you.”

Even though accreditation has traditionally been an issue for some Christian universities, Liberty has been accredited for nearly 30 years.

However, Liberty is also accredited through another agency. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) has been accrediting schools since 1991, and some historically unaccredited schools, such as Bob Jones University, have recently been accredited through it.

“I can’t really think of any reason that you wouldn’t want to be accredited, unless being accredited prevented you from teaching certain aspects of the word of God,” said sophomore Beth Jones.
Jones also noted that, had Liberty not been accredited, she would not have attended.

When asked whether the school’s strictly Christian emphasis posed any particular sticking points for the accreditation committee, Rist replied that “Liberty University has never had its religious mission questioned by SACS.

“SACS is interested in determining that an institution…assesses all of its operations in the context of (its) mission.”

Liberty’s accreditation continues through the year 2016. The reaffirmation process will begin anew approximately two years before that date.

Contact David Thompson at dbthompson@liberty.edu.

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