“This is something every student should think about when they begin looking at colleges and universities,” said Wynn Alexander when asked about the reaccreditation process that will officially be taking place on the Wilmington College campus in the fall of 2013. Alexander is a professor of theatre and serves with Laura Struve as a Co-Clerk of the Self-Study Steering Committee. For the past two and a half years, this committee, as well as several other subcommittees, have been working to assess Wilmington College’s performance on the basis of five different criteria. These criteria (mission, ethical and responsible conduct, integrity, academic support programs, self-assessment) are set forth by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission, an organization that reviews colleges and universities, then either grants or denies their accreditation.
But what does being an accredited institution mean? Starting in the 1940s, the federal government began to inquire of the quality of higher learning. To ensure that colleges were being held to certain standards, a non-governmental commission was appointed to assess them. Accreditation is not just a periodic statement that gives a college like Wilmington College legitimacy, it is an ongoing process that requires much internal research. The Self-Study Steering Committee here at Wilmington College has been gathering information on whether the college is meeting the aforementioned criteria as well as goals that were set during the last reaccreditation in 2003. Alexander said that this assessment is not just to please the North Central Association but to “create a stronger strategic plan.” Wilmington has to submit progress reports yearly, which according to Alexander “keeps us moving forward.”
But what does this mean to the students of Wilmington College- why is accreditation important? One important benefit of being an accredited institution is receipt of federal funding for students, and as Alexander said, “98 percent of our students receive some sort of federal funds.” If accreditation is lost, so is the federal aid upon which a vast majority of Quakers depend. Being accredited also helps when transferring between institutions. Whether during your undergraduate work or from undergraduate to graduate studies at another institutions, it is a much easier process to move between accredited schools rather than a non-accredited school and one that is accredited.
Wilmington students are encouraged to take part in the college’s accreditation; you can find drafts of the self-study online at WC@Home. Also, more information on how students can become involved will be revealed at Steak Night at the TOP on September 13. Accreditation is crucial to the future of Wilmington College, and to the future of its students.