Vice Provost Reassures Board about Accreditation Issue

In a March 13 Board of Trustees meeting, Vice Provost Susan Jeffords reassured the Board that she and faculty members are currently working on fixing Portland State’s subpar assessment of student learning, as identified by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities.

The NCCU notified PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi in a Jan. 28 letter that the university “is now out of compliance with the NCCU Standards for Accreditation.”

“This is a serious issue, but let me say, first and foremost, it does not mean the institution has lost accreditation,” Jeffords said to the Board. “Our accreditation remains in good standing.”

PSU was accredited in 2015, and Jeffords explained that accreditation happens in seven year cycles.

“The commission alerted the institution in 2015 in response to the initial report of the seven-year cycle that they wanted to see us do better,” Jeffords said. “There was a response made in 2016, and they said ‘we’d like to see you do better.’”

NCUU visited PSU in the fall of 2015 and assessed that the school had not done enough to increase assessment after plenty of warnings. NCUU has given PSU two years to get into compliance.

“They ask that institutions show that at least 50 percent of programs have plans for assessing student learning and that they have implemented those plans,” Jeffords said. “We have something like 43 or 44 percent having plans and implementing those plans. So we are not far from the 50 percent, but we are below it.”

If PSU fails to meet NCUU’s expectation for assessment in the two years, PSU will be put on probation. Probation can last for many years, Jeffords explained.

“I know that some students had expressed anxiety that the institution was going to lose its accreditation and their degrees would be worthless,” Jeffords said. “Let me say, even if we didn’t respond at all, we would be looking at many years before we got to such a question.”

“I’m not worried about this,” she continued. “I’m not worried that we’re going get to a point where we’re going to get on probation. As far as I’m concerned, as the chief academic officer, this is my job and I’m going to get it done.”