Bringing UA under single accreditation not viable option, study finds

Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is a candidate for University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is a candidate for University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Each of the three main University of Alaska campuses are accredited separately. A study released this week asks would it be more cost effective to bring all the campuses together under one accreditation. The answer: probably not.

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The report suggests condensing the three accreditations into one would be a monumental process with few benefits. But there are other cost savings options.

UA President Jim Johnsen says the University is already looking into some of those possibilities.

“We’ve got seven teams working as we speak on four administrative areas and three academic areas, to see how we can restructure to reduce costs and drive higher performance,” Johnsen said.

One option is consolidating administrative departments for academic programs that exist on multiple campuses, such as engineering, teacher education, and business administration.

“We have three schools of management; we have three schools of education,” Johnsen said. “Are we gonna continue to have those three or is it gonna be somehow changed?”

Johnsen says condensing the programs would require accreditations on a program-by-program basis, but he’s confident that would be possible.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities grants accreditation based on certain sets of academic standards.

The report notes that even if that commission approves a move to bring the university system under a single accreditation – which is uncertain – the process would take at least two years, and a significant amount of faculty, staff, and administrative resources to complete.

And, once the process is finished, the report says there’s no guarantee it will result in more students or higher quality programs, or meet the state’s higher education needs.

Regardless of the report’s recommendations, Johnsen says it’s an avenue deserving of a closer look.

“I’m agnostic when it comes to three accreditations, one accreditation, 38 accreditations,” Johnsen said. “It’s about our mission for the state of Alaska. That trumps everything.”

No decisions have been made regarding UA’s accreditation strategy, but it’s a topic scheduled for discussion at the next Board of Regents meeting in September.

Josh is the Statewide Morning News Reporter/Producer for Alaska Public Media | jedge (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8455 | About Josh

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