May 31, 2001
Dr. Stanley J. Yarosewick
Dear President Yarosewick:
I am pleased to inform you that at its meeting on April 19, 2001, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education took the following action with respect to Keene State College:
that Keene State College be continued in accreditation;
that the College submit a progress report in Fall, 2003 giving emphasis to its success in:
that the next comprehensive evaluation be scheduled for Fall, 2010.
The Commission gives the following reasons for its action.
The continuation of Keene State College in accreditation is based on the Commission's finding that the College substantially meets the Standards for Accreditation. The College is commended for its strong sense of community among faculty, administrators, and staff resulting from an obvious commitment to students, a sense of confidence and trust in campus leadership, and a shared sense of purpose. A strong, ongoing planning initiative, resulting in "Our Plan," has productively engaged the community in considering the institution's future. And the very attractive campus facilities and grounds are testimony to the effectiveness of a well?developed and implemented facilities plan and a dedicated, hard?working staff. We also note with pleasure that new leadership at the Board of Trustees has resulted in policies providing somewhat greater institutional flexibility in matters related to budget management. This is encouraging, and the Board is to be commended for this initiative, which is extremely helpful to Keene State College in any event, and particularly in light of the extremely low levels of state funding for both capital and operating needs. The campus, for its part, demonstrates strong fiscal management, an important institutional strength.
The areas to be given emphasis in the College's progress report are matters related to our standards on Planning and Evaluation, Programs and Instruction, Faculty, and Student Services.
Through the work to date on "Our Plan," the administration has successfully engaged the campus in developing a shared vision and set of goals appropriate to the institution. The Commission agrees with the team that additional work is needed in this area both to make the planning more structured and to develop a realistic description of who is responsible and when for implementing various aspects of the plan. This is consistent with our standard on Planning and Evaluation, which states in part that the institution "establishes feasible priorities, and develops a realistic course of action to achieve identified objectives. Institutional decision?making, particularly the allocation of resources, is consistent with planning priorities" (2.3).
As the team noted, planning at Keene State College is currently more developed than evaluation. The commitment to develop a culture of evidence and the considerable data now available in the Office of Institutional Research, though not yet widely shared with the campus community, are assets for strengthening the College's capacity to assess and document the effectiveness of its educational program. Appropriately, the College is giving emphasis to the assessment of student learning as it works to strengthen its evaluation function, as is consistent with our standard:
The institution evaluates the achievement of its mission and purposes, giving primary focus to the realization of its educational objectives…. To the extent possible, evaluation enables the institution to demonstrate through verifiable means its attainment of purposes and objectives both inside and outside the classroom (2.4).
Through the progress report, the Commission looks forward to learning of the College's success in assessing and documenting its educational effectiveness, and using the results for improvement. As noted in our standard on Planning and Evaluation:
The institution systematically applies information obtained through its evaluation activities to inform institutional planning, thereby enhancing institutional effectiveness especially as it relates to student achievement (2.5).
The Commission concurs with the team and with the institution that a revision of the general education program represents a priority for the academic program. Work to date, including surveys, has resulted in the approval of new goals for general education, but as yet no agreement on how they should be implemented or student learning assessed. We are encouraged by reports of further institutional action in this area and anticipate that by the time of the progress report, the institution will be able to report the design and implementation of its revised program and the means to assess its effectiveness, consistent with our standards, especially 4.15, "The general education requirement is coherent and substantive, and it embodies the institution's definition of an educated person. The requirement informs the design of all general education courses, and provides criteria for its evaluation."
The team report notes with concern the continuing lack of diversity among the student body, the faculty and the staff, particularly in student affairs. The Commission notes that this has been a continuing concern at the College, and agrees with the College that additional creative initiatives will be needed to ensure that students are prepared to live and work successfully in a multicultural society. This is consistent with the College's mission, which includes its aspiration to prepare "students for success in a complex, interdependent world," and its values of "diversity in our curriculum and our community" and "cultural enrichment." Through the progress report, the Commission looks forward to learning of the institution's success in meeting its own goals in this challenging area.
Advising has been recognized at Keene State as an area in need of improvement, particularly for new students and those who come without having chosen their academic major. The College has developed a number of strategies for improvement in this area, as part of a three-year plan consistent with standard 4.32, "The institution has in place an effective system of academic advising which meets the student needs for information and advice and is compatible with its educational objectives. Faculty and other personnel responsible for academic advising are adequately informed and prepared to discharge their advising functions." The progress report will give the College an opportunity to report the success of the improvements in the advising program and any further refinements underway.
The College relies heavily on part?time faculty, reporting for the current year that it employs more individuals as part?time than full?time faculty. Part?time faculty play important roles at the institution in ensuring the availability of courses, providing release time for full?time faculty to undertake other assignments, and offering specialized courses in various departments. While the College would like to hire more full?time faculty and has had some recent success in doing so, it is likely that there will continue to be a significant dependence on part?time faculty. We concur with the team that where the delivery of the curriculum depends significantly on part?time faculty, it is important to ensure that they are appropriately integrated into the life of the department to ensure that their "commitment to the institution is sufficient to assure the accomplishment of classroom and out?of?classroom responsibilities essential for the fulfillment of institutional mission and purposes" (5.9).
The requirement of a fifth?year report is consistent with the Commission's policy on Periodic Review; its purpose is to provide the Commission an opportunity to appraise the institution's current status.
The Commission appreciates the opportunity to meet with you and with Dr. Katherine Sloan who chaired the visiting team. We also appreciate your cooperation in the effort to provide public assurance of the quality of higher education in New England and hope that the efforts made at continuing self evaluation will contribute to institutions' self improvement.
You are encouraged to share this letter with members of the College community. It is Commission policy to inform the chairperson of the institution's governing board of action on its accreditation status. In a few days we will be sending a copy of this letter to r. Bruce W. Keough. The institution is free to release information about the evaluation and the Commission's action to others, in accordance with Commission policy.
If you have any questions about the Commission's action, please contact Charles M. Cook, Director of the Commission.
Cc: Mr. Bruce W. Keough