The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) renewed UCSB’s academic accreditation last month on March 7, lengthening the date to year 2023 and giving the university the highest level of accreditation that the WASC can offer.

Confirmation of the 10-year accreditation came about four months after WASC’s Educational Effectiveness Review team visited and conducted a review of the campus from Oct. 8 to 10. According to the Educational Effectiveness Review report, the visiting team was “impressed by the overall health and strength” of the university and its “capacity to deliver and support high-quality” students by “articulating clear processes and committee responsibilities, increasing personnel and institutional research capacity” and assessing student learning via a program review process that is “widely-respected and linked to planning and financial resource allocations.”

In addition, the report commended UCSB for other successes, such as its level of service low-income and first-generation college students and its writing requirement, one of which WASC characterized as a model for other institutions. The report also stated that the next several years will be “critical for the vitality and sustainability” of the University’s current structures and will need to focus attention through both “collaborative and informal networks as well as formal committee structures processes and staffing resources.”

The UCSB WASC Accreditation unit under the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor describes reaffirmation of accreditation as a “multi-year, self-study” process that engages the campus in “institution-wide reflection on educational capacity and performance.” The process, in summary, examines how the university’s “resources, structures and processes are aligned with scholastic outcomes.”

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the accreditation validated the school’s efforts to continue improving the quality of education.

“Our campus is pleased and proud that UC Santa Barbara’s accreditation has been reaffirmed by WASC Senior Commission for a 10-year term,” Yang said. “The exciting 10-year reaffirmation of our accreditation is a testament to our campus’s sincere commitment to student learning.”

According to Accreditation Liaison Officer Mary Nisbet, the impact of the report for UCSB students is far-reaching.

“The key thing is that it gives our students access to federal financial aid,” Nisbet said, explaining that without the accreditation, students would otherwise be ineligible.

Even with the 10-year accreditation, UCSB will still be due to deliver an interim report in November 2018. The report noted a number of improvements that the Commission would like to see between now and that time. While the Commission lauded the writing requirement, the report did call into question the applicability of UCSB’s methods of assessment to other models.

According to the report, the Commission “shares the team’s concern that target dates and timelines need to be established for assessing all [General Education] learning outcomes.”

The Commission team also exhibited similar concern with regard to the application of assessment activities as the result of grants, including Economics and Accounting, Biology and History. According to the report, the WASC feels “concerned that perhaps the most motivated programs have engaged in those activities and that it will take more than volunteers to engage many more departments.”

In light of the concerns reported in the review, Nisbet said the administration is hard at work to rectify the noted issues.

“What we’re concerned about is not just other departments but also other aspects of our programs,” Nisbet said. “This is a continuing process, and [the Commission] recognizes that.”


This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.