The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has reaffirmed the accreditation of California State University, Northridge, with association officials calling the university “a model learning organization.”
The university’s accreditation has been extended another 10 years, the maximum, by WASC’s Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. Accreditation by the nonprofit association means Cal State Northridge has been judged by outside reviewers to be operating at a high level of quality consistent with its mission.
“WASC’s reaccreditation report confirms what we already know—California State University, Northridge is a model learning organization whose faculty and staff are fully focused on student success and learning,” said Cal State Northridge’s Interim President Harry Hellenbrand. “It’s gratifying for the campus community to receive such a positive affirmation of our work from an independent, outside body of peers. The commission’s findings are a testament to our past leadership and part of the outstanding legacy of former President Jolene Koester who retired at the end of 2011. We are well positioned to build on our success as we prepare for a new president. The commission’s report and the 10-year reaccreditation period show WASC’s confidence that we will continue doing outstanding work.”
University officials earlier this month received a letter from president of the accrediting commission, Ralph A. Wolff, informing them of the decision. The accreditation process took more than five years and included an extensive self-evaluation of Cal State Northridge by university faculty, staff and administrators, a campus visit by a WASC evaluation team and then consideration of the team’s recommendation by the commission.
“The commission commends CSUN for becoming a model learning organization characterized by collaborative and evidence-based planning, decision making and problem solving,” Wolff wrote. “Among its accomplishments during this review are its financial foresight and commitment to investing in critical functions; finding efficiencies and allocating funds effectively; and its deep understanding of the characteristics and needs of CSUN students, which has led to programs and activities that promote student success. As noted by the team, ‘the foundation at CSUN could not be stronger.’”
Accreditation is an important process for universities in the United States because it enables students attending accredited campuses such as Cal State Northridge to receive federal financial aid and know that their coursework will be accepted at other universities
should they transfer. WASC is a federally recognized accrediting agency for public and private universities in California, Hawaii and Guam.
In the university’s self-evaluation, CSUN officials chose to focus on three themes for a comprehensive review: learning as an institution, faculty and staff support for university success and student success through engagement in learning. WASC officials said the themes represented “the cohesive culture of CSUN and the university’s focus on student learning.”
The report commended the university for “being the visionary pragmatists the university claims to be,” for “creating an enviable campus climate where collaborative problem-solving is the norm” and “empowering people to take risks to seek solutions to important problems.”
The commission also had some recommendations: continued development of assessment of student learning outcomes, refining program review, continued improvements in advisement, continued improvement of graduation rates and addressing ongoing state funding challenges.
In each of those areas, the commission lauded the actions university officials had taken and encouraged them to build upon their progress.
In the area of undergraduate completion rates, Wolff wrote: “Retention and graduation rates have improved dramatically in the last 10 years and the commission commends the work that CSUN has done to understand, track and support its students. While acknowledging substantial increases in retention, the commission encourages CSUN to continue to monitor rates, to evaluate the effectiveness of its various initiatives and to refine approaches so that continued improvement in retention, persistence and completion can be achieved.”
The commission noted the difficult financial situation Cal State Northridge was in given the state’s budget crisis and commended university officials for their “proactive handling of the reduction in state support.”
“The team found that the university anticipated fiscal challenges as early as 2005 and predicted that ‘revenues from government sources would likely continue declining for the foreseeable future,’” Wolff wrote. “CSUN addressed this challenge by finding efficiencies, reallocating funds and setting priorities that support student success. ‘The result is an extremely fiscally conservative organization that invests richly in critical functions.’”
The commission urged continued diligence in anticipating and planning for changes in the level of state support.
—Carmen Ramos Chandler