Accreditors Give High Marks to UVM’s Five-Year Report
- By Jeffrey R. Wakefield
The New England Association of Schools & Colleges gave the University of Vermont’s five-year interim report, a key touchpoint in the process of higher education accreditation, high marks on a wide range of fronts.
Interim reports are meant to apprise accrediting bodies -- NEASC is one of six regional groups that accredit American colleges and universities -- of the progress an institution is making toward goals set forth during its formal reaccreditation, a process that takes place every 10 years. UVM was last reaccredited in 2009.
“This was a uniformly positive evaluation of the significant steps we’ve taken in a wide range of areas over the last five years,” said UVM president Tom Sullivan. “It’s a strong indication that we’re moving in the right direction and doing so vigorously. I’d like to thank members of the university community for their creativity, hard work and dedication, which laid the groundwork and provided the substance for this strong report.”
In a letter to President Sullivan accepting the interim report, which it called “thorough and candid,” NEASC made special note of the university’s success in:
- Implementing its strategic plan, especially those aspects related to general education and transdisciplinary research;
- Continuing to implement assessment programs, related both to academic program review and to student learning;
- Developing a campus master plan that includes a deferred maintenance plan; and
- Implementing an incentive-based budgeting model and achieving its goals of diversifying revenue and launching a comprehensive campaign.
NEASC also granted UVM general approval to offer distance education programming within the scope of its mission, stating that the university has “demonstrated its capacity to offer high-quality academic program in an online format.” It also noted “with approval” UVM’s successful launch of the online certificate of graduate study in public health and students’ general satisfaction with the program.
The four-page letter also elaborated on the above points, calling out for special acknowledgement and praise:
- The wide dissemination of the university's Strategic Action Plan, its extensive application to campus planning efforts and its focus on four strategic goals: access, academic excellence, investments and efficiencies. NEASC also commended UVM for the plan’s eight academic excellence goals and its short and long term plans for boosting STEM education and research at the university;
- The progress UVM has made in implementing its general education program, most notably the Writing and Information Literacy initiative;
- Strategic investments UVM has made in three major areas of strength, the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative, Envisioning Environment and the Humanities Center;
- The university’s enrollment management and financial aid strategies, which have enabled it to reach its tuition revenue goals in each of the last five years;
- UVM’s three-year plan to restore its budget to structural balance, which resulted in a positive fund balance after two years;
- The significant progress UVM has made in codifying student learning outcomes and assessing both learning and student engagement, with the goal of identifying the critical thinking skills levels and other contributing factors that lead to student success;
- UVM’s implementation of a revised and robust system of academic program review; and
- UVM’s plan for transitioning in an evolutionary way to a new incentive-based budgeting process and its plans to diversify revenue through the recruitment of international students and the expansion of online programs.
NEASC also formally scheduled its visit to UVM for the next reaccreditation for Spring 2019.
The interim report was compiled and written by a team of UVM faculty and staff led by Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning Brian Reed and Vice President for Executive Operation Gary Derr.