CLINTON — While Nicole Buzzo unpacked her clothes in her Ashford University dorm room, she thought about being on her own for the first time, becoming a teacher and starting college.
The accreditation woes her university faced during the past year didn't infiltrate the excitement, nerves and daydreams she had as she embarked on her post-secondary journey.
As Ashford University students start the school year Monday they do so with the knowledge that their university prevailed in its bid to be accredited by a western regional accrediting body.
"I knew about the accreditation stuff, but I never had to many worries. I felt like if it were something to worry about the school would have told us," said Buzzo, an 18-year-old freshman from Davis Junction, Ill.
Ashford University in July earned accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, bringing to a close a year-long battle that started when the same organization denied Ashford's initial bid.
WASC denied Ashford initial accreditation last year because of the university's focus on student recruitment rather than student success, among other noted issues.
That denial caught the attention of the university's then accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, which put Ashford on notice with a warning to either change or face losing accreditation. Ashford maintained HLC accreditation through the entire process.
After making several changes to address WASC concerns such as boosting its board of trustees with former Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy and shifting jobs from student recruitment to student retention, the university was awarded a five-year initial accreditation from WASC.
Ashford officials and students celebrated the victory.
"When I learned we got the accreditation I was relieved. I didn't realize how how anxious I really was over it," Buzzo said.