By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Ashford University has been placed on notice by its accrediting body because of concerns that it is not meeting the accreditor’s criteria, the university’s parent company announced Friday.
Bridgepoint Education announced that on Feb. 27, officials received a letter from Ashford’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of schools and colleges (HLC), that the university has been placed on notice — a status that indicates a university is pursuing a course of action that, if continued, could lead to it being out of compliance with one or more criteria of accreditation.
The HLC is the accrediting body for a 19-state region, including Iowa.
The HLC Board of Trustees noted Ashford had not demonstrated that it was substantially present in the region as required by a jurisdictional policy the board adopted in June 2012.
Ashford is currently pursuing accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the regional accrediting body that covers institutions in California where Ashford maintains a substantial administrative and executive presence and where a majority of the for-profit institutions’ students are based.
Ashford was denied initial accreditation by the WASC in June and officials stated they would reapply for accreditation. According to HLC policy and federal regulations, if another institutional accrediting body takes an adverse or probationary action against an HLC institution, the HLC must begin a review of the institution to determine if sanctions, further action or removal of accreditation were appropriate, according to a disclosure from the HLC.
In December, Ashford filed a plan to come into compliance immediately with the substantial presence requirement in July 2013 should it not achieve accreditation with WASC, according to a disclosure from the HLC. The HLC Board determined it was in students’ best interest to allow Ashford a limited amount of time to complete the WASC accreditation process before taking further action regarding the substantial presence issue.
The HLC Commission requested a report from Ashford regarding its accreditation status with the WASC by July 10.
If Ashford is not accredited by the WASC, it will need to host a focused evaluation no later than Oct. 1, to evaluate if it has taken steps to comply with the substantial presence requirement. The evaluation also will examine issues noted by the WASC in denying accreditation.
In placing Ashford on notice, the HLC’s board also noted in concerns related to the alignment of the university mission with its instructional model, governance of the university independent from its corporate parent, sufficiency of faculty, assessment of student learning and use of data to improve graduation and retention rates, and shared governance structures involving faculty and administration, according to the HLC disclosure.