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Elizabeth Tice

Special to the Herald

For-profit colleges and universities, including Clinton’s own Ashford University, have been making headlines lately – but not the right ones.

What is consistently missing is the value Ashford provides to students here and across the nation.

Ashford University’s vibrant academic community offers high-quality, accessible, and affordable education to more than 90,000 students nationally, including many with historically less access to college, such as single working moms, veterans, minorities, and learners in rural areas.

We are proud to have our campus in Clinton, where we have the privilege of playing a major role in this outstanding community.

Ashford is one of Clinton’s largest employers, boosting the economy and supporting numerous local charities. We have been tremendously grateful for the continuing support from Clinton’s residents and community leaders.

For any institution of higher learning, the pursuit of academic excellence is a continuous journey. Ashford University remains fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (HLC) and we are confident we will remain so.

Ashford is committed to full compliance with all accreditation criteria, and will continue cooperating fully with all accrediting bodies.

We view this process as an opportunity to improve our academic offerings and to strive for the highest level of educational quality – to make our strong and dynamic institution even stronger.

In the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) response to our accreditation request, the Association cited among Ashford University’s strengths our faculty and staff, whom it characterized as loyal, engaged and dedicated to providing a quality education. I could not agree more.

WASC also recognized our strong commitment to the University’s core mission of providing our students with a high-quality, affordable education. Especially noteworthy, WASC reported that more than 90 percent of the 23,000 Ashford students responding to its survey said they were satisfied with Ashford’s quality of instruction.

Another 88 percent reported being satisfied with the value of the education they are receiving for the amount they are paying, and 83 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their prospects following an Ashford education.

We continue to hear about great success from our students and graduates in every degree path we offer.

Particularly disappointing in recent weeks was the potentially misleading information in the report on for-profit higher education issued on July 29, 2012 by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. Several points are important to know in order to understand the full context of the report.  

Many of our students, particularly those online, are among the non-traditional, adult learner population who do not attend college in a continuous two- or four-year block. This makes Ashford’s overall graduation rates difficult to analyze based on the traditional model of higher education.

The report did not mention that, in 2011, Ashford University undergraduate programs had a five-year graduation rate, based on completion of the second course, of approximately 50 percent.

Nationally, for all higher education institutions, the five-year Bachelor’s degree graduation rate was 52.6 percent.

Ashford has significantly more faculty and academic personnel than suggested in the report, including 100 full-time faculty and more than 3,000 adjunct faculty, 700 teaching assistants, 25 high-level academic administrators, and more than 150 academic support staff.

Ashford's cost to the U.S. taxpayer is less than suggested relative to traditional public colleges when factoring in state funding that Ashford does not receive.

According to a 2010 study, The Public Costs of Higher Education, for every $1 in direct support per student for private sector institutions from federal state and local governments, traditional colleges and universities received considerably more – private not-for-profit institutions received $8.69 per student and public institutions received $19.38 per student.  

Twenty years ago, I was a working mother of four children looking to pursue a doctorate level degree. After I enrolled at a traditional university, I discovered that college experience did not fit with my lifestyle – a sentiment echoed by many of our students and the populations we serve.

As the President of Ashford University and in part because of my personal experiences, I have worked closely with our outstanding faculty and staff to make Ashford University a place that is dedicated to delivering a high-quality, accessible education that can serve the unique needs of adult learners.

I look forward to continuing our good work with our many local employees, with our students, and with the Clinton community to ensure Ashford University will enable students to learn and earn for many years to come.

Dr. Elizabeth Tice is the President of Ashford University in Clinton.