By Katie Dahlstrom
SAN DIEGO —
Ashford University has been granted initial accreditation from the western accrediting body that rejected the university last year.
Ashford’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education, announced Wednesday afternoon that the school received initial accreditation for five years from the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Bridgepoint Vice President of Public Relations Shari Rodriguez told the Herald that the switch in accreditation from the Midwest-based Higher Learning Commission to the WASC will not affect the Clinton campus.
‘It will remain fully operational and there will be no change or interruption of services for any Ashford University student,” Rodriguez said.
The approval brings to a close a year-long accreditation battle that started last year when WASC denied Ashford initial accreditation due to what it said was the university’s focus on student recruitment rather than student success.
That denial caught the attention of HLC officials, who put Ashford on notice with a warning to either change or face losing accreditation. Ashford maintained HLC accreditation through the entire process.
Ashford sought WASC accreditation because although it’s physical campus is in Clinton, a majority of the more than 75,000 Ashford students take courses online. Most of the company’s online operations are based in California.
Since being denied last year, Bridgepoint officials have implemented a number of changes to address WASC concerns, including reducing the number of students and shifting jobs from recruiting to student retention. Last month the company also reduced its workforce through a buyout program that resulted in $6.2 million in costs associated with employees who voluntarily resigned.
The WASC Commission Action Letter to Ashford stated: “The Commission found that the University has responded to Commission concerns and judges that it is now in substantial compliance with Commission standards.”
The WASC visiting team noted within its final report that “the team found an institution that has been fundamentally transformed and whose culture has been changed in significant ways, including a shift from a market-driven approach to an institution committed to student retention and success, a transformation that is enthusiastically supported by the Board of Trustees, the new President, administration, faculty and staff.”
Retaining accreditation is critical for Bridgepoint because it is required for students to qualify for federal student loans. More than 85 percent of Bridgepoint’s revenue comes from federal student-aid loan programs.
Officials with Ashford’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education, applauded WASC’s recognition of the university’s educational worth.
“From our students and alumni, to our faculty and staff, to our trustees and shareholders, today’s announcement reaffirms Ashford University’s and Bridgepoint Education’s collective commitment to student success,” Bridgepoint Education Chief Executive Officer Andrew Clark said. “Throughout this organization and its academic institutions, there is a passion for education and the transformative difference it can make. We appreciate WASC’s recognition of Ashford University’s efforts and know that those same efforts will benefit our students through both the ongoing and new initiatives Ashford has implemented throughout this process.”