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SACS approval appears promising

September 28, 2010

By Stephanie Sexton, Staff Writer

Last week, students  may have noticed a different buzz around the campus. There were people in nice suits walking around, teachers were dressed better than usual and there was a bit of a nervousness amongst the faculty and staff. That is because the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, was here for a few days to assess the college. The overall goal for the college was to become reaffirmed. What does that mean? What is reaffirmation, and how it is it obtained?

“Every school that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and schools, that’s what we call SACS, has to undergo a self-audit every 10 years,” said Rosemary Royston, vice president for planning and assessment.

Basically it is like a check-up on the college. SACS looks at the college and makes sure that the faculty and staff are doing everything they can to improve the learning process on campus.

The institution being evaluated shows SACS what they have been doing to help students learn the material needed to graduate.

“We say, here’s what students are expected to learn, and how are we going behind them and really looking at all of our programs, and saying okay here are the outcomes, here’s what they have learned, and here’s where we need to do something’s differently,” Royston said.

There are many ways and tools to help the students learn the materials needed. One tool particularly that Young Harris College chose to use is Rhetorica, or the QEP.

“The reason we chose to do the QEP is they want us to identify an area where we know students need extra support, and we identified writing and speaking,” Royston said.

SACS is going to come in, look at Rhetorica and hopefully give their blessing for Young Harris to launch the program in Fall 2011.

There are 11 of the SACS representatives that are from other colleges that are similar to Young Harris College. They come in and interview the faculty, staff and even students for three days straight. There was a luncheon with some students, interviewing them about the college.

“There are eight students that we have selected, so they can ask them about their experience here, they’ll talk about Rhetorica, and they’ll want to know about student rights and responsibilities,” Royston said. One of those students was Matthew Kammerer, business and public policy senior from Loganville .

“We asked questions and questions were asked of us. We started with a general discussion over food with the four SACS representatives who range from Academic Deans to Vice Presidents of Student Affairs.

We discussed items ranging from how our campus has changed since moving four-year to how students were involved in choosing the QEP,” Kammerer said when asked about the meeting with  SACS.

While the college will not  find out if it passed the assessment until June 2011, YHC President Cathy Cox did send out an e-mail with positive feedback from the representatives.

“Our SACS on-site committee has completed its work and found us fully in compliance on all the ‘Core Requirements’ of SACS,” Cox said.  “This is a huge accomplishment and vividly demonstrates the good work we are doing to grow our College according to the best academic and professional guidelines.”

According to Cox’s e-mail, “several committee members said that Rhetorica was the best QEP they had ever read.”

However, despite all of the good news, SACS did find a few imperfections in its evaluation of the school but none that appeared great enough to hinder the reaffirmation process.

“The Committee did issue four findings related to the slightly lesser ‘comprehensive standards,’” Cox said.  “Three of which relate to the nuances of assessment and how we measure student achievement, our administrative services to students, and our overall educational programs.”

Cox attributes these finding due to the recent transition from a two-year to a four-year college.  With a newly instated senior class, many information would not be obtainable.  The final finding  SACS mentioned dealt with campus safety and security.  The committee could not articulate any specific issue with safety but did suggest more safety coordination.

More information from SACS evaluation will available in the coming months after the written report has been sent to the college.

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