'We failed you:' UA leaders absorb wrath in accreditation crisis
University of Alaska officials offered a mea culpa Tuesday night to education students at the system's Anchorage campus still reeling from the effects of an accreditation crisis.
One student asked regents, "Do we even matter?"
School of Education students gathered at the Board of Regents listening session at UAA's Wendy Williamson Auditorium. University officials said Tuesday's gathering offered regents important student feedback on how to proceed.
Newly released documents show the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation raised flags regarding the accreditation of seven programs in 2017, then again in 2018 well before the loss of accreditation in January of 2019.
In December 2017, UAA'S College of Education released a 31-page report with feedback from the council. Additional concerns appeared in July 2018, in a 43-page report based on a CAEP team's visit to the university. UAA announced that the affected teacher preparation programs lost their accreditation in January, after a CAEP report said they did not meet four of five standards.
'We failed you'
On Tuesday, UA President Dr. Jim Johnsen acknowledged the lapse in UAA's early warning systems about the accreditation issues and apologized to the students.
"We failed you," Johnsen said. "UAA's former leaders failed to ensure accreditation was achieved and failed to raise a red flag when it looked like things were in trouble. I'm sorry for those failures. With that, I'm also committed along with this board in making sure that you have a path to licensure as a teacher from an approved and accredited program here in Anchorage."
Many students vented frustrations during the listening session, urging the university to press forward with a path to re-accreditation.
"To say that I was irate would not begin to cover the depths nor the lengths to which I have gone and feel that I have been abandoned by my institution," said UAA student Kelsey Hernandez. "I am frustrated because I have been told to just transfer. There is not another home for me. This is my home; I chose this university out of all the other universities. I chose to stay in my state."
The Board of Regents' Academic Committee will meet on Feb. 21, with the full board meeting again on Feb. 28 and March 1 to decide on what happens with the program. There are currently three paths the board may choose to take.
The first is to continue the current programs through ongoing UAA efforts toward state approvals and re-accreditation, which may take three years or more.
The second is to teach remaining students in the affected programs and shut them down when all students finish, which would take about three years.
The third option involves shifting the affected programs' classes to UA campuses in Fairbanks and Juneau, then ending UAA programs on Aug. 31.
UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said Tuesday that she took heart from students' interest in regaining the lost accreditations.
"What was really enlightening to me is how many of them came forward and said that they really do support the board approving us to go forward with our reaccreditation," she said. "I will fight for them 100 percent should we be allowed by the board."
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