Tabor among first to try new accreditation process

Tabor College has entered the beginning phase of a new approach to the accreditation process.

According to the office of academic affairs, accreditation is vital for the success of a college or university. Accreditation indicates that the college has met required standards set forth by an accrediting organization.

Tabor College is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Within this association, a new form of accreditation has recently been offered.

The Academic Quality Improvement Project (AQIP) provides a different approach to the process.

In the past, Tabor’s reaccreditation has included a comprehensive self-study taking place every 10 years. According to Keim, this process was helpful, but limited, with the study put aside upon completion. But with AQIP, the reaccreditation process is ongoing.

“AQIP is a means of accreditation that allows us to be working at continuous quality improvements and to report our progress on an annual basis, getting feedback every year,” said Howard Keim, vice-president of academic affairs at Tabor.

As part of the AQIP process, Tabor must demonstrate continuous improvement in each of the following criteria: helping students learn, accomplishing other distinctive objectives, understanding students’ and other stakeholders’ needs, valuing people, leading and communicating, supporting institutional operations, measuring effectiveness, planning continuous improvement and building collaborative relationships.

Interest in AQIP involvement was sparked by Keim’s attendance of the North Central Association’s annual meeting. After presenting the information at Tabor, the process was explored further, with the entire faculty involved in discussions concerning the possibilities.

Currently, Tabor is in the self-assessment Phase of AQIP.

A Constellation Survey was administered to all Tabor personnel, measuring opinions concerning the various aspects of the college.

A Conversation Day was also held on Friday, March 21, in the Tabor Chapel-Auditorium.

The facilitator, Harold Kafer of Northern Illinois University, was assigned to Tabor by the North Central Association. He led faculty, staff and administrators in discussion of three questions:

n What is most important to Tabor College?

n What are the strengths of Tabor College?

n What are proposals that, if enacted, could help Tabor College move forward?

According to Keim, the Conversation Day yielded much information. Major interest was shown in helping students to learn and support institutional operations.

Further examination of the data will be performed, said Keim, allowing Tabor to complete the initial comprehensive self-assessment study and establish three to four action projects for Tabor, called the “Vital Few.” These action projects are plans for institutional improvement that will be worked on throughout the next four years.

As college administrators look to the future, they prepare for the Strategy Forum. The forum will be attended by a team of Tabor representatives in June. There, Tabor will work with other institutions, gaining and providing feedback.

Following the forum, the determined action projects will be implemented at Tabor.

The Systems Portfolio will be completed, an intensive portfolio that covers all aspects of the college and demonstrates each of the nine AQIP criteria. Every four years, this portfolio will be reviewed in an Institutional Quality Review performed by quality experts from AQIP.

Tabor’s accreditation will be reaffirmed every four years for an additional seven years.

“At Tabor, we’re constantly trying to improve,” Keim said. “This builds these attempts to improve into our accreditation process.”

Tabor is one of the first colleges in Kansas to participate in AQIP.

“I’m very optimistic about it,” said Keim. “I think it will work.”

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