CLINTON — Ashford University officials plan to appeal the denial of accreditation for the school by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, saying the denial will not affect students or university operations.

Spokeswoman Shari Rodriguez, based at Ashford’s San Diego, Calif., headquarters, said Ashford still has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission through 2014-15 and will continue to seek accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

She said there will “not be a gap; we’re still accredited.” She added Ashford is “disappointed” the association didn’t accredit the school the first time, but “that’s still our plan to move to WASC from HLC.”

The college was notified of the denial July 5, but Rodriguez said the school “will continue moving forward.”

Western Association of Schools and Colleges is one of seven regional accrediting commissions, with jurisdiction over schools located in California and Hawaii, as well as the U.S. Pacific Islands. Ashford applied for the association’s accreditation after a substantial portion of its online activities migrated to San Diego.

Ashford University has been advised by the Higher Learning Commission, under which it is currently accredited, that it has until Dec. 1 to demonstrate compliance with the commission’s “substantial presence” requirement. That means Ashford needs to demonstrate that its operations are substantially in the Higher Learning Commission’s 19-state north central region, from Arizona to West Virginia, according to a definition in the commission’s 2011 policy book. A spokesperson for the commission said more information could be released about the situation today.

Ralph Wolff, president of the WASC, said Ashford’s next steps will be to focus on the areas of concern that the association has pointed out, which Wolff said largely relate to the university’s online division of 90,000 to 100,000 students.

“This is an institution that has grown quite rapidly, and the academic infrastructure has not kept pace with this massive online growth,” he said.

Wolff said many of these students need extra support, but the college has a relatively small number of writing and academic support specialists to help. Rather, the university has a significant number of recruiters and financial aid representatives, he said.

The university has requested a repeat site visit in the spring of 2013, which will lead to the commission taking action no sooner than June 2013, Wolff said.

“There is a lot to be done,” Wolff said. “The university will need to take a very significant and a very immediate effort in each of these areas to demonstrate more than progress, but that they’ve come into compliance with our standards.”

Wolff said this is the first time any accrediting agency has posted all of its actions and team reports for the public to review online. “I think the report demonstrates that we entered into a very thorough and fair process,” he said.

Ashford University, formerly Mount St. Clare College, is a for-profit college purchased in 2005 and owned by Bridgepoint Education. The accrediting association also said the university must show its independence from Bridgepoint with academic and financial control of its programs.

Reactions from Congress, Wall Street

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has conducted hearings on the activities of for-profit colleges as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP.

“Given what we’ve uncovered in the HELP Committee’s investigation of the for-profit higher education industry, I continue to have serious concerns about whether Bridgepoint Education and their school Ashford University — along with other for-profit schools — are providing a quality education to their student population, the majority of which are enrolled online. In reaching (its) decision, I am pleased that WASC has conducted a careful and thoughtful review of the company, and hope they will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that the schools they accredit are truly preparing students for success.”

Meanwhile, the stock prices for Bridgepoint Education Inc. fell more than 27 percent Monday after the Ashford accreditation announcement. Later, Bridgepoint shares rallied to trade at $16.90, down 21 percent.

By the numbers

In its application, Ashford reported the Clinton Campus enrollment was 973 students and the San Diego online division enrollment was 73,623 students last fall. Site visits were conducted March 11-13 at the Clinton campus and March 13-16 to the San Diego campus.

According to the team’s report, “while relationships between the Clinton and San Diego operations are cordial, the integration of the traditional and nontraditional instructional systems ... is not yet fully developed. In many crucial ways, the two quite different models operate largely independent of one another.”

The university offers 74 undergraduate degrees and six graduate degrees, according to its 2010-11 catalog. A self-study report filed with the team indicates that Ashford employs 56 full-time faculty at the Clinton Campus and seven full-time faculty in the online division administered from the San Diego Campus, with an additional 36 full-time faculty hired for the online division since December 2011. The university catalog reports the student/faculty ratio in 2006 as 14:1 and 33:1 in 2010.

Completion rates reported in the catalog were 58 percent for men and 42 percent for women, and retention was reported at 36 percent for 2010-11.


EARLIER STORY

Dave Vickers at 2:15 p.m.

CLINTON — Ashford University officials say denial of accreditation for the school from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges will not affect students or the operations of the school.

Spokeswoman Shari Rodriguez, based at Ashford’s San Diego, Calif., headquarters, said Ashford still has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission for the next couple of years and will initiate an appeal of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges decision after the organization’s guidelines. She said there will “not be a gap, we’re still accredited.”

She added Ashford is “disappointed” the association didn’t accredit the school the first time, but “that’s still our plan to move to WASC from HLC.” Rodriguez said there is no effect on students.

The college was notified of the denial July 5, but Rodriguez said Ashford still is waiting on the specifics. Rodriguez said the school “will continue moving forward” and is confident in what it has to offer.

The association’s report, available online, highlighted several areas of noncompliance, including:

- Student attrition and inadequate levels of degree completion, citing nearly 128,000 students who have withdrawn in the last five years as 240,000 new students were enrolled.

- Inadequate resources for educational purposes, with more than 30 percent of spending going toward student recruitment.

- Insufficient faculty, with a core of 50 full-time faculty members for an online division of more than 90,000 students that is “not sufficient to provide leadership and oversight of an academic enterprise of the size and complexity of Ashford.”

The report also cited concerns about the “rigor of coursework” and the university’s process for program and learning reviews.

Rodriguez said the accreditation covers the overall Ashford program from the Clinton campus to its online program.

Western Association of Schools and Colleges is one of seven regional accrediting commissions, with jurisdiction over schools located in California and Hawaii, as well as the U.S. Pacific Islands. Ashford initiated application for the association’s accreditation in recognition of the migration of a substantial portion of its activities to San Diego, in support of its online programs, into that accrediting body’s geographic region.

Ashford University has been advised by the Higher Learning Commission, under which it is accredited through 2014-15, that it has until Dec. 1 to demonstrate compliance with the commission’s “substantial presence” requirement. The Higher Learning Commission region covers 19 states from Arizona to West Virginia, including Iowa, where Ashford University maintains its residential campus.

 Ashford University is a for-profit college owned by Bridgepoint Education, and the accrediting association said the university must show its independence from Bridgepoint with academic and financial control of its programs.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been involved in the issue of for-profit colleges as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP.

“Given what we’ve uncovered in the HELP Committee’s investigation of the for-profit higher education industry, I continue to have serious concerns about whether Bridgepoint Education and their school Ashford University — along with other for-profit schools — are providing a quality education to their student population, the majority of which are enrolled online.  In reaching (its) decision, I am pleased that WASC has conducted a careful and thoughtful review of the company, and hope they will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that the schools they accredit are truly preparing students for success.”

Last year, Harkin conducted a hearing that examined for-profit industry practices.

Meanwhile, the stock prices for Bridgepoint Education Inc. fell more than 27 percent Monday after the Ashford accreditation announcement. Later, Bridgepoint shares rallied to trade at $16.90, down 21 percent.

In its application, Ashford reported an enrollment of 67,132 undergraduate students and 7,455 graduate students. In fall 2011, the Clinton Campus enrollment was 973 students and the San Diego online division enrollment was 73,623 students. Site visits by the accreditation team were conducted March 11-13 at the Clinton campus and March 13-16 to the San Diego campus.

According to the team’s report, “while relationships between the Clinton and San Diego operations are cordial, the integration of the traditional and non-traditional instructional systems ... is not yet fully developed. In many crucial ways, the two quite different models operate largely independent of one another.”

The university offers 74 undergraduate degrees and six graduate degrees, according to its 2010-11 catalog. The self-study report indicates that Ashford University employs 56 full-time faculty at the Clinton Campus and seven full-time faculty in the online division administered from the San Diego Campus. An additional 36 full-time faculty were hired for the online division since December 2011. The university catalog reports the student/faculty ratio in 2006 as 14:1 and 33:1 in 2010. Completion rates reported in the current catalog are 58 percent for men and 42 percent for women and retention was reported at 36 percent for 2010-11.  

 


EARLIER STORY

Dave Vickers at 10:36 a.m.

CLINTON — Ashford University officials say denial of accreditation for the school from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges will not affect students or the operations of the school.

Spokeswoman Shari Rodriguez, based at Ashford’s San Diego, Calif., headquarters, said Ashford still has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission for the next couple of years and will initiate an appeal of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges decision following the organization’s guidelines. She said there will “not be a gap, we’re still accredited.”

She added Ashford is “disappointed” the association didn’t accredit the school the first time, but “that’s still our plan to move to WASC from HLC.” Rodriguez said there is no affect on students.

The college was notified of the denial on July 5, but Rodriguez said Ashford still is waiting on the specifics. Rodriguez said the school “will continue moving forward” and is confident in what it has to offer.

Rodriguez said the accreditation covers the overall Ashford program from the Clinton campus to its online program.

Western Association of Schools and Colleges is one of seven regional accrediting commissions, with jurisdiction over schools located in the states of California and Hawaii, as well as the U.S. Pacific Islands. Ashford initiated application for the association’s accreditation in recognition of the migration of a substantial portion of its activities, in support of its online programs, into that accrediting body’s geographic region.

Ashford University has been advised by the Higher Learning Commission that it has until Dec. 1 to demonstrate compliance with the commission’s “substantial presence” requirement. Ashford has assured the commission that it intends to abide by its policies and requirements. The Higher Learning Commission region covers 19 states from Arizona to West Virginia, including Iowa, where Ashford University maintains its residential campus.

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