Kean University has passed "a significant hurdle" in its bid to be reaccredited, Ocean County College President Jon H. Larson told the OCC Board of Trustees on Monday.
"It isn't done until it's done," he told the trustees, "but they are on a positive track."
Kean, which is partnering with Ocean County College on a program called Kean@Ocean that will allow students to complete a bachelor's or a master's program while taking all of their courses at OCC's Toms River campus, was put on probationary accreditation status this summer by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education for failing to meet four of the commission's 14 standards.
Kean, which began undergoing its most recent accreditation review last year, was put on probation in June when, according to Middle States officials, the university had failed to address adequately a list of issues the accreditation inspection team had listed.
Larson and other OCC officials met with Dawood Farahi, Kean's president, during the summer to express OCC's concerns about the situation, Larson has said previously. The positive response from Middle States to its most recent investigation is a step in the right direction, Larson said.
Larson said the Middle States commission is expected to hold a final vote in November that Larson said should move Kean away from probation status.
The primary issues Kean faced related to what Larson called learning outcomes assessment and academic integrity.
The learning outcomes assessment is something a number of colleges and universities have struggled with, Larson said.
"Some schools haven't taken it seriously enough," Larson said, in part because there is a feeling among some that having to document outside of what's contained in a course or program syllabus felt like an unnecessary redundancy to some in the academic community.
Threats of federal intervention if colleges ignored the demands to show ways of measuring learning outcomes has gotten many to follow through, however, Larson said.
"It needs to be done to forestall federal interference," he said. Larson agreed that the rising cost of higher education has played a role in the demand for standards to judge the effectiveness of a university.
"It's one thing to get nothing out of it (college courses) and feel like you didn't spend much money," he said. "It's another to say 'my family went into serious debt and there's nothing to show for it.' "
With regard to the integrity issues at Kean, Larson said a labor dispute was behind at least some of it, and Kean has taken strides toward cultivating a sense of openness that allows people to feel there is equitable treatment of everyone.
The university has pulled together, Larson said. "All parties have come together and agreed to act more collegially," he said.
"Middle States wanted to see all members of the instituion pulling in the same direction," he said.
Ocean County College is beginning its self review process for its own accreditation review with the Middle States commission. Larson said campus visits by Middle States reviewers will likely begin in early 2013.