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Release: Immediate

North Central Association approves reaccreditation for UI, cites 'significant progress'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has been fully reaccredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), one of six regional accrediting associations in the United States for institutions of higher learning. A 12-member NCA evaluation team, composed of faculty members and administrators from universities in eight states, concluded that the UI "has made significant progress" since its last NCA evaluation in 1987.

In addition to the traditional evaluation for reaccreditation, the UI also asked the NCA to conduct a special emphasis consultation to examine the challenges related to the use of information and communications technology in teaching and learning. That consultative report includes a number of recommendations, but concludes, "the UI has been actively pursuing innovative and effective projects and programs to incorporate information technology into its academic programs. Many of these programs can be viewed as model for other universities to emulate."

The reaccreditation decision is the culmination of a two-year process that included a self-study involving UI faculty, staff and students. The final step in the process was a three-day campus visit by an NCA evaluation team, which took place Feb. 23-25, 1998.

The reaccreditation recommendation was approved without qualification, which means that no progress, monitoring or contingency reports will be required until the UI's next comprehensive evaluation, which is scheduled for 2007-08.

The report cited 14 areas of strength, including "a strong and supportive relationship with the citizens of Iowa," and a "commitment to quality, dedication, vision and planning by the [State] Board of Regents." It also cites faculty, staff and students who are "talented, productive and enthusiastic about the role the institution plays in their lives and the opportunities it provides."

The evaluation team noted that most UI classes are taught by full-time faculty "who care about the education of their students," and declared that the quality of service available to students through the Office of the Vice President for Student Services is a "notable strength."

In addition, the team praised the UI Foundation for working effectively with the UI "to raise the private funding essential to the maintenance and continued improvement in the excellence of the institution."

The report also notes six areas of concern, including a backlog of building repairs and renovation projects, questions about the UI's ability to retain its top faculty members who may be offered opportunities at other universities, and the necessity for improvements to UI Libraries. The evaluation team also suggested that the UI pay "significant attention to the personnel and maintenance funding requirements" that will accompany the expanding use of computer technology.

The consultant team that was invited to examine the UI's use of information technology offered several suggestions but noted that the "UI is moving in the right direction." The consultants suggested that the UI streamline campus governance of information technology, complete the campus fiber-optic wiring project, and thoroughly assess the issue of computer connectivity for students in residence halls and off campus.

"I am very pleased that the North Central Association's evaluators have recognized the significant progress the University of Iowa has made over the past 10 years," said UI President Mary Sue Coleman. "That progress is a tribute to our faculty, staff, students.

"It is especially gratifying to hear that the NCA evaluation team felt our arrangements to facilitate their work were outstanding," she added. "Provost Jon Whitmore and his staff can take great pride in knowing that the evaluation team spoke so highly of them.

"We have some real successes that are worth celebrating, but we must acknowledge that this report also gives us a useful assessment of those areas where improvement is needed," Coleman added. "We will work diligently to address all of those issues."

"It is important to remember that we used a new mechanism offered by the NCA by which a group of consultants advised us on the application of information technology to teaching and learning," said Christopher Squier, professor and associate dean in the College of Dentistry and chair of the UI self-study committee. The special emphasis consultation is offered only to NCA institutions in good standing, he noted.

"Information technology in the learning environment is an area with which almost every educational institution is struggling," Squier said. "It is useful to be reminded of this and to know that we are headed in the right direction."

In making reaccreditation decisions, NCA evaluation teams use five basic criteria:
* Clear and publicly stated purposes consistent with the university's mission and approach to an institution of higher education
* Effective organization of the human, financial, and physical resources necessary to accomplish its purposes
* Evidence that the university is accomplishing its educational and other purposes
* Evidence that the university can continue to accomplish its purposes and strengthen its educational effectiveness
* Demonstrated integrity in its practices and relationships

For the special emphasis on information technology, the NCA consultants reviewed the UI self-study and interviewed President Coleman, vice presidents, three members of the Board of Regents, the director and associate director of Information Technology Services, deans and associate deans, and heads and staff of the UI Library. The consultants also held open meetings in which they talked with assorted faculty, staff and students.

The complete evaluation report and special emphasis consultative report are available on the UI's web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~nca/.

1/19/99