• WSCUC Newsletter: July 2020

    July 15, 2020 - WSCUC

Table of Contents


Letter from the President

I opened my latest letter to WSCUC CEOs and ALOs this way: “In this difficult and busy time, I am glad to write with good news.” I’ll start with that same good news, and happily I have some additional positive developments to report.

At its June meeting WSCUC elected new leadership and thanked departing commissioners.

  • Phillip Doolittle, Executive Vice Chancellor of Finance & Administration and CFO, Brandman University, will chair the Commission for three years.
  • Tracy Poon Tambascia, Professor of Clinical Education, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, will serve as vice chair and secretary.
  • The new treasurer is Jeb Egbert, co-president, West Coast University.
  • Here you’ll see our announcement of five new Commissioners – Lauren Asher (consultant; public member), Anita Enriquez (University of Guam), Mary Marcy (Dominican University), Shawn Whalen (College Futures Foundation; public member) and Kim Wilcox (UC Riverside), and here are the new committee chairs.
  • The Commission also thanked outgoing commissioners, and specifically Chair Reed Dasenbrock, Professor of English, University of Hawaii at Manoa, for his strong leadership on behalf of students and rigorous accreditation.

You probably know that a harsh and irresponsible federal directive affecting international students from the Department of Homeland Security was rescinded, following widespread criticism from higher education and extensive press. WSCUC joined an amicus brief in the Harvard-MIT challenge to the provision. Continued vigilance will be needed as revised restrictions could still be issued.

WSCUC is intensifying our work on critical priorities. Following on our statement on “George Floyd & Accreditation” the Commission spent a good part of its June meeting exploring actions we can take as an accreditor and as educators to reduce systemic racism and promote justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. We also have important work underway, funded by the Lumina Foundation, to increase use and value of evidence across all stages of institutional reviews to promote student success. And we’re working to assure the effectiveness of remote reviews, and the value of our educational programming and guidance on quality and adaptation.

As you are aware, the federal Department of Education extended permission for schools to provide instruction remotely through December 31. While guidance has not been issued concerning winter and spring terms, if necessary WSCUC will develop an expedited process for approval to continue remote instruction beyond December. In addition, following effective spring remote visits, we have made the decision to conduct all campus site visits remotely for the fall term. See more information regarding our response to COVID here.

You recall that in February WSCUC was the first regional accreditor to announce that it would consider institutions from beyond our historic borders, having recently reopened international applications for accreditation. The Commission is committed to maintaining WSCUC’s leadership and innovation, rigorous standards, and support for the current community of institutions as these changes evolve. To assure that we act responsibly and fairly in this changing accreditation landscape (a second regional accreditor recently shifted to national scope), WSCUC in June adopted an Antitrust Policy committing the organization to comply with, and avoid conduct that would violate the letter or spirit of, the antitrust and unfair trade practices laws.

Finally, on a practical note, the Commission voted to hold institutional dues and fees flat for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which began July 1. In developing this year’s budget, the Commission paid primary attention to the serious economic stresses facing member institutions, including the effects of the pandemic on enrollment, other revenue, expenses, and pervasive uncertainty. The Commission will also hold salaries and other expenses flat for the year.

Please help us be of maximum value to you and to higher education. What can we do better? What do you need? Would you like to get involved with WSCUC, or have a good idea to share?

Hoping you have some other good news in your lives, too. With best wishes from WSCUC to you and your campus community,

Jamie's Signature
Jamienne S. Studley


Commission Policy Updates: June 2020

WSCUC is seeking public comments on proposed changes to three policies that have been impacted by changes in federal regulations that took effect on July 1, 2020. Click the links below for more information about each policy. Please send comments to policies@wscuc.org by Monday, September 28, 2020. Revised policies reflecting comments will be reviewed and considered for adoption by the Commission in November 2020.

Credit Hour Policy

The Credit Hour Policy was scheduled to be revised in 2018, but work was halted when it became apparent that credit hour would be a topic for federal negotiated rulemaking. The new regulations revise the federal definition of credit hour and require accrediting agencies only to approve an institution’s definition. WSCUC in the past has reviewed an institution’s credit hour policy, processes, and procedures. The Commission decided to continue this practice, while emphasizing measurement of student learning and academic engagement, not “seat time,” and being open to innovative approaches to understanding student work and engagement. The Credit Hour Policy has been revised to reflect the new federal definition of credit hour and to clarify how an institution’s credit hour policy and procedures will be reviewed.

Staff contact: Barbara Gross Davis

Teach-Out Plans and Agreements Policy

In February 2019, the Teach-Out Plans and Agreements Policy was revised and the companion Teach-Out Plans and Agreements Guide was created. With the recent changes to federal regulations, the policy and guide have been revised to:

  • Expand the circumstances that require a teach-out plan (e.g., achieving Candidacy; appearing on the Heightened Cash Monitoring list; being placed on probation or show cause);
  • Establish the requirements for teach-out plans (e.g., notifying students about Closed School Discharge of Federal Loans; describing the records retention plan);
  • Clarify the characteristics that make an institution suitable or unsuitable to serve as a teach-out receiving institution.

In addition to regulatory changes, the Commission added another circumstance that may trigger a teach-out plan if “an institution lacks sufficient resources to operate in accordance with the Commission’s Standards or any time it determines that a teach-out plan is appropriate to safeguard the interests of students.”

The Commission has also added its expectations that institutions submitting teach out plans will:

  • Report arrangements they have made to fund expenses that commonly arise at closure (e.g., arranging transcript protection; advising services; communicating to students about their options), and
  • Provide students with their academic records even if they have outstanding balances due to the institution.

The Commission especially welcomes your comments about additional ways to assure student protections and good practices when an institution closes.

Staff contact: Barbara Gross Davis

Substantive Change Policy

This policy has been extensively revised to conform to new federal regulations, to increase transparency, and to clarify practices and protocols and will be available for review August 3 here. Changes include:

  • Expanding the circumstances that trigger a substantive change (e.g., launching a direct assessment program; changing the measurement of student progress such as converting from the quarter to the semester system);
  • Specifying additional requirements for structural change proposals, including analysis and evaluation of student success outcomes;
  • Identifying conditions that trigger additional types of reviews;
  • Providing more details about substantive change procedures for each type of change: new programs and adjustments to existing programs; changes to organizational structure including mission, ownership, legal status or control; and requests for off-campus locations;
  • Clarifying the language on agreements with unaccredited entities; and
  • Updating the definitions of off-campus locations.

Staff contacts: Barbara Gross Davis and John Hausaman


Key Indicators Reports

Key Indicators Reports: Driving Analysis and Improvement Through Inquiry

WSCUC is developing systematic pathways for increased use of evidence and outcomes data to drive institutional improvement and student success as part of its commitment to promote “Better Conversations, Better Data.” Since January 2020, with funding support from the Lumina Foundation and in consultation with WSCUC institutions and national experts, WSCUC has piloted a process to provide institutions, review teams, and the Commission with standardized data with common, relevant, and timely outcome metrics or “key indicators” (KI). The KI Reports cover a wide range of topics: institutional size and context, student completion, student finances, institutional finances, and postgraduation outcomes.

WSCUC is currently in the process of receiving feedback on the KI Reports from all WSCUC accredited institutions. This feedback will be incorporated in future iterations of the report. Many institutions appreciated this clear presentation of common data elements, and many provided important feedback that will be incorporated into the reports.

The KI Reports promote rigorous and consistent data analysis and consideration as part of the comprehensive accreditation review, not as bright lines but to put performance in context and assure that WSCUC Standards are being met. The goals of the KI Reports are to help institutions, team members, and Commissioners effectively use the data to:

  • Stimulate conversations that lead to continuous improvement;
  • Support insightful and constructive lines of inquiry;
  • Encourage informed conversations about programs, processes, priorities, strengths, and challenges with institutions;
  • Contribute to understanding whether institutions are meeting the Standards;
  • Place current institutional performance in the context of past performance;
  • Invite institutions to complement the KI with additional data they use to illuminate their effectiveness; and
  • Identify performance trends that may need attention.

WSCUC has also developed training and information materials to provide background about how to use the Key Indicators (KI) Reports during an institutional review. These materials are located here.

All data points are from publicly available sources such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the College Scorecard or the WSCUC Annual Report.

If you have any questions regarding these reports or this process, please send them to data@wscuc.org.


Education Programming Updates

Assessment Leadership Academy

WSCUC welcomed the 11th Cohort into the Assessment Leadership Academy last month. As our institutions have done, the ALA rapidly shifted to an all-online mode of instruction with meetings in June and August. Participants, facilitators, and guest faculty have made the transition and continue to exemplify the quality that has always characterized the ALA. The 10-month ALA experience is designed to develop skill and leadership in teaching, learning, and assessment practices.

Educational Programs Workshops

WSCUC has hosted a series of online workshops over the past several months and is developing programming for the 2020-2021 academic year. Information about events we have hosted is available here:

We are continuing to monitor the developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic and will develop programming consistent with best practices for health and safety. We will keep you informed about plans for workshops and for WSCUC’s 2021 Academic Resource Conference – and please visit WSCUC’s Educational Programs website for more information.

Staff contact: David Chase


Staff Updates

WSCUC is pleased to share the appointment of Chuck Walz to the WSCUC staff as Research and Data Manager. Chuck came to WSCUC from Notre Dame de Namur University where he served as Director of Institutional Research. Prior to his career in Institutional Research, Chuck held a variety of positions over more than 25 years in higher education admissions, financial aid and enrollment management encompassing all levels of administration from counselor to vice president. During all his years in higher education, Chuck has made the effective use of data central to his goal of improving student success. With family roots in Chile, Chuck spent two years in Chile and Spain teaching English as a Second Language and learning Spanish after earning his BA from the University of Iowa. He later earned an MA in Educational Administration from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.


In Case You Missed It: Notable News, Articles & Reports

  • OpenSmartEDU.org: COVID-19 Planning and Self-Assessment Guide for Higher Education
    At a time when institutions are struggling to plan for and adapt to a rapidly changing environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this guide provides planning and organizational tools to help decide when to open and what resources are needed.
  • AACRAO: COVID-19 Crisis Practices
    Addressing topics crucial to understanding the implications of the pandemic – from admissions, to transcripts, to transfer credit, and more – AACRAO provides general parameters to follow to allow flexibility and compassion during disruption.
  • Inside Higher Ed: The Shift to Remote and What’s Ahead for Fall: Your Turn
    Doug Lederman provides readers’ responses to IHE articles regarding what fall might look like for institutions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Readers share “feasible” ideas for a fall instructional model with students on campus but physically distancing.”
  • US Department of Education: Program Information: FAQs and Responses Higher Education
    A ‘must-bookmark’ page for the latest information from USDE regarding COVID-19 guidance related to regulatory flexibilities, interruptions of study, Federal Student Aid, and CDC links.
  • NACUBO: Coronavirus Guidance for Colleges
    “This page is devoted to resources that address college and university business office operations and responses to disruptions caused by coronavirus.”


WSCUC Commission Calendar

  • Fall 2020 Commission Meeting
    November 4-6, 2020
  • Spring 2021 Commission Meeting
    February 17-19, 2021