St. Cloud State University has a long and rich history of accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission/North Central Association. St. Cloud State University originally received accreditation in 1915 and remained accredited until 1930. It resumed accreditation in 1947. The most recent comprehensive evaluation was in 1997.
Recommendations from the 1997 Comprehensive Evaluation
At the last comprehensive visit, the evaluation team made three recommendations:
1. That the university submit a progress report on assessment by fall 2000
In November 2000 the university submitted its progress report, Report on Assessment to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). (Report available in Resource Room) The commission, in accepting the report, noted the formative stage of development regarding assessment, unevenness in identifying measurable outcomes, and competing commitments for assessment. The commission called for an update to address these matters. In August 2004 St. Cloud State University submitted its Progress Report Focused on Assessment to the HLC. (Report available in Resource Room) The report reviewed the progress related to assessment at the university since the previous report in November 2000. HLC staff accepted the report and noted progress in this endeavor. (See Criterion 3)
2. That a team from the commission make a site visit to the program in Akita, Japan
In late 1999 the Board of Trustees of MnSCU authorized discontinuation of the AA degree at Akita and a suspension of the 25-year agreement with the Akita Prefecture under which the program was offered. In an exchange of letters between St. Cloud State University and NCA in November 1999 and January 2000, NCA acknowledged that the university was not directly responsible for the AA program. Consequently the relationship between St. Cloud State University and MSU-Akita and the need for a site visit ended.
3. That the next comprehensive visit be in 2007
Institutional Concerns in the 1997 Comprehensive Evaluation
The report of the evaluation team identified four institutional concerns:
1. The existing database does not provide sufficient information and data to support effective planning and decision-making.
St. Cloud State University is working diligently to move to a system of using data to drive decision-making at all levels. This shift has been a major effort at the university and is addressed extensively in the report. One of the major initiatives developed in response to the concern was the establishment of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) to facilitate the integration of planning, institutional research, and assessment as outlined in the Strategic Plan. The role of the OIE has become more significant as all entities on campus are seeking to use data to make changes to enhance student learning on campus. The university has developed a data inventory, revised the system of data collection, and is developing a local management information system linked to the MnSCU data system. This local system allows for greater centralization in the storage of data and provides for customized user interface. See additional detail under Criterion Two.
2. Scholarship across the campus is extremely uneven. There is little indication that faculty members across the campus understand or embrace the Teacher-Scholar model, and support mechanisms need to be strengthened.
A culture of research and scholarship is a goal of St. Cloud State University’s leadership and is directly linked to one of the five performance indicators, Academic Distinction, of the Strategic Plan. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is very active on campus and supports and sustains a dynamic and energized teaching and learning community, embracing the Teacher-Scholar model. The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) energetically assists faculty in securing and administering research grants and organizes and administers workshops and seminars on grant writing, disseminates newsletters on grant deadlines, notifies faculty on up-coming grant opportunities, and helps scrutinize grant proposals. Colleges publicize faculty publications and other scholarly activities, and each has a research director who works with the Office of Sponsored Programs. A number of centers within colleges provide focal points for applied research. An incomplete but continuously updated list of publications by St. Cloud State University faculty has over 2,000 entries over the past five years. The emphasis on research extends to undergraduate and graduate students who have increased opportunities and in some instances financial support to conduct, present and receive recognition for research. Finally, the Office of Academic Affairs started publishing a newsletter, Accolades, in spring 2006 to publicize the scholarly accomplishments of the faculty. It also has sponsored sessions on research expectations at fall convocations for faculty. See additional detail under Criterion 4.
The university recognizes the importance of faculty and student collaboration in research and has worked diligently to offer education rich in both research and practice in preparing students for success. In 2004, St. Cloud State University budgeted $35,000 to support the annual Student Research Colloquium. This is a permanent, annual, line-item allocation. Approximately $5000 of this funding is used to support the annual event, and the remaining funds are used to provide research and creative activity grants for undergraduate and graduate students, up to $1500 per project. We believe that this is a level of student research funding unprecedented in Public MA I institutions. Over 300 students and faculty from across the disciplines have participated annually in the Colloquium, which features more than 200 posters and oral presentations each year.
3. There is mixed evidence of campus-wide assessment, student achievement measures are quite traditional, and few examples exist of outcome measures producing substantial change.
In recent years the university reinvigorated its commitment to and efforts in assessment. St. Cloud State University is working to build a strong infrastructure to create a culture of assessment and accountability. A full-time Director of Assessment has been appointed and support for assessment coordinators has been provided in each of the colleges. An Assessment Steering Committee has been established and is active in implementing the shift toward the culture of assessment and accountability across campus to improve student learning. The university also has created a General Education Assessment Committee and is in the process of hiring a Director of General Education Assessment. In 2006 the School of Graduate Studies appointed a Director of Graduate Student Services, a new position with a major responsibility for assessing graduate programs. In 2006 the university became a member of the inaugural cohort of institutions selected by the Higher Learning Commission for its Academy for Assessment of Student Learning. Participating in the Assessment Academy demonstrates a long-term commitment and allows the university to move forward in a systematic and deliberate manner with support from the Higher Learning Commission and peer institutions.
The movement toward a culture of assessment and accountability involves a major shift for all members of our campus community. St. Cloud State University is being deliberate and purposeful in this shift and is working to ensure that it is faculty-driven so that the changes will live on and be meaningful in teaching and have a positive impact on student learning. In 2000, just over half of the undergraduate academic programs had identified student learning outcomes. Findings from the University Assessment Report published in spring 2006 indicated approximately 93 percent of the academic programs at St. Cloud State University had identified learning goals and outcomes with three of the five colleges having 100 percent of their learning outcomes completed. All colleges have developed or are in the process of developing assessment plans. Assessment work, if done correctly, takes time to implement as it requires significant professional development and ongoing effort to ensure that the campus community truly believes that solid assessment will improve student learning. See additional detail under Criterion 3.
4. There is no assessment plan for the Bachelor of Elective Studies.
The Bachelor of Elective Studies is an individualized degree program that enables students to design their own programs in consultation with an advisor. Students choosing to pursue a B.E.S degree must state the rationale for pursing an individualized program and must develop a plan of study. A program within Elective Studies is subject to the same requirements as other bachelor’s degree programs at St. Cloud State University, including general education and an upper division writing requirement.
The Center for Continuing Studies (CS) has general responsibility for B.E.S. programs. The center directly oversees a non-disciplinary program currently called Self-Select. CS works with departments that choose to offer disciplinary majors or minors specifically designed for the B.E.S. Each department that offers a disciplinary B.E.S. is responsible for identifying and assessing learning outcomes in the program through the department’s regular processes for assessment. Each department also is responsible for establishing an upper division writing requirement for the program. A student who would like to earn the B.E.S., disciplinary or non-disciplinary, must work with an advisor in the center to develop a plan of study. The center is a full participant in the university’s assessment efforts.