In a recent examination of the St. Cloud State Mass Communications department – one of the University’s most popular degrees, received full accreditation this past week, passing all of the required areas such as class structure, curriculum and appeals to diversity.
Jim Foote, professor of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma and a member of the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications says the process is done to ensure students are getting a diverse education and that faculty is keeping up to standard with rapid changes in modern technology.
“I think it’s important we have meetings like this, it gives us the chance to evaluate what the students are actually learning and gives them a chance to address any concerns they may have with faculty or the program itself,” Foote said.
The team comes in every six years to ensure that upkeep is consistent. There are nine specific standards that the council has to look over, which then breaks down into three generalized criteria, some of these include:
- Extra curricular opportunities for students that apply to what they are learning in the classroom.
- The experiences in those organizations are quality and robust and that there are plenty of organizations for students to choose from.
- Community involvement the department does to reach out to the campus and surrounding demographic in a way that is effective and helpful, especially in terms of reaching out to diverse populations.
There are also three different ways the accrediting process could come to a conclusion:
- The department receives full accreditation and goes on the councils permanent record.
- The department receives provisional accreditation — this means there are some issues with the program that need to be fixed in order to keep its standards. In these instances, colleges and universities have two years to fix the issues at hand before a provisional accrediting team comes in for a re-evaluation.
- The department fails the provisional accreditation and loses it after the provisional review, but Foote says the council rarely sees this happen.
The Mass Communications department at St. Cloud State University received provisional accreditation two years ago for lack of diversity, but have since recovered and are a fully accredited Mass Communications and Journalism institution.
While in most cases, programs like SCSU’s get the stamp of approval and won’t have to worry for the next six years. Foote says all institutions, no matter what their accreditation level is, will have strengths and weaknesses to evaluate for continuous improvement.
Despite the small victory for the department, it is still being affected by recent budget cuts from the College of Liberal Arts. The University has seen these cuts all across the board as it see less students staying for a full four years.
Mark Springer, Dean for the College of Liberal Arts said the institution is making a financial reduction to their operations budgets – these are specific accounts that pay for basic necessities such as office supplies, smaller equipment purchases and replacement of other various items, which could delay some purchases until next year. Springer says these expenses would not affect student media organizations.
He also said students within the department should not be worried about any programs being cut, due to program based tuitions that help pay for organizations like UTVS, KVSC and the University Chronicle.
While KVSC is a part of University Communications and not the actual Mass Communications department itself, UTVS and the University Chronicle are the primary consumers of the budget and won’t see any significant damages. Springer said those two organizations get funding from places students don’t necessarily think of.
“What many people don’t know is that Student Government money goes into all of these operations as well,” he said. “It’s not just program based tuitions and membership fees.”
Springer also noted while the cuts were made recently, theey will not affect the initial operations of the department or decision making around the department.