|Edison State College Response Report to the Visiting Committee|
|Standard 1: The Principle of Integrity|
Recommendation 1:The committee recommends that the institution provide evidence that they have safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of its academic programs and all operations.
Edison State College Response:
The On-site SACS-COC Reaffirmation Committee noted the following:
Edison State College has maintained the highest standards of integrity since its founding, and all appropriate steps have been taken to regain the trust of its students, staff, community, partners, and accreditation bodies. As the record shows, the core issues that resulted in findings of non-compliance include the following: (i) the violation of its existing policies in a small number of AS programs, which was discovered at the height of its reaffirmation efforts, and (ii) the resulting confusion and failure to disclose the problem in the Certification of Compliance Report submitted in March 2011.
The following actions have been taken to address the issues of integrity brought forward by the On-site reaffirmation committee.
A. Course Substitutions
Efforts to stop the practice of awarding inappropriate substitutions began immediately after the discovery of this violation of good educational practice. Academic administrators and Registrar’s Office staff reviewed a sample of course substitutions completed over the last five years to determine the nature of processed course substitutions and the frequency within particular degree programs. This process revealed that the majority of the inappropriate course substitutions were isolated to the following three Associate in Science programs: Accounting Technology, Drafting and Design Technology, and Business Administration and Management. The Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Erin Harrel, appointed a committee of academic administrators and the College Registrar to review the files of graduates and current students within each of these academic units.
Immediately after the discovery of the inappropriate substitutions, the VPAA established a committee to review all requests on course substitutions and course waivers. This committee has been meeting to review all course substitutions, and has done so in a consistent manner under the current interim VPAA effective November 4, 2011. Sign-in sheets and Substitution Logs document the committee’s work and the nature of any approved requests [ 1 ]
[ 1a ]. Recognizing that the integrity violation spanned recommendations in Principles of Accreditation 2.7.2, 3.4.5 and 3.5.3, three Response Teams addressed integrity from differing perspectives, contributing to the overall response.
In addition, the College contracted with consultant Dr. Thomas Furlong to assist in comparing Edison’s policies, procedures and practices with those of similar SACS- accredited institutions. Dr. Furlong has served in a number of college leadership roles and has guided similar institutions through the SACS-COC reaffirmation and Level change processes. He brings a wealth of knowledge from his association with the Florida College System.
New Course Substitution Process
A SACS Response Team consisting of academic administrators and faculty formed to review and clarify the course substitution process [ 2 ]. They began by reviewing the existing College Operating Procedures governing the awarding of course substitutions [ 3 ] and recommending revisions [ 4 ]. The resulting College Operating Procedure for Course Substitutions has been vetted through the Academic Deans’ Council, Student Services Council, and the Academic Standards Committee [ 5 ].
The COP now requires documented evidence that at least 70% of the prescribed course outcomes have been met by the substituted course (as supported by AACRAO) [ 6 ]. This requirement must be reviewed and approved first by a faculty member most familiar with the course level content, then by the Department Chair, the Academic Associate Dean, the Academic Dean, and finally by the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The completed course substitution approval form is processed and maintained by the Office of the Registrar.
The new process abridges past practice that led to the recommendation, including inadequate scrutiny of course substitution requests by either faculty in the discipline or academic officers at the dean’s level or above. Despite immediate corrective actions, College staff interviewed by the On-site Committee in November failed to provide sufficient evidence of implementation.
In addition to creating the course substitution committee and updating the course substitution forms and College Operating Procedures, all discipline areas conducted a review of current program requirements. These reviews were cross-referenced with Catalog pages and the College’s graduation audit system, known as CAPP. CAPP is an audit program within Banner, the technology platform used by Student Services. As curriculum changes go through the appropriate approval process, CAPP is updated in the Registrar’s Office by the Associate Registrar. Through the review process, it was determined that CAPP had not been appropriately updated. In February 2012, the College employed a consultant to assist in updating CAPP and building each of the programs into DegreeWorks [ 7 ], the infrastructure that will afford comprehensive reporting and proactive student advising. In addition, each of the academic programs underwent an intense review. Auditors found evidence that the Catalog pages, advising sheets, and CAPP audit did not correlate appropriately. Further explanation of this process appears in Section C.
The academic unit of Edison State College is confident that the improvements integrated into this process will ensure consistent and appropriate practice. The Office of the Registrar will not process any course substitutions that lack a signature at any level of the process. Additionally, the committee on substitutions will continue to audit compliance with this process to ensure consistency across all academic programs. Monthly reports of approved course substitutions are compared to the committee’s recommendations. This additional step ensures that all course substitutions are vetted through the appropriate channels and receive the appropriate approvals prior to being processed
[ 8 ].
B. Follow-up with graduates
As was noted in the findings of the On-site Reaffirmation Committee, some students who graduated in three Associate in Science degree areas were awarded course substitutions unrelated to program level outcomes. To ensure that these students have not been harmed by the previous allowances, graduates (n=206) from Fall 2007 and thereafter, awarded any course substitutions prior to the conferring of an AS degree in Business Administration and Management, Accounting Technology, and Drafting and Design Technology, received a letter of inquiry from the College [ 9 ]. The letter invited the recipient to respond to a survey [ 10 ] to note any academic or professional challenges encountered after graduation, and to offer appropriate support to correct academic deficiencies. Additionally, an email version of the letter was sent to the students on March 23, 2012 to further encourage feedback [ 11 ]. As of March 26, 2012, 16 students had responded to the survey. The respondents graduated from ESC between May 2009 and August 2011. Eleven graduates noted that they are currently employed. All graduates indicated that they have not experienced any professional or academic deficiencies related to a course substitution they received. Additionally, eight graduates have continued on to a higher level academic program.
Although response rates have been positive, we will continue to seek feedback from our graduates and will provide the students who note academic deficiencies with an opportunity to complete coursework or receive tutoring as appropriate. The Edison State College Foundation has established a fund to support the students who were previously granted courses substitutions within the three aforementioned degree programs, to cover any needed coursework. The funds established will contribute to tuition and fees associated with enrollment in eligible courses [ 12 ].
C. Undergraduate Program Review
A Response Team consisting of faculty, staff and academic department chairs formed to review all academic programs and curriculum (Core Requirement 2.7.2) [ 13 ]. This Response Team provided additional, independent review of program requirements, curriculum changes, College Catalog language, advising resources and degree audit systems [ 14 ] [ 15 ].
Under the leadership of the Dean of Professional and Technical Studies and Edison Online, undergraduate requirements of all Associate in Science programs as well as baccalaureate programs in health, business and public safety fields have undergone program review and revision (Comprehensive Standard 3.5.3). A team of academic administrators and staff analyzed a sample of course substitutions over the past five academic years, reviewed the existing College Operating Procedures, and scrutinized the Course Substitution Form and paperwork to improve all processes. Their work was completed in collaboration with the Response Teams. As past practice ceased, and students were no longer eligible to receive course substitutions unrelated to specific program content and outcomes, a proactive advising strategy was implemented [ 16 ]. Students who had earned 45 or more credit hours and had been previously notified of approval for course substitutions by former academic administrators were advised and supported in the academic planning process [ 17 ].
Dean Myers, along with faculty within each Associate in Science degree program, addressed all curriculum changes through the College’s curriculum review and approval process [ 18 ]. Many of these adopted revisions have addressed areas within the curriculum that clarify coursework intended to meet program level and general education outcomes, as well as defining areas where students may choose to take general elective courses [ 19 ].
D. Submission of inaccurate information
From the first moment that the inappropriate substitutions were discovered, a chain of events related to our response to them has resulted in numerous changes at the institutional level. Some of these changes originated with the Governor of the State of Florida, who revamped the membership of the District Board of Trustees of Edison State College; other decisions, related to personnel actions, were made by the Board, which changed the makeup of the administrative team.
In addition to contracting competent and respected consultants, financial support has been secured for the hiring of new full time faculty and for filling vacant administrative and staff positions. The 2012 legislature has completed its session and the 2012-2013 appropriations and tuition allowed is known to Edison and the Board. The decisions made to fund new faculty positions and any others necessary to assure SACS-COC recommendations are addressed are made with confidence and assurance that the finances will be available.
While the Institution cannot fix, after the fact, the issue of the submission of inaccurate information, it is taking all steps necessary to ensure that this does not occur again. College administrators and Academic Department Chairs received ethics training on March 23, 2012 to equip them with strategies to ensure the application of the highest standards in upholding all College Operating Procedures. A follow-up session is scheduled for Fall 2012. The implementation of ethical training will reinforce College expectations of all employees, and reaffirm the importance of professional conduct and ethical standards in the workplace.
The revision and adoption of curriculum in the undergraduate academic programs, and the changes implemented relating to the substitution of course requirements completely address the integrity recommendation finding by the On-site Reaffirmation Committee. Edison State College is committed to maintaining the integrity of its academic programs as well as the policies and procedures that guide practice. Vigilance in these matters is assured.
| Couse Sub Sign-in Sheets||Course Substitution Committee Meeting Sign-in sheets|
|VPAA Substitution Log|
| SACS Response Team Members||List of SACS Response Team Members by Standard|
| COP 06-0217 Course Substitutions||Current College Operating Procedure for Course Substitutions|
| COP 06-0217 Course Substitution 3/27/2012||Revised Course Substitution COP with approvals|
| 3.4.5 Vetting Process of COP||Review process of proposed course substitution COP|
| AACRAO Report||Report prepared by AACRAO consultant|
| ST Trip Reports||CAPP consultant reports from February visits|
|Monthly reports of processed course substitutions 11/1/11 through 3/20/12|
| A.S. Course Substitution Graduate letter||Letter sent to select graduates of A.S. programs who received course substitutions|
| A.S. Graduate Survey||Survey results of graduates through 3/26/12|
| Copy of email sent to A.S. graduates||Follow-up email to A.S. graduates who had also been mailed a formal letter|
| Course Substitution Scholarship Memorandum||Memorandum from Foundation noting scholarship fund for students who had received A.S. substitutions|
| 2.7.2 Response Team Members||List of members and programs under review|
| 2.7.2 Program Content Checklist Form||Form utilized by program faculty and staff to review degree requirements against degree audit and Catalog|
| 2.7.2 Program Content Pertinent Emails||Email correspondence within the 2.7.2 Response Team regarding review of undergraduate requirements|
| Advising Strategy||Strategy and advising meeting minutes|
| Advising Sessions||List of A.S. students, notes and advisors assigned|
| Curriculum Committee Summary Reports||Documentation of action taken by the Curriculum Committee|
| Updated A.S. Program Pages||Program requirements for A.S. degrees|