Burke Olsen · July 26, 2008
In a letter sent this week to Southern Virginia University, the president of the American Academy for Liberal Education, the body that awarded accreditation to the university five years ago, announced that reaccreditation has been awarded for the usual five year period.
The AALE, which derives its authority from the U.S. Department of Education, accredits institutions that offer quality general education programs in the liberal arts that meet stringent educational, administrative and financial criteria.
“This represents the cumulative efforts of a campus community dedicated to providing a challenging and enriching liberal arts education in a wholesome LDS environment,” said Southern Virginia University President Rodney K. Smith. “The AALE recognizes the significant accomplishments we have made over the last five years and has helped us identify some of the goals we will work toward during the next five years.”
The application consists of an in-depth self-study, including assessments of student learning and the university’s core curriculum. The process also included an on-site visit from a team of academics and former college presidents who were sent to study the university more closely. During their visit, the site team met with students, faculty members and administrators, observed classroom instruction and held a meeting with Southern Virginia’s board of trustees.
“Receiving reaccreditation is helpful to the university in several important ways,” said Southern Virginia Executive Vice President and Provost Paul Edwards, who oversaw the application for reaccreditation. “First, it provides external validation of the rigorous academic experience we provide our students. Second, it helps unite the faculty and staff in a process of continual improvement. Third, it provides access to and input from educators and administrators at some of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country. Fourth, because the AALE receives its authority from the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation provides our students access to government grants and loans.”
In addition to applying for reaccreditation from the AALE, Southern Virginia University has applied for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional association that accredits institutions of higher education in the southeast and in Latin America.
Southern Virginia was previously accredited by SACS, but largely due to financial shortfalls that plagued the college in the early ‘90s, accreditation was withdrawn in 1996. The college closed its doors later that year, but reopened after a group of interested Latter-day Saints stepped forward and offered to accept responsibility for the institution’s assets and debts. The board of trustees transferred authority to a new board and 70 Latter-day Saint students enrolled that fall. Since then enrollment has swelled to more than 700.
Southern Virginia was pre-accredited by the AALE in 2000 and received full accreditation in 2003.
“Our graduates are going to top law, medical and business schools and are making a difference in the business world and in higher education,” said President Smith. “We are fulfilling our mission to prepare leader-servants in the workplace and the world, in the community and the church, and in the home.”