The university earned the maximum 10-year period until its next review by WASC's Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. Accreditation by the nonprofit association means the university has been judged by outside reviewers to be operating at a high level of quality consistent with its mission.
"I am very pleased with the outcome of this review," said CSUN President Jolene Koester (right). "Since our last evaluation a decade ago, the university has made significant progress on many of its important objectives. That the campus was able to do so despite the major disruptions of the 1994 earthquake is a true testament to the quality and dedication of our faculty and staff."
The accrediting commission notified the university of its action by letter. The decision capped a two-and-a-half year review process that included an extensive self-evaluation by the university, an April 4-7 campus visit by a WASC evaluation team and, lastly, consideration by the commission at its June 22-23 meeting in San Francisco.
"The Commission was pleased to note that since the last comprehensive visit in November 1990, CSUN has made significant progress in many areas, having taken seriously the [past] recommendations of the Commission," said Ralph Wolff, executive director of the accrediting commission, in his notification letter to the campus.
Wolff added, "Particularly impressive is the improvement in the advising program, which is now at the heart of the University's student success system, and the transformation of the University's budget system from a closed, 'top-down' approach to one that is not only linked to strategic planning, but also highly participatory and involving the entire campus community. The Commission commends CSUN for these accomplishments, among others."
The WASC evaluation team, in its review, likewise had praise for the university. "The team believes that California State University, Northridge continues to meet and, in most cases, exceed the goals it has set for itself CSUN continues to provide exceptional quality education to the students of the San Fernando Valley and beyond. The University stands as a model to other public urban institutions of higher education who have the mission of establishing a learning-centered institution."
Accreditation is an important process for universities in the United States because it enables students attending accredited campuses such as CSUN to receive federal financial aid and know that their coursework will be accepted elsewhere should they transfer. WASC is the federally recognized accrediting agency for public and private universities in California, Hawaii and Guam.
With the encouragement of WASC, Cal State Northridge conducted a thematic self-evaluation titled "Becoming a Learning-Centered University." CSUN's 203-page report focused on three important areas for the future: promoting student achievement, utilizing technology to enhance learning, and assessing student learning in academic and co-curricular programs. The university's report won high praise from WASC for making a "significant contribution" to the emerging trend in accreditation of focusing more on educational effectiveness and student learning.
Regarding the promoting achievement theme, Wolff wrote, "The Commission particularly commends CSUN for its success in graduating students of color," citing the university's high ranking in national surveys. He credited CSUN's Summer Bridge program that prepares incoming students, its multicultural emphasis in academic programs and substantial advising and mentoring support.
Regarding the utilizing technology theme, Wolff said the commission noted "how the 1994 earthquake provided the University with an opportunity to 'reinvent itself around technology' " and how the review team found CSUN had "performed exceptionally well in equipping the campus technologically in preparation for the information age." For the future, the commission urged the university to set technology priorities to make the best use of available resources.
Regarding the assessing student learning theme, Wolff wrote, "The Commission commends CSUN for the progress made in assessing student learning, including the development of a campus assessment policy" For the future, the commission urged CSUN to work on a university-wide assessment plan, focus on assessing General Education courses and improve collaboration in some areas.
President Koester said the university will continue working in many ways to improve its programs and increase student achievement, including considering the latest recommendations from WASC. She also thanked her predecessors, Provost Louanne Kennedy and former President Blenda Wilson, for helping keep CSUN focused on student success.
"The mission statement of the university commits Cal State Northridge to helping students realize their educational goals," the president said. "The WASC report is a strong confirmation that we are on the right path. Now we need to build on our past success and use it as a steppingstone to provide an even better education for our students in the future."