By Martha Nodar

“We are committed to continue to follow our plan of action and not waver,” said Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall upon learning the news of reaffirmation of accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Dec. 8.

When Oglethorpe’s reaffirmation of accreditation was up for review two years ago, the commission had some concerns with finances and assessments related to some requirements of the SACS’s “Principles of Accreditation.” As a result, the commission placed the Brookhaven school in warning status with a monitoring report due the following year. Meanwhile, the university remained fully accredited by the Department of Education, which relies on SACS’s recommendations.

The “Principles of Accreditation” is an embodiment of 77 standards by which the commission evaluates their member schools in the Southern states. A school must be in compliance with all of SACS’s core requirements to reaffirm its accreditation.

As reported by the Brookhaven Reporter on Jan. 23, 2009, the commission renewed its warning status for another year for Oglethorpe, because while improvements were noted, a few of the university’s requirements were not yet meeting SACS standards.

Now, two years after the initial warning, Schall said, all of the previous concerns have been resolved to the commission’s satisfaction.

“This is spectacular news that confirms what we have known all along—that Oglethorpe offers an education of the highest standards,” Schall said. “SACS was very impressed with our commitment to decrease expenses and increase revenue. Much of the success of our plan has depended on our ability to assess everything we do across every academic department and administrative division by applying a central system of monitoring assessment across campus.”

A spokesman for the commission said schools are responsible for keeping the momentum, and maintaining continuous compliance with accreditation standards. Reaffirmation of accreditation may be renewed for a maximum of 10 years at a time from the original date the school was scheduled to be reaffirmed. Oglethorpe’s next reaffirmation review will be in 2017 (10 years from the initial warning date).

In addition, the commission also requires an assessment review at the midpoint interval within those 10 years to ensure the school continues its systematic compliance with SACS’s standards.

Oglethorpe’s next assessment review will be in 2012, the midpoint interval between 2007 and 2017.

“In 2012, every department in Oglethorpe will have to assess how it’s doing,” said Mike Horan, Oglethorpe’s V.P. for business and finance, and adjunct lecturer in accounting.

The midpoint assessment is designed to give schools an opportunity to detect and correct any possible inconsistencies with SACS’s standards five years before their reaffirmation is up for review.

Jack Guynn, retired president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and a member of Oglethorpe’s board of trustees for almost a decade, said Schall had kept the board informed of everything since taking over the university in 2005.

“We have worked together with Larry,” Guynn said. “His business savvy and experience in the academic arena have been tremendous assets. The economy added to our own challenges and we had to work double hard. But, this has made the board to become all the more involved and the school all the stronger.”

Schall said his action plan, which the university began implementing in 2006, shortly after his arrival, took some time to fully develop and it is now in full bloom.

Horan reflected upon what the reaffirmation means to the Oglethorpe community: “We can finally move on, get back to business, and focus on what we do best—provide an education to our students.”