WVU re-accredited, but Tech nursing school flagged

The West Virginia University campus in Morgantown.

West Virginia University has officially been re-accredited, affirming the school’s academic programs until its next Higher Learning Commission review in 2023.

However, the HLC — which oversees colleges in 19 states, including West Virginia — will require continued monitoring of issues concerning the university’s assessment practices and its nursing program at the WVU Tech campus in Montgomery.

In a letter to WVU President Gordon Gee last month, HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley called WVU Tech’s passing rate for nursing students “unacceptable” and also calls for WVU to demonstrate a stronger “culture of assessment.”

WVU is now required by the HLC to submit an assignment of duties for a director of assessment by 2016 and also a plan of future goals for the Tech nursing program “in order to avoid recurrence of this issue.”

In a statement on Monday, Gee said appropriate action is underway for the two issues in question and that “these are realistic expectations.”

“I believe what the commission found was a university on the move,” Gee said.

The first-time passage rate for nursing students taking a licensing exam at WVU Tech last year was about 81 percent, with the average rate for the past three years around 84 percent, according to WVU Tech spokeswoman Jen Wood Cunningham.

Those numbers were initially lower, though, and now include at least six students who first failed the exam and have since retaken it, Cunningham said.

In 2012, RN candidates across the state had about an 89 percent pass rate, just below the national average of 90 percent, according to the West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses.

WVU Tech has implemented several changes in recent years to increase its scores, establishing a new nursing training center inside Montgomery General Hospital last month.

“Now all of the students are learning everything hands-on from the beginning,” Wood-Cunningham said. “We’ve upgraded equipment and assessed the curricula and we’re ensuring students are getting everything they need to do well not only on the exam, but in their careers.”

WVU’s institutional re-accreditation process started in 2011 and included site visits, public comment, inner-university assessment and several meetings with faculty and staff.

“We are pleased with the continuation of accreditation... This final designation shows our commitment to the standards of accreditation and the value we place on the self-study process as a way to improve and to learn from those with an external perspective,” WVU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce McConnell said in a statement.

The HLC evaluates WVU a minimum of once every 10 years and grants accreditation for a maximum of 10 years.

For more information, visit https://www.ncahlc.org.

Reach Mackenzie Mays

at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4814

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