Officials from Ocean County College are scheduled to sit down today with officials from Kean University to discuss the warning Kean has received about a potential loss of accreditation.
"We're meeting with Kean tomorrow," Carl V. Thulin, chairman of the OCC Board of Trustees, said after the trustees' meeting Monday at the college.
"There is no reason why these issues cannot be addressed," OCC President Jon Larson said. "Our goal is to move it along."
Kean, which has partnered with Ocean County College in the Kean@Ocean program to provide a direct path for OCC students to complete a four-year course of study at the community college's campus, has been placed on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
That partnership has OCC in the midst of various construction projects, including a $30 million Gateway building to create space at the Toms River campus to accommodate what officials expect will be an influx of students who will look to take advantage of the ability to obtain a bachelor's or even a master's degree without leaving the OCC campus.
During Kean's 10-year accreditation renewal review a year ago, the Middle States commission issued a warning that Kean lacked adequate means to assess whether students and the school itself are meeting goals.
Kean was given until March to correct the issues. Middle States required the university to create "an organized and sustainable assessment process" to evaluate and improve institutional effectiveness, as well as show that feedback is being used to improve programs and services, and assess student achievement for progress and to improve teaching methods, among other issues.
A followup inspection in April by Middle States investigators found some steps were taken, but that much of what was done lacked specifics and evidence, according to the report, which can be found on the Kean website. The followup report laid out specific items to be accomplished and said they must be done by this coming fall.
The April report also identified additional problems to be addressed, including issues relating to integrity and ethics. Kean has had other issues in the last year, including charges that its president, Dawood Farahi, falsified elements of his resume and an NCAA investigation that led to all 13 of its sports programs being placed on probation and the women's basketball team being banned from postseason play for the upcoming year.
Kean was placed on in late June and warned it must take corrective action or lose its accreditation, which would mean students could not transfer credits or degrees elsewhere, making it difficult to pursue graduate degrees. A loss of accreditation would result in Kean students being ineligible for federal financial aid as well.
On its website, Ada Morell, chair of the Kean board of trustees, insists the university is working hard to address the issues raised by the Middle States commission.
"I assure you that each and every faculty, staff and administrator at Kean is working tirelessly to produce results for Middle States that are reflective of our world-class institution," she writes. "When this process is complete, Kean will emerge a stronger university due to the collective efforts of our campus community."
Larson said OCC officials are concerned, but firmly believe the issues will be addressed.
Most of the issues are common problems that arise, Larson said, and easily fixable. "Some of the issues are unusual, but they are fixable," he said.
A lack of response to the issues by Kean is unlikely, he said.
"Losing accreditation is a death sentence," Larson said. "No institution wants to have that happen."
"I have every confidence they (Kean officials) understand that fully," Larson said, and will take the necessary corrective action.