Florida Gulf Coast University |
SACS Self Study Report
Section I Principles and Philosophy of Accreditation IntroductionThe Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is the recognized regional accrediting body in the eleven U.S. Southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) and in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The Commission on Colleges is a representative body of the College Delegate Assembly and is charged with carrying out the accreditation processes. The College Delegate Assembly, which consists of one voting representative for each of approximately 800 member institutions, elects the 77-member Commission. The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes accreditation by the Commission on Colleges in establishing eligibility of higher education institutions to participate in programs authorized under Title IV of the 1992 Higher Education Amendments and other federal programs.
Accreditation is concerned principally with the improvement of educational quality throughout the region and ensuring to the public that institutions meet established regional standards. Accreditation of an institution by the Commission on Colleges signifies that the institution has a purpose appropriate to higher education and has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish its purpose on a continuing basis.
Accreditation by the Commission on Colleges is the result of thorough and careful evaluation of the educational quality of the institution. This qualitative evaluation depends heavily on the collective professional judgment of the faculty and administrative staff of the institution during the self-study process, peer review by a visiting committee, and final evaluation by the Commission. Professional judgment in the peer review goes beyond a simple compliance audit of the minimum requirements in the Criteria and provides for quality assurance in accreditation.
The task of accreditation is related to the traditional public philosophy of the United States that a free people can and ought to govern themselves and that they best do so through a representative, flexible and responsive system. Accordingly, the purposes of accreditation can best be accomplished through a voluntary association of educational institutions.
There are many issues to be considered at the regional level that might not be resolved as effectively in a state or national association. This does not in any way limit cooperation and exchange of ideas with other regional and professional accrediting associations which are largely parallel in aims and functions.
Regional accrediting agencies accredit the total institution. The accreditation of professional schools, divisions, departments or programs within complex institutions may be provided by other accrediting organizations. However, it is the responsibility of the Commission on Colleges to evaluate the work of specialized schools, divisions, departments or programs, even though they are accredited by the appropriate professional agencies. It is the prerogative of the Commission to accept or reject the evaluations of such agencies.
The Commission on Colleges supports the right of an institution to pursue its established educational purpose; the right of faculty members to teach, investigate and publish freely; and the right of students to have opportunities for learning. However, the exercise of these rights must not interfere with the overriding obligation of the institution to offer to its
students a sound education leading to a recognized certificates or degrees. Thus, criteria
and procedures for accreditation have been developed which are used in evaluating
an institution's educational effectiveness, defined in the broadest sense to include not
only instruction, but also effectiveness in research and public service where these are
significant components of an institution's purpose.
Initially and periodically, each member institution is required to conduct a self-study, which is subsequently evaluated at the institution by a committee of peer educators. This requirement helps ensure that an institution meets established standards of quality and that it evaluates the extent to which its educational goals are met. The successful fulfillment of this requirement, along with demonstrated compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and the Conditions of Eligibility, results in initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation.
The selfstudy program, begun by the Commission on Colleges in 1957, has proven successful in strengthening higher education in the South. Once each decade, member institutions, accredited by the Commission, conduct comprehensive self-examinations from which are formulated recommendations for future improvements. The studies involve participation by the faculty, administrative officers, staff, students and trustees in a close examination of the institution. At the culmination of the study, a visiting committee of peers from other institutions assesses the educational strength of the institution. The self-study and subsequent visiting committee evaluation rely on the qualitative judgment of professionals in the higher education community.
The Commission on Colleges is particularly concerned with follow-up procedures and often requires progress report resulting from the self-study and the committee visit. The Commission on Colleges reserves the right, with due notification to the institutions involved, to make special studies of and visits to member institutions when circumstances warrant. During the interval between reaffirmation committee visits to each institution which provides vocational education or training, the Commission will make at least one unannounced on-site inspection for the purpose of determining whether the institution has the personnel, facilities, and resources it claimed to have either during its previous on-site review or in subsequent reports to the Commission.
Accreditation is specific to an institution, is based on conditions existing at the time of the most recent evaluation, and is not transferable. When an institution changes the nature of its affiliation or its ownership, a substantive change review is required. (See Commission policy and procedure documents pertaining to substantive changes.)
The Commission's philosophy of accreditation precludes denial of membership to a degree-granting institution of higher education on any ground other than, in the professional judgment of peer reviewers, failure to conduct an acceptable self-study, failure to meet the Conditions of Eligibility, failure to comply with the Criteria of Accreditation established by the College Delegate Assembly, or failure to comply with the policies and procedures of the Commission. The Commission on Colleges applies the Criteria uniformly to applicant, candidate and member institutions regardless of type of institution.
In accordance with the procedures described in the Commission policy entitled "Appeals Procedures of the College Delegate Assembly," when an institution has grounds for appeal in the accreditation process, the chief executive officer of the institution may submit to the Executive Director a request for an appeal. The Executive Director will then arrange for a hearing according to established appeals procedures.
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is the newest of the ten public universities in Florida that currently offer programs leading to recognized certificates and degrees. The Florida legislature in 1991 authorized the establishment of FGCU as the state's tenth public university (Section 240.522(5), Florida Statutes).
According to the vision, purpose, and commitment statement, "Florida Gulf Coast University is dedicated to providing a learning-centered environment that offers the highest quality educational opportunities for the development of the knowledge, insights, competencies, and skills necessary for success in life and work." In order to assure the quality of the educational programs, university-wide student learning outcomes have been developed that are central components in the assessment of the effectiveness of these programs. FGCU's commitment to continued assessment and improvement of educational programs ensures that the university's overriding obligation is to provide a quality education to its students.
1.1 Institutional Commitment and Responsibilities in the Accreditation Process
DescriptionThe effectiveness of selfregulatory accreditation depends upon an institution's acceptance of certain responsibilities, including involvement in and commitment to the accreditation process. An institution is required to conduct a self-study at the interval specified by the Commission and, at the conclusion of the self-study, accept an honest and forthright peer assessment of institutional strengths and weaknesses. The Commission requires that the self-study assess every aspect of the institution; involve personnel from all segments of the institution, including faculty, staff, students, administration and governing boards; and provide a comprehensive analysis of the institution, identifying strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the Commission requires an adequate institutional follow-up plan to address issues identified in the selfstudy.
An institution must be committed to participation in the activities and decisions of the Commission. This commitment includes a willingness to participate in the decisionmaking processes of the Commission and adherence to all policies and procedures, including those for reporting changes within the institution. Only if institutions accept seriously the responsibilities of membership will the validity and the vitality of the accreditation process be ensured.
An institution of higher education is committed to the search for knowledge and its dissemination. Integrity in the pursuit of knowledge is expected to govern the total environment of an institution. Each member institution is responsible for ensuring integrity in all of its operations in dealing with its constituencies, in its relations with other member institutions, and in its accreditation activities with the Commission on Colleges. Each institution must provide the Commission access to all parts of its operation, and to complete and accurate information about the institution's affairs, including reports of other accrediting, licensing, and auditing agencies. In the spirit of collegiality, institutions are expected to cooperate fully during all aspects of the process of evaluation: preparations for site visits, the site visit itself, and the follow up to the site visit. Institutions are also expected to provide the Commission or its representatives with information requested and to maintain an atmosphere of openness and cooperation during evaluations, enabling evaluators to perform their duties with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
Each participating institution must be in compliance with its program
responsibilities under Title IV of the 1992 Higher Education Amendments. Failure to comply with Title
IV responsibilities will be considered when an institution is reviewed for initial
membership or continued accreditation. In reviewing an institution's compliance with these
program responsibilities, the Commission will rely on documentation forwarded to it by the
Secretary of Education.
Each institution seeking candidacy, membership, or reaffirmation with the Commission on Colleges must document its compliance with the Conditions of Eligibility as outlined in Section 1.4.
Beginning in the earliest planning stages of the institution, FGCU maintained continuous contact with the Commission on Colleges and has used COC policies and procedures in preparing for accreditation. An Application for Membership was first submitted in September 1996 and then revised in September 1997 in preparation for an October 1997 Candidacy Committee. The visiting committee determined that FGCU had a qualified faculty and met all conditions of eligibility. As a result, candidacy was granted in December of that year, retroactive to the formal opening of the institution on August 25, 1997; and FGCU was authorized to conduct a self-study.
As described in the introduction, the self-study involved personnel from all segments of the institution, including faculty, staff, students, and administration. The self-study focused on every aspect of Florida Gulf Coast University. This Self-Study Report is a comprehensive analysis of the university and contains an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses.
FGCU has on file with the Commission on Colleges a letter dated October 1, 1996, from President Roy E. McTarnaghan stating that the university is in agreement with the principles of accreditation, including the policies and procedures, the conditions of eligibility, and the criteria for accreditation. In so stating, the university has committed itself to the process of accreditation and agrees that it will comply with the Criteria for Accreditation. FGCU agrees to the disclosure of information requirements of the Commission and to comply with all Commission requests, directives, decisions, and policies. In so doing, FGCU signifies its understanding of the potential consequences of sanction by the Commission on Colleges for failure to comply.
Moreover, Florida Gulf Coast University is institutionally committed to a continual process of honest and detailed assessment as part of its culture. The Florida Gulf Coast University guiding principles states that "Assessment of all functions is necessary for improvement and continual renewal. The university is committed to accounting for its effectiveness through the use of comprehensive and systematic assessment. Tradition is challenged; the status quo is questioned; change is implemented." This philosophy can be found throughout the institution and is central to several defining documents, including for instance, the Faculty Performance Evaluation Document and the Strategic Plan The Use of Technology.
The university has also demonstrated its commitment to the Commission by supporting the faculty and staff who participate in the activities and decision-making processes of the Commission at its annual meetings, who present programs at COC meetings, and who serve on visiting committees.
Furthermore, Florida Gulf Coast University is committed to full cooperation with the COC in the accreditation process, and to providing, through this self-study and the accompanying documentation and during the committee visit, access to all parts of its operation. During the committee's assessment of the university, the faculty, staff, students, and administration will be available to the visiting team to offer accurate information and feedback that will allow an efficient, effective, and comprehensive evaluation.
The university has created an environment of educational integrity described in its vision, purpose, and commitment statement. According to the institutional commitment, Florida Gulf Coast University promotes an institutional culture that:
1. Fosters the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
2. Affirms academic freedom as the foundation for the transmission and advancement of knowledge.
3. Seeks excellence in both educational offerings and services.
4. Asserts that learner needs, rather than institutional preferences, should guide decisions concerning academic planning, policies, and programs.
5. Provides academic, student, and administrative support services designed to meet the needs of the university community.
6. Recognizes, encourages, and rewards quality teaching.
7. Enhances the growth of faculty by supporting teaching, scholarship, service, and professional development.
8. Encourages collaboration in learning, governance, operations, and planning.
9. Establishes mentor/advisor programs, particularly programs for undergraduates that include senior capstone projects or papers.
10. Recognizes that informed and engaged citizens are essential to the creation of a civil and sustainable society.
11. Affirms that diversity is a source of renewal and vitality.
All program responsibilities at FGCU are in compliance with Title IV of the 1992 Higher Education Amendments.
Furthermore, as the Candidacy Committee found in its October 1997 visit, FGCU is in compliance with the Conditions of Eligibility. Updated documentation for the conditions is provided in Section 1.4 of this Self-Study Report.
The university has documented its commitment to the accreditation process, its compliance with Title IV requirements, and its compliance with the thirteen Conditions of Eligibility. In addition, because of its commitment to the process of assessment and of accreditation, Florida Gulf Coast University will cooperate with the visiting team in an open manner in order to ensure a thorough evaluation of all aspects of the university.
1.2 Application of the Criteria
DescriptionThe Criteria for Accreditation applies to all institutional programs and services wherever located or however delivered. It is designed to guide institutions in all stages of membership from initial application through initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. Compliance with the Criteria of Accreditation is intended to help an institution achieve overall effectiveness and to ensure the quality of its educational programs. The Commission on Colleges shall apply the Criteria to all applicant, candidate, and member institutions regardless of the type of institution, whether for-profit, not-for-profit, private, or public. The Commission grants or reaffirms accreditation only to institutions which comply with the Criteria.
An institution must refrain from making a substantive change, defined as a significant modification in the nature or scope of the institution or its programs, except in accordance with the Commission's "General Substantive Change Policy for Accredited Institutions" and its attendant procedures. All existing or planned activities must be reported according to the policies, procedures and guidelines of the Commission and must be in compliance with the Criteria. If an institution fails to follow the procedures outlined in the above policy, its total accreditation will be placed in jeopardy.
The Commission on Colleges takes no position on collective bargaining agreements, neither encouraging nor discouraging them. When an institution's purpose, policies or procedures are modified by collective bargaining agreements, the modifications do not affect the application of the Criteria, the selfstudy, evaluation, and reporting processes. The impact of collective bargaining agreement will be included in accreditation processes when appropriate. When accreditation related recommendations or suggestions are sent to an institution, they are intended to strengthen the total institution, not to influence collective bargaining negotiations.
The Commission on Colleges maintains a policy and procedure for considering formal complaints regarding member or candidate institutions. (See Commission policy statement "Complaints Against Institutions.") Each institution must have adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints.
The Commission evaluates not only compliance with specific criteria but also the effectiveness of the institution as a whole and the environment in which teaching and learning occurs. Assessment of the overall effectiveness of an institution derived through the peer evaluation process, rather than simple compliance with specific criteria, shall be an overriding factor in the Commission's determination of whether to confer, or to continue, the accredited status of an institution. While peer evaluators representing the Commission must apply professional judgment in assessing compliance with the Criteria and assessing overall effectiveness, the final interpretation of the Criteria rests with the Commission.
Florida Gulf Coast University is committed to the process of accreditation and, as described more fully in the Introduction to this section, has utilized the Criteria for Accreditation as a basis for this Self-Study Report. Florida Gulf Coast University has engaged in the process of self-study and is committed to assessing the overall effectiveness of the institution and the quality of its educational programs. Additionally, the institution is committed to compliance with the Commission policies,
procedures, requests, directives, and decisions. Through the university's Division of Academic Affairs, the Commission will be informed of any substantive change in the scope of the institution or its programs, as described in the Commission's Substantive Change Policy.
The Student Guidebook describes the formal appeals process for academic grades. The university has an ombudsman who reports directly to the president and who is also available for students if they would like to submit a formal complaint.
The Student Guidebook describes the student grade appeals process; however, the scope of the appeals process should be expanded to include student complaints other than those related to grade disputes.
FGCU is committed to providing its students with a sound education of the highest quality. The university has conducted a self-study that is consistent with Commission on Colleges guidelines, addresses the Criteria for Accreditation, and assesses institutional effectiveness and the quality of educational programs. FGCU has demonstrated compliance with the Conditions of Eligibility and the university's commitment to the accreditation process.
S1.2-1 The Steering Committee suggests that each college develop, in accordance with the guidelines established in the Student Guidebook, a grievance process to include student complaints other than those related to grade disputes. Every effort should be made to inform the students and the faculty of the complaint process. It is suggested that the ombudsman assume responsibility for coordinating individual college procedures for addressing student complaints.
1.3 Separately Accredited Units
DescriptionAccreditation of an institution includes all its units wherever located. A unit of an institution may be separately accredited if a significant portion of responsibility and decision-making authority for its educational activities lies within the unit and not in other units of the institution or system.
It is the responsibility of the Commission on Colleges to determine, following consultation with the chief executive officer of the institution, whether the institution will be considered for accreditation as a whole or whether its units will be considered for separate accreditation, and how the evaluation will be conducted. A unit of an institution or system is eligible for separate accreditation if it is evident that it has a significant degree of autonomy and possesses the attributes which will enable it to comply with the requirements of the Criteria of Accreditation. A unit is required to apply for separate accreditation or to maintain a
separate membership if, in the judgment of the Commission, the unit exercises this level
If an institution seeks separately accredited status for one of its units, it must notify the Executive Director of the Commission on Colleges of its intent and follow procedures established by the Commission. In all cases, the Commission on Colleges reserves the right to determine the accreditation status of separate units of an institution.
The university does not have any units for which it is seeking separate regional accreditation by the Commission on Colleges.
1.4 Conditions of Eligibility
DescriptionAny institution seeking candidacy must document its compliance with each of the thirteen Conditions of Eligibility to be authorized initiation of a self-study, or to be awarded candidacy or candidacy renewal. In addition, the institution must provide evidence that it is capable of complying with all the requirements of the Criteria and that it will be in compliance by the end of the period allowed for candidacy.
The Conditions of Eligibility are basic qualifications which an institution of higher education must meet to be accredited by the Commission on Colleges. They establish a threshold of development required of an institution seeking initial or continued accreditation by the Commission and reflect the Commission's basic expectations of candidate and member institutions. Compliance with the Conditions is not sufficient to warrant accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. Accredited institutions must also demonstrate compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation which holds institutions to appropriately higher standards of quality.
The October 1997 Candidacy Committee Report found FGCU to be in compliance with all thirteen Conditions of Eligibility. Documentation for those conditions appears in the original application, is referenced in the brief summaries which follow in this section, and, in most cases, is addressed in greater detail in other major sections of this report. The report also includes a detailed analysis of the extent to which the institution is in compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation. Florida Gulf Coast University has completed this self-study report based on the COC criteria in order to provide a detailed and comprehensive assessment of the institution.
The Self-Study Plan and Manual explains that the purpose of the institutional self-study is to:
1. Demonstrate that the university maintains the appropriate programs, services, processes, and resources necessary to fulfill its stated mission.
2. Demonstrate compliance with the SACS Criteria for Accreditation.
3. Provide recommendations for further improvement.
Furthermore, a primary goal of the study is to "determine the extent to which the college meets or exceeds SACS accreditation requirements."Condition One
In obtaining or maintaining accreditation with the Commission on Colleges, an institution agrees to the following:
a. That it will comply with the Criteria for Accreditation of the College Delegate Assembly, consistent with the policies and procedures of the Commission on Colleges.
b. That the Commission on Colleges, at its discretion, may make known to any agency or member of the public requiring such information, the nature of any action, positive or negative, regarding the institution's status with the Commission.
c. That it will comply with Commission requests, directives, decisions and policies, and will make complete, accurate and honest disclosure. Failure to do so is sufficient reason, in and of itself, for the Commission to impose a sanction, or to deny or revoke candidacy or accreditation.
Agreement with Commission on Policies and
Practices. FGCU abides by all COC rules and
regulations. All existing and planned activities are reported according to the policies, procedures,
and guidelines of the Commission. This Self-Study
Report documents the university's methods of
compliance with the conditions of eligibility and the criteria for accreditation. The university
further agrees that the Commission may make known to other agencies and to the public information
regarding the university's status with the Commission. Team members will be free to request
whatever information is needed and all resources of the institution will be at its disposal during the
The institution must have formal authority from an appropriate governmental agency or agencies located within the geographic jurisdiction of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award degrees.
Verification of Formal Authority. The State of Florida has given the Board of Regents of the State University System formal authority to determine which institutions in Florida may award specific degrees and certificates (Section 204.209, Florida Statutes). All FGCU degree and certificate programs have formal BOR approval.
Degree and certificate programs are examined in greater detail in Section IV Educational Program.
The institution must have a governing board of at least five members, which has the authority and duty to ensure that the mission of the institution is implemented. The governing board
is the legal body responsible for the institution. Evidence
must be provided that the board is an active policy-making body for the institution. The board is ultimately responsible
for ensuring that the financial resources of the institution are used to provide a sound
educational program. The board must not be controlled by a minority of board members or
by organizations or interests separate from the board. The presiding officer of the board
must have no contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest in the
institution. The majority of other voting members of the board
must have no contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest in the institution.
The bylaws of the board or other legal documents must ensure appropriate continuity in the board membership, usually by staggered terms of adequate length. The bylaws or other legal documents must ensure the independence of the board. Amendment of the bylaws must occur only by vote of the board after reasonable deliberation.
In the case of military institutions authorized and operated by the federal government to award degrees, the Commission recognizes the unusual responsibility of the government and the military for the ultimate legal authority of the institution. If such a military institution is prohibited by the authorizing legislation from having a board with ultimate legal authority, it must have a public board in which neither the presiding officer nor a majority of the other members are civilian employees of the military or active/retired military. This board, consisting of at least five members, must have broad and significant influence upon the institution's programs and operations. The military institution must demonstrate that there is appropriate continuity in the board membership and that its board, in policy and practice, is an active policy-making body for the institution. The board must ensure that the financial resources of the institution are used to provide a sound educational program. The board must not be controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or interests separate from the board except as specified by the authorizing legislation. The presiding officer of the board must have no contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest in the institution. A majority of the other voting board members must have no contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest in the institution.
Verification of Governing Board. The governing board of the State University System is the Board of Regents, consisting of 14 regents, none of whom, by law, have any contractual employment, familial, or financial interest in the university. Dr. Adam Herbert is the chancellor of the State University System. A BOR meeting agenda provides documentation that the BOR is an active policy-making body for the State University System. As described in Section VI Administrative Processes the BOR provides funding for State University System institutions based on enrollment. The bylaws of the BOR ensure continuity in the membership.
FGCU is not a military institution and is not operated by the federal government.
The role of the BOR is examined in greater detail in Section VI Administrative Processes.
The institution must have a chief executive officer whose primary responsibility is to the institution. The chief executive officer must not be the presiding officer of the board.
Verification of Chief Executive Officer. The chief executive officer of the institution is the
president, Dr. Roy E. McTarnaghan, who has administrative responsibility granted by the Board of
Regents. The president is hired by the Board of Regents and reports to the chancellor of
the State University System.
The role of the president is examined in greater detail in Section VI Administrative Processes.
The institution must be in operation and have students enrolled in degree programs at the time of the committee visit.
Verification of Student Enrollment. The university opened its doors August 25, 1997, with an enrollment of 2,691 students. There were 1,624 students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs and 314 in graduate programs. Other enrollment included non-degree-seeking students in the undergraduate and graduate programs.
In the spring 1998, enrollment was 2,656, with 1,548 degree seeking students in the
undergraduate program and 338 in graduate education. The other 770 were non-degree-seeking students. The
fall 1998 enrollment was 3,044 students; 1,993 were degree-seeking students in the
undergraduate program, and 365 in graduate school. The other 686 were non-degree-seeking students.
The institution must offer one or more degree programs based on at least two academic years at the associate level, at least four academic years at the baccalaureate level, or at least one academic year at the post-baccalaureate level. The institution may make arrangements for some instruction to be provided by other accredited institutions or entities through contracts or consortia. However, the institution itself must provide instruction for all coursework required for at least one degree program at each level at which it awards degrees. Any alternative approach to meeting this requirement must be approved by the Commission on Colleges. In all cases, the institution must be able to demonstrate that it evaluates all aspects of its educational program.
The institution's degree programs must be compatible with its stated purpose and based upon fields of study appropriate to higher education. Institutions may experiment in developing and defining new fields of study, but the Commission cannot evaluate for membership an institution that offers only programs which represent fields of study that are outside of the expertise of the Commission's accredited institutions.
Verification of Degree Programs. In furtherance of the mission of the university, Florida Gulf Coast University offers 16 undergraduate degree programs. In addition, the College of Arts and Sciences offers 12 concentrations within the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. The four-year baccalaureate programs are based on at least four academic years of study, with each program requiring a minimum of 120 credit hours for graduation.
There are 10 programs offered at the master's level. One program is offered in the College of Business, two in the College of Health Professions, and seven in the College of Professional Studies. The programs at the master's level range from 34-60 credit hours, depending upon the degree.
Two colleges offer advanced certifications. In the College of Business, the Fifth Year Accounting Certificate requires 30 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate accounting degree. The College of Health Professions offers post-baccalaureate certificates in clinical laboratory technology and molecular biology. These certifications require 43 and 24 credit hours post baccalaureate, respectively.
Florida Gulf Coast University offers course work consistent with the mission of the university. In addition, the university has plans for assessment of all educational programs.
The university's academic programs are examined in greater detail in Section IV Educational
The institution must have a clearly defined, published statement of purpose appropriate to an institution of higher education.
Statement of Purpose. The founding mission statement provides clear guidelines for the establishment of the institution and the development of the programs in instruction, service, and research. A primary focus in the mission statement, to provide a broad range of programs in undergraduate education, is evident in the programs currently offered. The university takes pride in its accomplishments television courses, evening and weekend classes, flexible calendars, Internet courses, and credit by competency exams to better serve the five-county area and non-traditional students particularly since these accomplishments have been achieved in such a short period of time. The quality goals or affirmation of professional academic ideals are contained in the university's guiding principles. The mission statement, combined with the guiding principles, provides the university with a clear model of its role in higher education.
When the Candidacy Committee visited the campus in October 1997, the committee recommended that the university review its mission statement and guiding principles to update language. The committee further recommended that consideration be given to the consolidation of the two documents into one. As part of the self-study, these documents have been reviewed and a consolidated vision, purpose, and commitment statement unites the founding mission and guiding principles into one document. University goals, which will facilitate operationalizing FGCU's mission and guiding principles, were approved in November 1998.
The mission statement and the guiding principles are widely published and can be found in the catalog, Faculty Handbook, Student Guidebook, the university's WEB site, the State University System Strategic Plan (Master Plan).
The university's mission is examined in greater detail in Section II Institutional Purpose.
The institution must have an appropriate plan, as well as a functioning planning and evaluation process, which identifies and integrates projected educational, physical and financial development, and incorporates procedures for program review and institutional improvement.
Planning and Evaluation Process. In November 1992, the Florida Board of Regents approved the university's initial planning document, the Ten Year Development Plan for a New University in Southwest Florida. This began a carefully designed approach to the planning and evaluation process, which assures articulation among the institution's various internal and external constituencies and guarantees the coordination of educational, physical, and financial development goals. In 1996, the university developed the guiding principles and a Comprehensive Campus Master Plan, which together provide a view of the future for the university. The university's commitment to the evaluation process is well stated in one of the guiding principles: "Assessment of all functions is necessary for improvement and continued renewal."
In addition, Florida Gulf Coast University developed student learning outcomes. Throughout the process of developing programs, faculty integrated instructional and assessment activities in order to
focus on outcomes-based instruction.
Continual monitoring of academic planning and coordination with physical and financial development is the responsibility of the Executive Staff and Deans Council, with the assistance of the Office of Planning and Evaluation and the Institutional Effectiveness Committee. The Capital Improvement Plan and annual enrollment plans are key components of this coordination. In addition, the Institutional Effectiveness Task Force developed an Institutional Effectiveness Plan which states that, "As a steward of public resources, and in an effort to be accountable to the public it serves, the university is committed to evaluating its effectiveness through the use of comprehensive and systematic assessment." The planning and evaluation process at FGCU reflects a clear understanding of the importance of continuous assessment and review of instructional and support activities and a commitment to institutional improvement. That importance is reflected in the fact that FGCU established a separate planning and evaluation office and named a dean of planning and evaluation.
The university's planning and evaluation process is examined in greater detail in Section III
The institution must have published admission policies compatible with its stated purpose.
Published Admission Policies. The admission policies of the university are published in the university catalog and in brochures published by the university and its constituent colleges. These policies are constructed to (1) comply with relevant state laws, (2) conform to standards established by the Florida Board of Regents for the State University System, (3) fulfill the university's mission, and (4) serve the educational needs of the diverse population of the Southwest Florida region.
Admission standards and requirements appropriate to undergraduate and graduate programs
are applied to students in the following categories: first-time in college, high school advanced
placement, early admission, transfer, transient, non-degree seeking, post-baccalaureate, audit, and
senior citizens. Separate policies are established for international students and for students seeking
All undergraduate degree programs of the institution must include a substantial component of general education courses at the collegiate level. For degree completion in associate programs, the component must constitute a minimum of 15 semester hours or the equivalent quarter hours and for baccalaureate programs, a minimum of 30 semester hours or the equivalent quarter hours. The credit hours must be drawn from and include at least one course from each of the following areas: humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural sciences/mathematics. The courses must be designed to ensure breath of knowledge and must not be narrowly focused on those skills, techniques, and procedures peculiar to a particular occupation or profession.
Undergraduate General Education Requirements. Undergraduate degree programs offered by the university include a minimum of 36 hours of specified general education courses. Courses designated for this general education component consist of lower-level undergraduate credit courses, which, in some instances, may integrate with the student's academic concentration requirements. The domains for these undergraduate general education requirements are mathematics, 6 hours; social sciences, 6 to 9 hours; humanities, 9 hours; communication, 6 hours; and natural sciences, 6 to 9 hours.
The course components of the undergraduate general education requirements focus on broad objectives and outcomes. In addition, an introductory course to the general education program, called Styles and Ways of Learning, and a capstone course, called Connections, aim at integrating the broad skills and knowledge of the program. Moreover, the capstone course also serves as a vehicle for continuous assessment of the undergraduate general education program.
Undergraduate general education requirements are examined in greater detail in Section IV
The number of full-time faculty members must be adequate to provide effective teaching, advising and scholarly or creative activity. In each major in a degree program, there must be at least one fulltime faculty member with responsibility for supervision and coordination of the major. In those degree programs for which the institution does not identify a major, this requirement applies to a curricular area or concentration.
Adequacy of Faculty Resources. Florida Gulf Coast University has hired sufficient faculty to
provide effective teaching in all educational programs, as well as adequate advising. In addition, a
full-time faculty member has been identified who has supervisory and coordination responsibilities for
each degree major, concentrations within the baccalaureate program in Liberal Studies, and
certificate programs. Section IV Educational Program provides the information on supervisory
responsibility for academic majors.
The institution must have sufficient learning resources or, through formal agreements or appropriate technology, ensure the provision of and ready access to adequate learning resources and services to support the courses, programs, and degrees offered.
Sufficient Learning Resources. In its first year of operation, Florida Gulf Coast University
has developed a number of learning support services, including advising and tutoring services.
These services are currently under review by faculty and administration to determine the effectiveness
of the programs. Learning resources are examined in greater detail in Section V Educational
The institution must have an adequate financial base to accomplish its purpose at an acceptable level of quality on a continuing basis. The institution must provide financial statements and related documents (as specified in Section 6.3.6) which accurately and appropriately represent the total operation of the institution.
Any institution, whether a part of a system or not, which is seeking initial candidacy for membership, candidacy renewal, or initial membership must include in its application separate institutional audits and management letters for its three most recent fiscal years, including that for the fiscal year ending immediately prior to the date of the submission of the application. Further, it must have available the audit and management letter for the most recent fiscal year ending immediately prior to any committee visit for candidacy, candidacy renewal, or initial membership. These audits must be conducted by independent certified public accountants or an appropriate governmental auditing agency. An applicant or candidate institution must not show an annual or cumulative operating deficit at any time during the application process or at any time during candidacy. Applicant and candidate military institutions authorized and operated by the federal government to award degrees
must provide financial information, as shall be required by the Commission, from
appropriate governmental agencies. This information
must accurately represent the total operation of the institution and
must be sufficient to demonstrate adequate financial support of
programs and operations.
Adequate Financial Base and Audited Financial Statement. Funding for FGCU is formula driven and is based on student enrollment and programs offered. BOR policies assure that funding is adequate for SUS institutions.
An annual audit is prepared by the State of Florida auditor general in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards applicable to financial audits contained in Governmental Auditing Standards issued by the comptroller general of the United States. As outlined in the operating budget, the university's operating budget for fiscal year 1997-98 totals $34, 799,696. The university's operating budget for fiscal year 1998-99 totals $32,793,202.
The university's financial base is examined in greater detail in Section 6.3 Financial Resources. As indicated in that section, institutional audits for the last three fiscal years have been provided.
The university is in compliance with all thirteen Conditions of Eligibility.
1.5 Initial Membership
DescriptionAny institution seeking initial membership (accreditation), in addition to fulfilling requirements outlined in the Criteria, must document its compliance with all the Conditions of Eligibility and have been in operationi.e., have, without interruption, enrolled students in degree programthrough at least one complete degree program cycle and have graduated at least one class at the level of the highest degree offered prior to action of the Commission on Colleges.
The Commission on Colleges granted FGCU candidacy December 9, 1997, retroactive to August 25, 1997. The university has documented compliance with the Conditions of Eligibility (1.4), has been in operation through at least one complete degree program cycle, and has graduated a class at the level of the highest degree offered.
In May 1998, 32 graduate students and 17 undergraduate students received FGCU degrees. (This is in addition to those who received USF degrees.) In August 1998, 8 graduate students and 25 undergraduate students are scheduled to receive FGCU degrees. In December 1998, approximately 50
graduate students and 150 undergraduate students will receive FGCU degrees. In May 1999, the Executive Master of Business Administration class, which enrolled at FGCU in August 1997 and went through the program as a cohort group, will receive FGCU degrees, along with many other undergraduate and graduate students who will receive degrees at that time.
Florida Gulf Coast University has examined the extent to which the university has fulfilled the requirements outlined in the Criteria for Accreditation; the findings are included in this Self-Study Report. The university has documented its compliance with the Conditions of Eligibility, has been in operation through one program cycle, and will have graduated a class prior to action by the Commission on Colleges.
1.6 Representation of Status
DescriptionAn institution must be accurate in reporting to the public its status and relationship with the Commission. In catalogs, brochures and advertisements a member institution must describe its relationship with the Commission only according to the following statement:
(Name of institution) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia, 30033-4097; Telephone number 404-679-4501) to award (name specific degree levels).
For institutions in Candidacy status:
(Name of institution) is a Candidate for Accreditation with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia, 30033-4097; Telephone number 404-679-4501) to award (name specific degree levels).
(Note: Effective January 1996, candidacy for substantive change will no longer be a Commission status, except for those institutions currently candidates at a new degree levels. Therefore, member institutions which are current candidates at new degree levels must continue to use the following statements:
(Name of institution) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia, 30033-4097; Telephone number 404-679-4501) to award (name specific degree levels) and is a Candidate for Accreditation to award the (name specific degree level).
No statement may be made about possible future accreditation status with the
Commission on Colleges. The logo or seal of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
must not to be used by the institution.
The required statement regarding accreditation appears in the university catalog as well as on the institution's home page and in other publications.
FGCU is accurate in reporting its relationship with the Commission on Colleges and uses only the following statement to describe that relationship:
Florida Gulf Coast University is a Candidate for Accreditation with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097; Telephone number 404-679-4501) to award baccalaureate and master's degrees.
Supporting Documentation for Section I
Application for Membership with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Revised September 1997
BOR Meeting Agenda
Capital Improvement Plan
Comprehensive Campus Master Plan
Faculty Performance Evaluation Document
FGCU Degree Programs and Certificates
Graduate Student Learning Outcomes
Institutional Effectiveness Plan
Letter from President Roy E. McTarnaghan to SACS COC Executive Director Jim Rogers, October 1, 1996
SACS COC Candidacy Committee Report
Section 204.209, F.S., Board of Regents; powers and duties
Self-Study Plan and Manual
Student Learning Goals and Outcomes (undergraduate)
SUS Master Plan (Strategic Plan)
Ten Year Development Plan for a New University in Southwest Florida
Vision, Purpose, and Commitment Statement
Web Site Home Page (http://www.fgcu.edu)
© FGCU 1998. This
is an official FGCU web page.