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The New Accountability. How accreditors are Measuring Colleges’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts

The New Accountability. How accreditors are Measuring Colleges’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts

Chronicle of Higher Education

Eric Kelderman
April 3, 2023
By some measures, California Lutheran University has become a place where historically underserved students are finding success.
The six-year graduation rate for its Hispanic students, who make up 40 percent of its 2,800 undergraduates, is equal to that of white and Asian American students, at about 75 percent. That sets the university apart from most others: Nationally, about 54 percent of Hispanic students graduate within six years.
Despite that accomplishment, the university received from its accreditor in early 2021 a “notice of concern” finding that it wasn’t truly inclusive. Academic outcomes hadn’t similarly improved for Black students, for whom the six-year graduation rate is 69 percent, according to a report by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, formerly the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of the nation’s major institutional accreditors. That group includes accrediting agencies that were previously called “regional” accreditors, because federal regulations defined them by the states where they were allowed to oversee colleges.
Cal Lutheran was also becoming less diverse, the accreditor determined. The university enrolled more Hispanic students and was designated a Hispanic-serving institution in 2016. But its percentage of African American students had remained steady at a little less than 4 percent in recent years, and the share of Asian American and Pacific Islander students had fallen from 6.5 percent to 5.2 percent.
According to WASC, which oversees about 170 colleges primarily in California and Hawaii, the university was also not welcoming for faculty of color, who composed nearly 30 percent of the instructional staff. “Campus climate was repeatedly referred to as toxic,” the accreditation reviewers wrote, “and members of the community painfully described their experiences.”
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