UPDATED: UTRGV’s accreditation probation lifted by SACSCOC board

EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has finally achieved a clean accreditation slate after the accrediting entity lifted its probation status on Tuesday.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges held its annual board meeting this week. On Tuesday morning, the last day of the meeting, UTRGV’s standing was cleared.

“We are pleased with the decision, and this news is a reflection of the hard work of our dedicated staff,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said in a news release. “We have made significant progress this year, and I look forward to continuing this momentum in 2019.”

There is no request for further reviews or reports regarding the issues that led to the probation status, Bailey said in an interview. And in an email sent to faculty and staff, the president thanked the efforts of those who worked to address the agency’s concerns.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the many staff members who have worked tirelessly on behalf of UTRGV,” he wrote in the internal memo. “We prepared diligently for the October 2018 Special Committee visit and deeply appreciate the hard work and support of all of you throughout this year.”

The SACSCOC board determined the university addressed the lone concern that led to the latest year of probation, which had to do with a state review of financial aid awards.

UTRGV received a favorable review by a visiting committee sent to audit the financial aid department in October. The committee did not recommend further action and submitted a report for the board to consider before today’s decision.

“The committee finds that the institution has implemented procedures and processes to provide reasonable assurance that it has met its Title IV responsibilities,” the report stated.

UTRGV remained fully accredited throughout the probation period, meaning there was no threat to students or faculty. But the probationary sanction was one step short of removal of accreditation.

The sanction was initially imposed in 2016 and was supposed to last one year pending further review. This first decision was mainly linked to misunderstandings on the transition from UTB to UTRGV and agreements between the former institution and Texas Southmost College.

But after addressing these concerns, the accrediting board decided to keep UTRGV under probation status for an additional year in 2017 to allow for the state report on financial aid awards and records to be released and reviewed.

“The whole issue really had to do with the timing of the breakup of UTB and TSC and the creation of UTRGV,” Bailey said. “It was a complexity of that timing that really caused problems. But I think that’s kind of a one-time-event and once we are past that, I think we have no problems at all.”

The university will now undergo routine evaluations by the accrediting agency along with all other universities to maintain their standing. A reaffirmation report is scheduled to be submitted by UTRGV on Sept. 1, 2019, along with a Quality Enhancement Plan that is currently being developed.

But now that the board deemed all the university’s actions as sufficient, Bailey said the silver lining lies in the fact that there’s confirmation that the university’s protocols and processes are in good shape.

“Our processes have been audited so much that they are about as clean and good as you can ever get,” Bailey said. “We need to do the standard things that we need to do to remain accredited, and that’s to follow the standards and do appropriate assessments. And we are doing those.”