By this summer, Owens Community College should regain accreditation with the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.
|Owens nursing student Angelica Johnson (right) takes the blood pressure of Angi Todd, while Owens Nursing Instructor Kris Cookson looks on. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
What is now the School of Nursing at the college lost accreditation in fall 2009, a status it had held since 1974.
An aggressive program was implemented, top officials quit or were fired, and a team of peer reviewers were on the Perrysburg Township campus this week to observe the RN program.
They'll report back to the NLNAC board for a vote in June or July.
"I go into every accreditation knowing we put our best foot forward," said Renay Scott, Owens vice president and provost. "I'm confident we've done a really good job getting ready for this accreditation."
All academic program accreditations on campus are Scott's responsibility. And the college is up to date on everything, she stated.
But the nursing program has been her baby, since she took it on in fall 2009, when the college received notice that the accreditation had been lost. It had been on probationary status since 2007.
Since then, then-President Christa Adams retired early, then-Provost Paul Unger resigned, and Cindy Hall, department chair, was fired.
In December 2009, 83 students had filed two lawsuits accusing the college of negligence in the loss of the national accreditation, and claiming that loss curtailed or eliminated the students' ability to be hired.
At least one lawsuit is still pending, Scott stated. The college has not paid out any claims.
Owens sent the NLNAC a self-study report, before this week's visit, based on the standards outlined by the national board. The team on campus interviewed individuals to explore those written statements.
"I often compare it to a doctoral dissertation defense," Scott stated.
If the college regains accreditation, it will be retroactive to this month.
Owens in the past stressed that league accreditation was not critical and that approval from the Ohio Board of Nursing was more vital.
One of the standards the college did not meet was the requirement that at least 51 percent of part-time nursing faculty hold a master of nursing degree. In 2009, only about 30 percent of the 104 part-time RN faculty had or were working toward a master's degree.
Now, that number is 60 percent, Scott said.
Hiring new faculty has cost the college a little more than $400,000.
In 2009, there were 25 full-time RNs and all had a master's degree.
In November 2009, Scott said it would only take two years to regain accreditation, but she thought it could be done sooner.
The delay, she explained, was in hiring 10 new full-time faculty. "It always takes time to hire good people."
A review of the budget allowed the hiring of six people the first year, and four the next.
"The hiring process took longer than we expected," she stated.
Getting them oriented in the program and involved in the process also took time, she added.
"They are great additions to the program. The entire faculty have done an outstanding job doing data analysis, making improvements to the nursing curriculum, and improving admission standard.
"I think as a result we're a better program today," she stated.
The demand for entrance into the program hasn't declined.
There consistently have been about 150 applications each semester.
In the fall of 2009, the college was admitting 105 students to its nursing program twice each year. But because of a drop in employment demands, the college dropped the admittance number to 80 students twice per year.
For fall 2012, that number was bumped up to 90 and will remain at 90 this fall.
Unchanged has been the number of students admitted on the Findlay campus; that remains at 35 each semester.
"Those decisions are based on job demands in the region," Scott explained.
Students not accepted are no longer put on a waiting list, one of the college's changes. Now, they have to reapply each semester.
"It's become a lot more competitive of a program to get into," Scott stated.
Kathryn McCray, of Toledo, was accepted two years go, and will graduate in May with her RN degree.
"The accreditation itself is an extra piece," she said about the NLNAC aspect.
"All the local hospitals think Owens students are top notch," she added.
And Owens is accredited with the Ohio Board of Nursing, which to McCray is more important.
"If you don't go to a school approved by them, you're wasting your time," she stated.
Now that the college is potentially getting NLNAC accreditation back, it shows a sign of excellence in the program, she continued.
But she likes Owens for the hands-on one-on-one she has had with her instructors. "They have a personal investment in you."
The college also was penalized for not having data to track the program's effectiveness.
As part of regaining accreditation, the college has implemented a systematic plan of evaluation, looking at learning outcomes, making sure students are achieving outcomes, and evaluating that information annually.
The college also has a better program monitoring system, a better communication program, and all programs are more aware of the importance of accreditation.
"We wanted to make sure we presented at least two years of data," Scott said. Faculty wanted to show a trend in improvement, not just one year's growth.
As a result, the RN passage rate for first-time test takers has improved. In the 2010 calendar year, 80 percent of test takers passed; that number went to 88 percent in 2011, and 95 percent last year.
"It's one of those situations that I wish as a college we don't go through, but I think we're better for it," Scott stated.