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Ashford Cuts Recruiting, Boosts Faculty To Win Accreditation

Ashford University wins accreditation in California one year after denial.

— Almost a year to the day after Ashford University was denied accreditation by Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the organization determined that the private, for-profit school has made changes that mostly quash evaluators' concerns.

A shortage of faculty was one of reason the body decided not to accredit the school last year.

It also pointed to low student retention and high spending on recruiting as a reason to withhold accreditation. The online university is affiliated with a campus in Iowa and has been accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

The online portion of the program, however, is administrated in San Diego. So, as the school's HLC accreditation expires, the university has to shift to WASC, the accrediting body that oversees California schools.

The university’s president, Richard Pattenaude, said since WASC's denial, the school has undergone a cultural shift from a focus on recruitment to one on retention. Part of that shift is a three-week grace period for newly-enrolled students.

“If they’re not satisfied or they really feel this is not right for them, they can walk away with no debt, no record and no problems. But in the same time period, if we find that they’re not performing, we can also not allow them to matriculate, but they leave with no debt and no record.”

The university also reduced its recruiting staff by more than half while doubling its number of student advisers and hiring 180 more full-time faculty, according to Pattenaude. He said the school also capped class sizes at 30 students and invested in more technology to assess student learning and progress.

The school's accreditation will last for at least the next five years. Without accreditation, a school's students are not eligible for federal financial aid.

The stock price of Bridgepoint Education, Inc., Ashford's parent company, rose sharply Thursday after the accreditation announcement Wednesday.

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