Nearly a year after renewing its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, Missouri State University says it’s moving forward on various recommendations that came in the HLC’s final report.
The commission applauded the school for efforts relating to its public affairs mission, quality programs and a transparent budget, among other areas.
It also issued several recommendations for improvement, including a continued focus on developing a fully inclusive multicultural environment. In its report, HLC said, “The continuing transformation of the campus from a regional to a statewide institution requires ongoing attention to the further development of a fully inclusive, multicultural environment for students.”
MSU President Clif Smart says there are a number of efforts underway on that front.
“We have a group working on living-learning communities to connect those to cohorts and classes to help people relate to each other and the university.”
He adds that the school’s general education courses (GEP) are being redesigned to more align with these goals. In addition, there’s been an increase in the funding and staffing of multicultural programming,. Along with retention efforts of minority employees and diversity training, Smart says there are “a whole variety of initiatives there.”
“I really think we’re making progress. We’re not done,” he says. “Can we still have a crazy racist incident happen on campus? Of course we can.”
Smart continued that while certain events cannot always be prevented, “The way you ought to be measured is how you respond to those kind of unusual, unexpected kinds of things.”
He believes the school is well positioned to handle various situations that may arise.
“Frankly I hope we don’t have any. But yes, that’s a part of the diversity training; that’s a part of thinking through things and just being cognizant of that we serve a whole slew of students of all ages, of all backgrounds, literally from all over the world who politically are very conservation to very liberal to everything in between. That’s a piece of valuing others’ ideas and respecting freedom of speech and I think we do pretty well on those kind of things,” Smart says.
Another recommendation focused on MSU’s fee structure; not of the fees themselves but of how the cost structure is presented to students.
The HLC report notes that “MSU's fee structure is very complicated and the presentation should be revised to provide better clarity on what students would pay for certain programs due to the significant variability.”
Smart says of the school’s roughly 4,000 courses offered, a few hundred have a supplemental fee attached to them. Those fees, says Smart, are only there for specific expenses associated with certain classes.
“For example, in an anatomy class there’s a supplemental fee because you’re gonna be working on a cadaver and those things cost money to have.”
Smart says a group of university officials are working to clarify those fees; the reason for their existence and cost, and make visible online and elsewhere.
Other recommendations by the HLC focused on various levels of assessment on student learning and outcomes and improving advising processes to assure quality services to students.
Above, hear our full conversation with President Clif Smart, heard monthly on KSMU’s Engaging the Community.