Bethany College has cleared the first hurdle for removal from probation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). A report from the recent comprehensive evaluation visit team recommends “removal from probation and reaffirmation of accreditation” for Bethany.
“This is a major and significant development, but it is only one step in the process,” Bethany President William Jones said. “We still have significant challenges and much work to do; however, it is a moment for giving thanks and celebrating.”
The visit team report will be presented to the HLC Institutional Actions Council (IAC) in April. President Jones and representatives from the college will have an opportunity to discuss its recommendations and findings at that time. The IAC will make the final recommendation to the HLC Board of Directors, which will act in late June. The HLC placed Bethany College on probation in June 2015 for concerns over operational processes, finances, and assessment. While on probation, the college remains fully accredited.
In its report the visit team stated, “Bethany College has demonstrated that it is truly a learning organization by responding to the issues that placed it on probation. Business functions have been greatly improved, and a commitment to operating within its means now prevails.”
The college’s audit report, which was presented to the Bethany Board of Directors in February, reinforced that finding. It showed a positive balance for the first time in eight years. The audit found that the total change in net operating assets improved from a negative of nearly $5.5 million in fiscal year 2015 to a positive of more than $77,000 in fiscal year 2016.
In the rationale for their recommendation, the HLC team wrote, the issues facing Bethany College at the time Probationary status was given were substantial and will likely take longer than the two-year timeframe to resolve completely. However, the report stated, “under the leadership of President Jones, a more robust Board of Directors, and a stronger administrative team, Bethany College has made significant strides in resolving these issues.”
President Jones added, “This is only a recommendation, but it is the result we have all been working toward for many months. I am deeply grateful to our cabinet, faculty, staff, and board for the talent and time they invested in the turn-around effort and in this process. And our alumni and friends that have given strong support to our work are our philanthropic heroes.”
The report by the HLC visit team recognized the strong college and community relationship. “The Lindsborg community has rekindled its affection for Bethany College, and the partnerships that have existed and those that are now being formed together demonstrate the institution’s commitment to the common good as well as its commitment to serving its external constituencies.” The report also stated, “A sense of renewal and hope with the new president and the collective charge forward is palpable across the campus and Lindsborg community.”
Bethany Board Chair Corey Peterson acknowledged the work that began in 2015 with Interim President Bob Vogel and continues with Bethany’s President Jones. “Words cannot express my gratitude,” he said. “Thousands of hours went into the self-evaluation report by the entire campus community. This was in addition to the extra effort of doing their normal jobs with fewer resources. All this, and students reported an excellent experience.”
The HLC visit team report noted that student response to a national student engagement study ranked Bethany College higher in comparison to other private Plains colleges in the area of faculty engagement among first-year students and seniors.
Swede Government Association President Kylee Ayres, a senior from Salina, agreed. “Despite the challenges facing the college over the past couple of years, students still experienced a thriving environment. Students enjoy fun events, a beautiful campus, and challenging and engaging faculty. I think the actions taken by the college have given students a chance to take even more pride in what it means to be a Bethany Swede.”