Inefficient record-keeping system to be corrected through adopting best practices; degrees will stand
Following acceptance of a 28-page report from an independent record management consulting group, West Virginia University interim President C. Peter Magrath said all 29 recommendations intended to standardize and strengthen degree-granting practices and policies University-wide will be adopted.
Key among those recommendations was acceptance of the consultantsconclusion that the discrepancies in studentsacademic records in the Executive Master of Business Administration program (27) are a result of the institutions failure to follow best practices. Therefore, Magrath stated, although it cannot be documented in all cases that the required credits were earned, neither can it be established they were not, so these degrees will stand from the time of graduation.
Regarding the internal review of undergraduate records by the Provosts Office and validated by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) WVU officials also determined that the 261 undergraduate degrees (of the 36,661 undergraduate students who graduated from 1997-2008) in colleges and schools University-wide found to have discrepancies will also stand.
Because these discrepancies are further evidence of the need to address and remediate record-keeping practices and policies across the University, WVU will extend AACRAO s contract through spring to conduct a thorough examination of the procedures and policies underlying the discrepancies.
Before introducing many of the action steps outlined by AACRAO , however, Magrath made this point:Let me sayas I have said so many timesthis is an outstanding public, land-grant University. I would not be here if I did not think this was a good placeone of great integritya place where degrees are hard-earned and highly valued.
He noted that he came to WVU at a time when the University was facing some serious problems, and many of thosein the endwere rooted in inefficient record-keeping practices.
In saying this, I was also certain, without a doubt, that 99.9 percent of what is done at WVU is of the highest quality,Magrath said.Our research represents the highest levels of intellectual pursuit and innovation. Hundreds of thousands of alumni have reached high levels of academic and professional success, and their degrees are valued in workplaces around the world. Our service to West Virginia and the world is comprehensive, of the highest quality and invaluable to the economy, health and well-being of West Virginians and the world.
However, WVU s success over the past decade, he added, has been coupled with significant growth in the size of operations.
Like other large public universities across the country, we have experienced large increases in student enrollment,he said.Unfortunately, however, that growth has not always kept pace with equally dynamic growth in technology and the ever increasing demands placed on our management systems. Record-keeping is such an example.
The AACRAO consultants found a record-keeping and record-reconciling system in need of significant overhaul, restructuring and realignment in the face of significant changes in the size, scope and complexity of this University, and the needs of its students, faculty and staff, he added.
In blunt terms, they found that more students, more demands and fewer checks and balances resulted in problems with a system that did not keep pace with the times,Magrath said.
Our goal in going forward is to achieve the gold standard in records management so that everything we do from here out is of the highest quality and that every decision is beyond reproach,he said.
Among the consultantsother recommendations, which the University accepted:
- Establishment of a permanent University registrar, who will serve as the official custodian of studentsacademic records, reporting directly to the provost. This position description has been developed and advertised nationally and will be filled by summer. The establishment of an Office of the Registrar will signal the development of a centralized system of records management, including responsibility for the production and maintenance of WVU s catalogs.
- Immediately, the Provosts Office will work with Admissions and Records to create a report of all students expected to receive degrees in May 2009, and final authority and accountability for awarding a WVU degree should rest with the dean, including certifying that all grades, records and degrees are valid.
- Require that the BANNER student electronic grade retention system is the only official documentation for certifying studentsacademic records and the degrees awarded. Colleges and schools will not be allowed to rely on shadow systems.
- Adopt technology to support full degree audits across the University which will accurately track studentsexact credit hours, degrees earned, dates of graduation, etc.
- Implement centralized, comprehensive and uniform policies University-wide for defining and determining transfer credits, incompletes, experiential learning credits. Develop a definitive policy manual.
- Charge Internal Audit to begin auditing grading and degree certification processes on a regular basis to guarantee that appropriate institutional controls are being followed.
- An additional new procedure, beyond AACRAO s recommendations, will ask for mandatory proficiency training for existing record management staff and mandatory testing and training for new staff.
In delivering his report, Wayne Sigler, AACRAO senior consultant and project director, said,It is clear that the WVU faculty and staff interviewed by AACRAO Consulting are well-intentioned and careful in their work relating to student academic records. They are, however, working with student academic records management practices that have failed to keep pace with industry best practices in the ways described in this report.
AACRAO Consulting believes that if WVU consistently follows our recommendations, the University student academic records management practice will meet current institutional needs and accepted practices,Sigler said.
As he concluded his remarks, Magrath commented:We all care deeply about West Virginia University. I certainly do, or I would not be here now. We may have different views about how or why these recent problems happened, but we all agree that we want to do what is best for WVU now and in the future. And admittedly, it is difficult to examine and discover problems within our system. But we know we have no greater or more precious charge than preserving and protecting the integrity of our degrees and the records of our studentsacademic success.
And I must also stress that the flaws and inefficiencies weve discovered in our processes and procedures in no way reflect the quality of our students, the achievements of our graduates or the value of their work,he said.
The proof is the fact that our graduates are in demand,Magrath continued.They are highly successful in their professions and are respected across the nation and around the world for their preparation, skill, work ethic, integrity and dedication to excellence. That is a given throughout WVU s history and will continue to be in the future.