I was brought to Tennessee State University to help address two standards that were impeding Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ reaffirmation. While still fully accredited, TSU was given a year to provide documentation that these standards are being met.

In a nutshell, the TSU community had been engaged in planning as required by SACS, but the various assessment measures used were not centrally managed. Now, as a result of our study, we plan based on verifiable assessment data; design outcomes with Key Performance Indicators; implement strategies, assess the efficacy of our efforts and, based upon the new evidence, begin the process again.

State appropriations to TSU have been reduced by approximately $13.3 million since 2009. Our six-year graduation rate is less than 40 percent, which is unacceptable. Funding is now based on how many graduate in four to six years. In addition, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission reported TSU as having 20 low-producing program majors. For example, over a 10-year period, the physics department graduated only 23 students, and Africana Studies graduated only 46.

A review of several national reports and models, as well as reports from expert consultants, made it clear that discontinuing some programs was the only recourse for TSU. Therefore, six program majors and remedial studies were eliminated. No one lost a job, and all students currently enrolled in these programs will be allowed to remain until they graduate. During this reorganization, some existing retention programs were strengthened, and a variety of services to help students persevere to college completion were initiated.

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