Maranatha originally sought accreditation in 1993 because of its potential benefits for students. Twenty years later, current students— and their parents—continue to enjoy those benefits.
“If an institution asks people to trust it with their money and their children, it needs to be able to tell them where it stacks up,” Executive Vice President Dr. Matt Davis (left) said. “We welcome that. We tell them to go ahead and evaluate us. We’re transparent. We’re willing to play by a higher set of rules.”
Maranatha and its students benefit in several ways from the accreditation process.
The North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission holds Maranatha accountable for providing what it promises—a biblically based education that prepares students for leadership in both full-time ministry and professional vocations
“We review every process in order to strive toward best practices,” Davis said.
Some institutions file self-studies every few years to prove that point. Maranatha instead opted for AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program), which includes ongoing tracking of nearly every area— academic rigor, student dorm life, the registration process, employee and student satisfaction, etc.
AQIP emphasizes quality planning and process evaluation as keys to a successful, strong educational institution. Departments are divided into Quality Units, which each create Quality Action Projects. Each Quality Action Project targets a process that needs improvement, analyzes it, identifies appropriate measures, and implements an improvement.
Some recently completed Maranatha AQIP projects include developing a study abroad program, campus wi-fi upgrades, revising budgeting and contract processes, and implementing a new course evaluation system.
Maranatha’s faculty members are not simply spectators in the accreditation process. They are personally engaged through yearly program reviews and studies of the effectiveness of every field of study. No consultants are hired for this job—the faculty members personally help track the success of their departments.
“We encourage professional development to allow our faculty members to learn and analyze best practices,” Davis said. “We sometimes incorporate those practices in unique ways because we are a Bible college.”
The need for accurate measurement in the AQIP areas requires advance planning on Maranatha’s part, which leads to a more organized approach to meeting students’ needs.
“The results cannot be ignored,” Davis said.
The College is constantly measuring its effectiveness through standardized testing, employee and student satisfaction surveys, and checking the effectiveness of internal and external communication methods. Even graduates are surveyed and tracked to determine if they are remaining active in local church ministry.
Emphasis on Academic Assessment
Each academic department at Maranatha helps develop a method to determine the effectiveness of its programs. Many students are required to take standardized tests in their major areas. Maranatha students have consistently scored at or near the top in many fields of study, including particularly outstanding results from Music and Business majors.
These assessments are especially significant for students in the Teacher Education and Nursing majors who must pass standardized tests (PRAXIS and NCLEX) to earn professional licensure.
“When those test results come back, you quickly find out where you stack up,” Davis said. “An institution without such assessment might think its programs are pretty good, but where’s the evidence?”
The test results help steer developmental objectives that will become even more well-defined and effective over time. But more important than marketing or reassurance, the most important use of data is to make improvement, and to do that we need to be honest with ourselves. We have consistently sought to use results to make improvements for the benefit of our stockholders and the testimony of Christ.
A Wider Vision
The accreditation process goes beyond the classroom. Maranatha followed this model of planning, assessment, and improvement when it adopted a campus-wide strategic plan in 2010.This plan touches every area of the College.
The four pillars of the plan are:
- Make the message plain.
- Sharpen the focus on spiritual growth.
- Build on the foundation. (academic programs)
- Grow the resources.
“We sought tons of input from every stakeholder group when we were compiling the strategic plan,” Davis said. “It pretty much goes across the board.”
All that input may result in some warts being revealed. But, in many ways, that’s the idea.
“If there are struggling programs, we can tell you what they are and what we’re doing about it,” Davis said. “We use the information to improve every day in a measurable, purposeful way.
“They aren’t problems. They’re opportunities for improvement.”