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Bethany Achieves Probation Removal

KSAL Staff - July 17, 2017 11:43 am

Bethany College is no longer on probation.

According to the school, it received official notification Monday that the board of directors of the Higher Learning Commission has removed the college from probation and reaffirmed the college’s accreditation.

“This is day to celebrate! This outcome is the successful culmination of two years of diligent, smart work to correct areas of the college that were cited as out of compliance by the HLC in 2015,” President William Jones said. “It was a very challenging time and God was merciful. The great work done by our faculty, staff, administration, and board of directors turned the college around. Thanks to our campus team and the strong support of our alumni and friends, Bethany College will become a celebrated institution in the Midwest and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”

The HLC board of directors made its decision at its June 29 meeting. The official letter from the HLC stated that the college was removed from the sanction of probation and placed the college on the “Standard Pathway.”

“Bethany College demonstrated what can be done when a campus and community come together,” Board Chair Corey Peterson said. “Thousands of hours of work were put in by faculty and staff to accomplish this, all while never losing focus on providing an excellent experience for students. The dedication and resolve shown by faculty and staff and the commitment of the Smoky Valley, alumni and friends is another example of what makes Bethany College a special place. With the leadership and campus team in place, you can be assured we will not let off the gas. I am confident the future is bright at ‘Dear Ol’ Bethany’.”

The HLC board of directors confirmed the recommendations of the comprehensive evaluation visit team that visited campus in February and of the Institutional Actions Council (IAC), both of which called for the removal of probation and reaffirmation of accreditation. The college was placed on probation in June 2015 for not meeting compliance criterion relating to finances and operational processes. The college remained fully accredited while on probation.

“KICA (Kansas Independent College Association) congratulates Bethany College on the announcement that the Higher Learning Commission has removed the institution from probation status,” Matt Lindsey, president of KICA, said. “This took extreme dedication and diligent attention to detail by the entire Bethany College community and the city of Lindsborg, demonstrating once again the strength and purpose and leadership that one can find at small independent colleges in Kansas.”

To comply with the HLC findings in 2015, the college prepared a comprehensive self-evaluation showing evidence of accreditation compliance and how it planned to resolve the HLC’s concerns. This report and hundreds of pieces of evidence were the basis for the evaluation visit team’s study of the college in February. The evaluation visit team’s report recommended removal of probation, which was confirmed in April by the IAC. The IAC reviewed the report and heard testimony from the evaluation visit team leader and from members of the college, including President Jones, Board Chair Peterson, Provost Bob Carlson, and Vice President of Finance Jean Hall.

“The entire faculty and staff worked on the self-evaluation in one way or another,” Provost Carlson said. “Certainly the team leaders that prepared the information for each of the criterion must be commended and Professor John Mullen who led the entire team and oversaw the writing of the report was instrumental in this positive outcome.”

In the evaluation visit team’s report, it commended the college, saying, “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.”

Bethany’s recent audit report confirmed what the evaluation visit team reported. The audit report, presented to the college board of directors in February, showed a positive balance for the first time in eight years with a total change of net operating assets from nearly $5.5 million loss in fiscal year 2015 to a positive of more than $77,000 in fiscal year 2016.

The college recently celebrated the success of a two-year fundraising campaign that raised more than $4 million in unrestricted support. In addition, alumni participation in giving increased by four percentage points.

The evaluation visit team also recognized the strong college and community relationship in its report to the HLC. “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.”

A five-year strategic plan developed through faculty, staff, student, board, and community input was recently unanimously approved by the Bethany board of directors. This plan illustrates how the college and community are working well together and making plans for a shared future. The plan sets out a vision for the college that looks specifically at strategies to address advancing the academic program, strengthening and establishing distinctive offerings, bolstering the college’s market position, creating robust resource development, and ensuring prudent financial management.

“The strategic plan will serve as the guiding document for all of the college’s annual division planning,” President Jones said. “It will be important for all of us on campus to use this as a guide in our individual planning while being open to new possibilities and able to address new challenges.”

President Jones concluded his remarks on the joyful news by stating, “I expect even more students from our local area and beyond will now want the kind of transformational learning and living experience that we offer. It’s a great day to be a Swede!”