ALTUS — Western Oklahoma State College's accrediting board will evaluate so-called quick-credit courses that have made the college a target for criticism this week, college officials announced Friday.
Representatives from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools will visit the embattled school early next year to review the college's accelerated online courses.
The courses came under fire earlier this week when a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education claimed the courses offer dubious college credit with minimal time and effort. According to the report, major college athletics programs use the courses to keep their athletes eligible to play.
College officials have denied those criticisms, but others are calling the allegations against the Altus-based community college troubling.
In a letter posted on the university's website Thursday, school President Phil Birdine questioned the validity of the Chronicle of Higher Education article. Birdine said the article doesn't reflect values held by the college or its employees.
“Portions of this article have been extremely difficult to read through simply because the information presented was negatively skewed and did not offer any rebuttals or differing viewpoints from those of the reporter or his other ‘sources,'” Birdine said.
But the president of a national community college group said the article raises concerns about the credibility of the college's compressed online learning courses.
Allegations are being reviewed
According to the article, Western Oklahoma State College's online offerings are well-known among major college athletics programs nationwide as a good option when players find themselves in an academic bind. The article raises questions about the quality of the courses and lack of academic oversight.
Walter Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, said in a statement that the organization was reviewing the allegations against the school to determine what action to take.
“We are committed to identifying safeguards that ensure the integrity of online curricula provided by the colleges we represent and to best protect the interests of the students our colleges serve,” Bumphus said.
At a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education last month, Birdine briefed the board on the college's online offerings. The college doesn't offer every course as a 10-day intercession, he said. Math courses and classes with prerequisites tend not to lend themselves well to the format, he said.
Birdine said the college had invested heavily in online education, including 10-day intercession courses, as a way to stay viable at a time when the population of western Oklahoma is dwindling.