ALTUS — Western Oklahoma State College's accrediting board has placed the school on probation following a review of a controversial online course reportedly favored by college athletes.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools found the college's 10-day accelerated online courses don't meet quality and rigor standards required of compressed-format courses.
As part of the probation, the board revoked approval for the college to offer accelerated online courses and programs.
According to a public disclosure notice the board released Thursday, college officials must allow students who are enrolled in the so-called quick credit courses to complete those courses in eight-week or 16-week formats. Officials must also submit a self-study before December 2014 showing that the college has resolved concerns the board raised about the courses.
The board will visit the college in the early spring of 2015 to see whether those issues have been resolved. Over the coming months, the board will review the college's other online and classroom-based courses.
The quick credit courses came under fire when a story published late last year 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.
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.
The commission announced in November it would be sending reviewers to the Altus-based community college to review the accelerated online courses.
The college stopped offering 10-day online intersession courses after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education released a report recommending the college immediately discontinue the courses. But college officials later announced plans to reinstate the courses using a similar format.
The board concluded the courses didn't meet a number of criteria required for accreditation, including showing a commitment to intellectual integrity and the quality of educational programs.
The courses netted the college $2.8 million in revenue during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to college records. That figure represented 18 percent of the college's total education and general revenue, which includes money the college receives through tuition and fees.
College officials did not respond to requests from The Oklahoman for comment on Thursday.