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14 July 2005

High Quality at JSU

Universities around the country were criticized for declining quality following a PBS documentary. At JSU, however, academic quality is top-notch.

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

Academic quality remains high at Jacksonville State University, according to administrators responding to recent criticism leveled against universities as a whole

A documentary aired by Public Broadcasting System recently criticized U.S. universities for substituting graduate students for regular faculty members, easing testing standards and performance, and increasing tuition to the extent that lower income students cannot afford college.

The documentary, titled "Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk," examined practices at the University of Arizona, where some classes register as many as 100 or more students. The report criticized UA for using faculty with less than graduate, doctorate, or other terminal degrees and for raising tuition to the point where low-income students were denied an education.

Subsequent news reports debated the criticism with a broad brush that implicated the nation's 4,200 colleges and universities. Writers warned of an intellectual decline in the United States.

"Although JSU does make use of the assistance of graduate students in some of its lab sections, fully qualified faculty members maintain control of our courses and of instruction," said Dr. Joe Delap, associate vice president for academic affairs. "Further, with an average class size of approximately 22, our courses ensure that students get the close faculty attention that they deserve and have come to appreciate."

Dr. Delap supported his statement with figures from JSU. Three hundred full-time faculty and 112 adjunct or part-time instructors taught a student body of 8,930 during the fall semester of 2004. Of the 412 faculty members, 203 had terminal degrees and all 134 tenured professors had terminal degrees.

"The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which accredits colleges and universities in the region, has standards for faculty qualifications that must be met before a college or university can be accredited," said Dr. Rebecca Turner, vice president for academic and student affairs. "Standards for faculty qualifications apply to both undergraduate and graduate teaching. JSU takes great pride in assuring its stakeholders that all faculty, full time and part time, are qualified to teach courses assigned to them.

"In addition to SACS requirements pertaining to faculty qualifications, professions, and discipline-specific accreditation, requirements add other qualifications for faculty teaching in those areas. In all cases of accreditation, that is regional, professional, and discipline-specific, JSU meets or exceeds the standards required for faculty qualifications."

Regarding JSU's efforts to assist low income students, JSU continues to be ranked among the most affordable universities in the state. In terms of price tag, JSU will be twelfth out of fourteen Alabama universities in terms of total tuition during the 2005-06 academic year, according to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Tuition at JSU is $4,040 per year compared to $5,664 at the University of Montevallo, which has the most expensive tuition in the state. Only Athens State University and Alabama State University are lower than JSU, and only by slight amounts.

JSU's financial aid programs ease the cost burden. During the 2003-04 academic year (according to the latest figures available), JSU offered students $8,646,000 in Pell Grants and $507,000 in College Work Study funds (both are federal programs). JSU administers four major state programs, and each paid out the following in 2003-04: Supplemental Grant, $466,000; State Student Incentive Grant, $51,000; University Aid, $1,481,000; and Technology Scholarships for Alabama Teachers, $20,000. In addition to federal and state programs, JSU administered several other programs through endowments, agencies, and other sources. Total assistance paid out to JSU's student body in 2003-04 was $49,449,000.

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