Trident University International, a major tuition assistance school that had run into trouble with its accrediting agency, is back in good standing with the Western Association of Schools & Colleges.
In a letter to the school, the agency announced that it was lifting Trident’s probationary status and reaffirming its accreditation after the university made “significant progress” addressing problems cited by the agency about two years ago.
An agency team visiting the school “praised the institution for its considerable efforts to address issues that resulted in sanctions and to develop systems and procedures to prevent further occurrences of these issues,” the association said in the letter.
The problems started when a branch of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges organization discovered a student who had graduated from TUI without fulfilling general education requirements associated with the degrees.
Further investigation eventually revealed nearly 300 Trident graduates in such a situation. Compounding the problem, Trident didn’t notify its accrediting agency.
“The leadership of the institution did not seem to see the gravity of the issue,” said Lucille Sansing, who took over as president and chief executive officer of the for-profit school in December 2011, months after Trident was contacted by its accrediting agency about the problem.
In fiscal 2011, about 12,400 students used military tuition assistance to pay for some 36,600 classes at the school, amounting to tens of millions of dollars in federal funds and placing Trident among the top 10 TA schools nationwide.
Sansing said the school’s senior leadership has changed, the record-keeping system that led to the errors has been updated, and the school is undergoing a “cultural transition.”
Overall, the experience was “painful” but “very positive” in the end, she said in a telephone interview.
“We are enormously appreciative of the support that active military have given us,” Sansing said. “We are a better university than we were two years ago, and we will never let them down.”
The accrediting agency’s letter enthusiastically praised progress at the school but noted room for improvement in several areas, including tracking and boosting graduation rates.