Pittsburg State University’s Intensive English Program has a long history of helping international students reach the high levels of English proficiency needed for success at American universities. The program can now continue to do so with a new reaccreditation and by growing the program to offer online instruction.
Pitt State’s IEP has earned a 10-year reaccreditation after meeting an extensive list of standards set by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA). This comes after the program’s first accreditation five years ago.
“This reaccreditation tells us that we’re moving in the right direction and it affirms that we are continuing to maintain very high standards according to an international body,” said IEP instructor, Paige Cortes.
The process for reaccreditation began approximately a year ago, required a self-study to be submitted with supplemental documentation, and culminated with a site visit by a team from the CEA which was the last site the organization evaluated before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down visits.
“There are a set of standards that the CEA, a very extensive list of standards, and when you’re working towards accreditation you have to do a self-study which is answering several questions for each of those standards and you write them up in a certain format they give us and send that in with certain documentation that proves we’re doing what we say,” said IEP instructor, Cherlyn Ingram.
Cortes and Ingram were both very involved in the process of reaccreditation and had support from across the university.
“It really was a team effort and the university was able to help with that because they know how important reaccreditation was,” Cortes said. “I think the university realized… IEP plays an important role in the university and they’ve been so supportive, and (we’re) very grateful. And International Programs has also helped us immensely.”
According to Ingram, the reaccreditation speaks to the high quality of IEP at Pitt State as well as to the level of care and detail the instructors give to the program.
“I think it shows that that the program is organized and is of very high quality because we do everything we say we do and it’s acceptable to this accreting body which accredits only this type of program (intensive English programs) across the country and around the world as well,” Ingram said. “We have a really good program… (and) we’re able to prove that through getting this accreditation, that we really care about what we’re doing, that we care about the students, that we care about our teaching, and how the program is administered fairly and consistently.”
With the reaccreditation, the program will continue to help students reach high levels of English proficiency. And this semester, the program will be able to do so through online instruction. The decision to begin offering online programs came after taking into consideration various factors affecting IEP programs across the globe, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it was a logical step, we’d been talking about it before COVID… but it (COVID) kind of forced everyone to rethink how to present material,” said Aaron Hurt, director of International Programs and Services. “It’s important, it gives another option for students to learn and improve English not just with coming to the United States but now that’s an online option.”
Cortes is excited for the new opportunity available to students as it will allow the program to attract many more students as there is a drop in IEP enrollment and closures of IEPs throughout the country.
“We saw that with the drop in international enrollment on United States campuses that we, in order to be more competitive, we needed to offer our courses online,” Cortes said. “You initially say ‘how in the world am I going to teach a language online’ but you can and we’re learning how and with a lot of support from the university we’re doing it.”
The online instruction follows a successful pilot program last October, and now approximately half of the IEP students at PSU are through the online program.