A gathering of students and staff at Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine in Glendale, Arizona, erupted with cheers as the news was announced that the veterinary college had become the 29th U.S. institution to receive full accreditation from the AVMA Council on Education.
"It is an incredibly good feeling. It's a very difficult thing to accomplish, and it should be difficult, as far as I am concerned," said Dr. Thomas K. Graves, dean of the veterinary college. "It was a true team effort here, and that makes it really rewarding."
The decision came down during the COE's Sept. 23-25 meeting at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Midwestern University, a private, nonprofit institution specializing in health care education, announced in March 2012 that it would create Arizona's only veterinary school at its 144-acre central Arizona campus. In 2013, the program received a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation after a COE site team conducted a consultative site visit in January of that year.
Reasonable assurance is not a pre-accreditation action by the AVMA COE. Rather, for a new institution seeking initial accreditation, such a letter indicates there is reasonable assurance of future accreditation if the program is established according to plans presented to the COE and if the institution is able to demonstrate a realistic plan to comply with the standards of accreditation.
Then, from April 22-May 3 this year, the council sent a site team to do a comprehensive site visit, which informed the COE's decision at its most recent meeting. The council makes accreditation decisions based on its 11 standards, which include such categories as finances, physical facilities, clinical resources, and curriculum.
The status of full accreditation is granted for a period of up to seven years when a veterinary college has no deficiencies in the standards. Veterinary colleges submit annual reports to the COE to demonstrate their continued compliance.
Midwestern has spent about five years working towards this status, but the veterinary college isn't done yet, Dr. Graves said.
"We've identified challenges, things that we need to celebrate, and things that we need to do better," he said. "This is just a jumping-off point for us to continue to grow in terms of the quality of our program."
Full accreditation means that members of Midwestern's 2018 graduating class, its first, will retroactively be identified as having received their diplomas from a COE-accredited school.
Midwestern has seen an increase in the number of applicants over the past five years from about 500 to 1,200 annually. Dr. Graves anticipates that number will continue to grow.
"There is a level of comfort, I think, that students have knowing that a program is fully accredited. It will take a while for the applicant pool to realize that, but I think it will increase the number of applicants that we have," Dr. Graves said.
The inaugural Class of 2018 comprised 90 veterinary students after matriculating 102. Over a quarter of the graduating class will be taking positions in rural areas across the nation, and 23 percent of the graduates will be remaining in Arizona to practice, according to a university press release.
Total four-year tuition for the class was $270,014—the highest among all U.S. veterinary colleges, according to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges' Cost Comparison Tool.
Midwestern's veterinary college expects its Class of 2023 to number about 110 to 120 students.