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Joseph Walker, Deseret News
Southern Virginia University has its Knight mascot in front of its Main Hall. SVU announced Thursday a prestigious new accreditation for the school's academic programs.
This is something that a lot of people here have been working on for a very long time. —SVU Provost Madison U. Sowell

Southern Virginia University, a four-year private liberal arts college that embraces the values and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced Thursday that it has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges — the oldest, largest and most prestigious educational accreditor for the southern United States.

"This is something that a lot of people here have been working on for a very long time," SVU Provost Madison U. Sowell said. "To be accredited by this very prestigious organization is a major hoop we've had to jump through."

Sowell said the university lost its accreditation for primarily financial reasons a few months before the school's current ownership team assumed control of what was known as Southern Virginia College in 1996. "You have to have a certain financial health to be accredited," Sowell said.

In 2007, the school applied for candidacy to be recertified by the organization and has been working on that accreditation ever since.

SVU is also accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education.

“This is one more external validation of the quality of the Southern Virginia educational experience,” SVU President Paul K. Sybrowsky said. “This seal of approval is an additional signal that the university is on firm ground and will continue to offer the finest liberal arts education available in the letters, arts and sciences within a wholesome LDS environment.”

According to Sowell, the Commission on Colleges based its decision on the findings of a site visit in October 2011, during which an external team of university administrators evaluated Southern Virginia’s 256-page written compliance report, examined hundreds of supporting documents and interviewed numerous students, faculty, administrators and trustees.

At the conclusion of the visit, the chairman reported to Southern Virginia’s senior administrators that the site team had “no recommendations,” meaning that their review revealed nothing that should prevent Southern Virginia from receiving regional accreditation.

"That's almost unheard of," said Sowell, who a few weeks later was speaking to an administrator from another college who said they had to work through more than 60 recommendations from the site team.

"They were almost questioning our veracity when we told them we had zero recommendations," Sowell said.

“Although regional accreditation changes nothing for our students in terms of the excellent education they receive from our highly qualified faculty, it may open a few doors to the university that previously were closed,” Sowell continued. “This is an important step toward our goal of offering a teacher licensure program, applying for NCAA Division III membership and joining an athletic conference.”

It will also make it a little easier for the more than 40 percent of SVU graduates who go on to post-graduate studies.

"Most of the larger schools haven't had a problem with our accreditation," Sowell said. "Some smaller schools have had a problem with it. With this new accreditation, our credits will transfer to other schools more easily."