Higher-ups in administration are always telling students that the University is preparing them for life, work, and citizenship when they graduate, but it can’t do that without approval from the Higher Learning Commission.
The University as a whole is up for accreditation this month, and that means inspectors are coming in from the HLC to inspect the college and determine if it is meeting the basic educational institution standards.
Steve Hornstein, faculty co-director for accreditation, says that higher learning institutions must be accredited by a number of different agencies. The college as a whole has its own, while individual departments have accreditors in their respective fields.
“For us, they are going to take a look at our classes and make sure that each of them is receiving enough hours; that the coursework is appropriate to the difficulty level of course they’re taking; grading policies; then complaints, finances, and student life and development,” Hornstein said. “Usually complaints aren’t anything new—it’s always students complaining about parking, advising, and food.”
The way that the process works involves the HLC taking a document from the University called an Assurance Argument. The document consists of points and statements made by the University affirming that they are carrying out all of the duties it says it is and providing evidence to back up their claim. Then, the HLC comes to the University for a length of 2-3 days and measures their outcomes based on five detailed factors:
1. The institution’s mission is broadly understood, articulated publicly, understands a diverse society, and demonstrates a commitment to public good.
2. The institution operates with integrity in its academic, financial functions; it presents itself clearly to students with regards to its program requirements; the governing board of the University is bipartisan in its decision making; it is committed to protecting freedom of expression; and that the institution’s policies and procedures call for responsible acquisition.
3.The institution’s degree programs are appropriate for higher education, integration of broad learning, effective faculty for higher learning outcomes; provides supportive services for student learning and teaching; and fulfills claims of creating a rich, educational learning environment.
4. The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, commits responsibility to educational achievement, and demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement.
5.The University’s resource base supports its current educational programs and plans of maintaining quality in the future, governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership to fulfill its mission, participation in systematic and integrated planning, and working to systematically improve its performance.
The HLC also looks at something called assumed practices: things that they can already assume about the University. In this particular portion of the accreditation procedure, the HLC doesn’t examine as carefully, they will only go over it if something unusual pops up. Often times it’s making sure complaints are collected effectively and making sure graduate studies faculty are meeting high standards. Finally, there is a document called a federal compliance, which determines whether the university is complying with federal regulations for certain policies like Title XI and financial aid.
The HLC has two weeks to compile all of the data and look at things they might find concerning and come back with a draft report before the end of fall semester, and then return with a full report during spring semester.
If the University passes these requirements from the accreditors visit, then activities will continue as usual—if not, then the institution has a year to correct what is wrong before loss of accreditation is considered.
While the standards are high, Hornstein said he’s not worried about the University losing any credentials as a whole.
“I don’t expect there to be any problems. Of course there will be a thing here and a thing there that they will tell us to fix, but not anything huge,” he said.
Accreditation for the University takes place Nov. 7 through Nov. 8.