North Central graduate program reaches accredidation

Details of the graduate studies program is explained to prospective North Central students.

Details of the graduate studies program is explained to prospective North Central students.

Higher Learning Commission impressed with hard work on proposal

The graduate studies program at North Central has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) based on the improvements North Central made to the program. North Central’s graduate program was recommended for accreditation in a document received earlier this semester.

The HLC first denied accreditation to North Central in the summer of 2013. This resulted in North Central separating from Capital Education, a third party program that was handling the design of the graduate studies program, and addressing the concerns of the first evaluation team apart from a third party.

A second evaluation team came to North Central in November 2014. In the HLC report of this visit, it is stated the previous team’s concerns were “the lack of a five-year budget model based on realistic enrollment projections, the lack of involvement of North Central’s admissions team in the recruitment of students for the proposed program and the general creation of internally developed and realistic enrollment projections.”

Earlier this year North Central received a draft document from the HLC stating that improvements on the program have been made and that North Central is eligible for graduate studies. As this was a draft and not an official document, the faculty and staff of North Central did not present the program officially.

The HLC now feels that North Central can support a graduate studies program, citing the administration and faculty as being committed to its success. The addition of the graduate studies program is not expected to negatively effect the development and sustaining of any other operation at North Central.

“The current visit team believes that NCU has more than adequately addressed all of these concerns (listed above),” according to the report.

Throughout the draft document, the HLC notes the effort that North Central put into making their graduate studies program a success. They were impressed with the dedication of the administration and faculty members involved in the development process, and were assured of the program’s continuing success by the availability of resources in the T.J. Jones Memorial Library and the variety of faculty members available.

North Central has two five-year budgets for the graduate program based on expected enrollment in the program. The first budget accounts for 10-20 students per year, while the second accounts for 15-30 students per year. The HLC report notes that North Central’s admissions team “will handle all student recruitment efforts.”

Moving forward, the graduate program will be subject to a formal review every three years. This will cover improvements made over the three-year period and any adjustments being made for the next three years.

Near the end of the draft document, the HLC gave special notice to two teams that worked especially hard on the development of the graduate program. “The members of the Graduate Studies Academic Affairs Committee and the graduate studies implementation team have worked long and hard to make this new program a reality. These groups have done significant work to improve the proposed program over the past year since the HLC denial in 2013, and their efforts deserve special recognition.”

After an official chapel announcement of the program on Friday, March 20th, Thomas Burkman, director of the graduate program at North Central stated, “North Central has a history of offering educational programs with academic excellence at an affordable price. The recent HLC granting of full accreditation for our master of arts degree in strategic leadership is just one more way we can serve the people of this region with affordable, quality education. We are grateful to our support staff and to our highly qualified professors for their outstanding work in making this full accreditation a reality. This is exciting for us.”

About the author: Steven Carver

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