Accreditation in the Balance
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) visited North Central Monday, October 2nd through Tuesday, October 3rd to determine whether or not to continue the university’s accreditation on Monday, October 2 and Wednesday, October 3. The HLC is an organization which accredits universities.
Accreditation exists to show the education provided by a university meets established standards and that it is striving to improve the instruction it provides, according to Greg Leeper, director of institutional effectiveness and research at North Central.
Much was done to prepare for the visit over the course of several years. North Central composed a 120-page book about itself in the process of evaluating the entire university, according to Leeper. The book intended to express the ways North Central meets the HLC’s 90 criteria for accreditation. Additional proof was required, amounting to nearly 500 evidence documents.
Paperwork was arranged for the federal government concerning compliance regarding truth in advertising and management of federal financial aid funds. One outstanding outcome of the HLC’s decision is it will influence whether or not the federal government will provide financial aid to students attending North Central. Moreover, maintaining accredited status influences recruitment, since students lean towards attending an accredited institution, and that “… [being accredited] helps our students get into graduate school as well,” said Leeper.
An additional document was also composed as North Central is beginning the process of offering degrees which can be fully completed online: The Associate of Arts in Church Leadership and Master of Arts in Strategic Leadership degrees.
The HLC visit went well, according to Leeper. The HLC’s visiting reviewers voiced encouraging comments and agreed with the respective strengths and weaknesses explained in North Central’s document they read before arriving. Now North Central waits, possibly until February 2018, to hear the final determination from the HLC.
Leeper noted one way improvements could be made would be to further develop the way in which North Central evaluates student learning and implements changes based on data; a committee has been developed to help provide solutions.
“Every semester we’ll be doing major surveys that are emailed to all students and it’s a great way for student voices to be heard and for us to make improvements based on student feedback,” Leeper said. “We do make changes based on the information. The administration, faculty, staff, really care about what students have to say and this is one of the main ways that we hear student feedback.”
Previously only certain classes issued student-review surveys but from now on all classes will and they will be completed electronically.