The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an arm of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), which was founded in 1895. Formerly known as the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, it was re-named in 2000 as part of a corporate restructuring. One of six regional accrediting agencies, the HLC (http://www.ncahlc.org/) is responsible for accreditation of colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning in the North Central region, which includes nineteen states. It thereby grants membership in the Commission and in the North Central Association to degree-granting educational institutions in the region. The work of the HLC is shaped by its mission of "Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning."
The Higher Learning Commission currently operates under a set of criteria adopted in 2003 and put into effect in January 2005. These criteria address:
- Mission and Integrity
- Preparing for the Future
- Student Learning and Effective Teaching
- Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
- Engagement and Service
The criteria statements and their core components are available on the HLC web site in Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions: An Overview (2007).
UNI was first accredited by the NCA as a teacher-training institution in 1913. It has been continuously accredited as a four-year institution since 1930. The last comprehensive NCA evaluation took place in 2000-2001.
An HLC Steering Committee composed of faculty, staff, and students was appointed in spring 2008. Subcommittees co-chaired by Steering Committee members have drafted a self-study report that addresses each of the HLC evaluation criteria listed above. UNI's self-study also has a special emphasis on the first-year experience. In April 2008, the University entered into an agreement with the Gardner Institute, formerly known as the Policy Center on the First Year of College, to participate in the Foundations of Excellence (FoE) in the First College Year project. In 2008-2009, the FoE Steering Committee and its subcommittees conducted a campus audit about the first year (Current Practices Inventory); prepared reports on a set of principles known collectively as Foundational Dimensions; and developed a strategic Action Plan. In fall 2009, a First Year Council, charged with implementing recommendations presented in the Action Plan, was created. Additional information about the self-study process, the work of the HLC and FoE Steering Committees, and their membership is available on the HLC (http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/) and FoE (http://www.uni.edu/foe/) Accreditation Work Sites.
With the approval of the HLC, the University of Northern Iowa is participating in a customized special emphasis self-study, the Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year (http://www.fyfoundations.org). A special emphasis self-study allows the institution to focus attention on a particular area of interest or concern. The Foundations of Excellence program is designed to enhance learning by, and retention of, first-year students. The UNI self-study report includes 11 chapters that address specific FoE dimensions and related performance indicators. Additional information about the Foundations of Excellence is available at http://www.fyfoundations.org/
UNI's self-study report will be submitted to the HLC in September 2010. An evaluation team is scheduled to visit campus on November 8-10, 2010. Additional information about the self-study process is available in the timeline (http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/process.shtml) developed by the campus HLC Steering Committee.
The Higher Learning Commission selects a Peer Review team of trained Consultant Evaluators to visit the University, conduct a comprehensive review, and write a report containing the team's recommendations. The team will be large enough to conduct a thorough evaluation of the university. In determining the appropriate number of evaluators, the Commission considers such variables as the number of students, degree levels and programs offered, breadth of services provided to students and other constituencies, and number and type of off-campus programs. Matters unique to an institution, such as a special emphasis, may influence the size and expertise of the team. The University will have an opportunity to provide input about proposed team members.
|Dr. Bette G. Midgarden, Team Chair
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Minnesota State University Moorhead
1104 7th Ave. South
Moorhead, MN 56563
|Dr. Bruce E. Fox
Professor Forest Management
Northern Arizona University
P.O. Box 15018
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5018
|Dr. Kathryn E. Alley
Associate Provost, Accountability & Assessment
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology 501 E. St. Joseph St. 208 O’Harra Building
Rapid City, SD 57701
|Dr. Robert C. Guell
Professor of Economics
Indiana State University
200 N. 7th St.
Terre Haute, IN 47809-9989
|Dr. Linda L.M. Bennett
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712-3534
|Dr. Michael A. Maggiotto
Ball State University
College of Sciences and Humanities
Muncie, IN 47306
|Dr. Anne E. Blackhurst
Dean of Graduate Studies and Research; Acting Provost
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Alumni and Foundation Building 115
Mankato, MN 56001
|Dr. Jose R. Rosario
Professor of Education
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
902 West New York Street, ES 3113
Indianapolis, IN 46402
|Dr. Steve Bullock
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs
University of Nebraska at Omaha
6001 Dodge St.
Omaha, NE 68182
|Dr. Jeffrey Slovak
Deputy Vice President for Finance & Administration
Governors State University
One University Parkway
University Park, IL 60466
The self-study report demonstrates the University's commitment to peer review. In addition to providing an overview of the institution at this time, it summarizes the University's understanding of the most significant issues raised in the last re-accreditation review and evaluates how the institution responded to them. UNI's latest self-study report includes a section addressing how the institution has responded to the recommendations made by the re-accreditation review team that visited campus in February 2001. At the time, the University was required to submit a Progress Report on the General Education program and its assessment, which it did in fall 2004. The self-study also addresses the HLC criteria for continuing accreditation and the Foundations of Excellence Dimensions.
A self-study report has many audiences; certainly, the Higher Learning Commission and its review team is a critical one since the report must demonstrate that the institution is worthy of re-accreditation and continued affiliation with the Commission. A well-crafted self-study report contributes to an efficient and productive visit by the review team.
The self-study process can play a critical role in stimulating consideration of key issues and informing the campus community about strengths and challenges, opportunities for change, and possibilities for improvement. It can help the institution identify ways to more effectively achieve its mission. From the beginning, the intent of the UNI self-study has been to conduct a meaningful and transparent evaluation that will help move the institution forward in a positive direction.
Each individual faculty and staff member, and student, has a very important role to play in the re-accreditation process:
- Read the draft self-study report and submit any questions or comments you may have via the e-mail link on the re-accreditation web site.
- Attend the Open Forum where the self-study report and process will be discussed.
- Become familiar with UNI's mission and values statements, and consider how they impact your responsibilities and your experience at UNI.
- Consider the contributions you are making to the University's mission, including outreach.
- Be prepared to talk about your perceptions and your experiences with members of the re-accreditation review team should you have an opportunity to interact with one or more of the team members during the site visit.
The HLC is responsible for ensuring that colleges and universities in the North Central region of the United States meet standards defined by a uniform set of Criteria for Accreditation. Accreditation demonstrates the participating institution's commitment to sustaining a high level of accountability to students and the larger community. Institutional accreditation recognizes the overall quality of the organization; it covers all programs, sites, and methods of delivery.
The Commission is committed to making accreditation a learning experience that supports an institution's ability to sustain excellence, foster assessment and improvement, and demonstrate integrity and accountability. It seeks to support its affiliated organizations in meeting regional, national, and international expectations for higher learning.
- An accredited institution is eligible to apply for federal grants, loans, and other federal funds, including research funds.
- Students are eligible for federal (and in some instances state) grants and loans.
- Students earn degrees from an accredited institution, which may be important to graduate programs or employers.
- Students are eligible to take state licensure examinations in many professional fields.
- Students can transfer credits to other accredited universities.
- Employers who offer tuition assistance are more likely to reimburse their employees for courses taken at the University.
An institution can be denied re-accreditation, and lose its affiliation with the Higher Learning Commission, if it fails to meet one or more of the Criteria for Accreditation, or if it fails to meet the Obligations of Affiliation within a designated time after receiving a written warning of noncompliance. The Commission concludes each Institutional evaluation by making a decision about the affiliated status of the organization. Part of that decision involves setting the date for the next regular evaluation. The Commission may approve stipulations or provide permission for program and site expansion. It may ask that different kinds of reports be filed over the next few years. It can also mandate an additional visit focused on specific issues.
An organization is placed on notice if it is found to be pursuing a course of action that could result in its being unable to meet one or more Criteria for Accreditation. In placing an organization on notice, the HLC Board of Trustees identifies in the institution's Statement of Affiliation Status the specific conditions that led to its being placed on notice and sets a due date for a written report on corrective measures taken. The written report is typically due one year, and no more than two years, from the date the institution is placed on notice.
An organization also may be placed on probation if conditions exist that endanger its ability to meet one or more of the Commission's Criteria for Accreditation. In placing an organization on probation, the HLC Board of Trustees identifies in the Statement of Affiliation Status the specific conditions that led to probation and the date of the next evaluation, at which time the organization must provide clear evidence of its progress toward ameliorating those conditions. The maximum period of probation is two years. The Board's decision to remove probation is based on recommendations from an evaluation team and review committee.