What is the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the North Central Association (NCA)?
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is a recently-renamed arm of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). It used to be called the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. It is responsible for accreditation of colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning in the north-central region. Like higher education arms of the five other regional accrediting agencies (Middle States, New England, Northwest, Southern, and Western Associations), HLC is responsible for assuring that colleges and universities in the north-central region meet certain standards in terms of mission, operation, and activities related to learning, discovery and promotion of knowledge, and service. The change in name reflects a shift toward greater accountability for student learning. Although most of the universities that HLC accredits are in the north-central states, its geographical authority actually extends from West Virginia to Arizona.
How is HLC reaccreditation related to Vision 2020?
Vision 2020 is a strategic planning process involving the entire campus community. This process asks “What with the University of Michigan-Dearborn look like in 2020?” The HLC self-study process allows us as a community to consider where we have been, where we currently are, while the Vision 2020 planning uses that information to immediately capture those ideas and needs and move forward. The two together are a significant undertaking, but the reaccreditation self-study gives us a better understanding of our strengths, accomplishments and opportunities and strategic planning allows us to translate those findings into goals and objectives for the campus.
Who will be on the HLC site visit team?
The campus will be visited in the fall of 2013 by a Peer Review Team of trained HLC Consultant Evaluators. The team will consist of college administrators, staff, and faculty members from HLC institutions who have been accepted by the Peer Review Corps of HLC. All will be familiar with the new Criteria for Accreditation and will have gone through training for the process. Most will be experienced site team members from other visits.
Just what will the site team do during its visit?
The team will already have received the complete University of Michigan-Dearborn Self-Study Report and will have had opportunity to review most of the many evidence documents through the web or in other electronic formats. During the actual site visit they will seek to validate the contents of the report in terms of strengths declared and concerns that need attention or issues that team members believe may confront us in the future. Team members will no doubt seek meetings with key personnel across the campus, and they may also host less structured open meetings.
How will the findings be reported?
At the end of the visit, the team will meet with University administrators in an Exit Session and offer feedback on the visit; however, the findings of the team will not be discussed at that time. Following the visit, the evaluation team will write a report, which becomes the official document of record. The team report provides information suitable for the public, information related to the accreditation decision, and consultation for ongoing institutional improvement. The team report is written for a variety of audiences. Central to the report is its relevance to the decision on an organization’s affiliation status with the Commission.
Several weeks after the visit, the team chair sends the draft team report to the Commission staff liaison and team members. The team members and staff liaison review the report and discuss it with the team chair. Following this review, the team chair sends the draft team report to the institution for review and correction of errors of fact. In the letter that accompanies the draft report, the team chair sets firm deadlines for response.
When the final report is complete, the team chair sends it to the Commission staff liaison. The final team report, with the proposed new wording for the Statement of Affiliation Status (SAS) included, becomes the official document of reference. After reviewing the team report and the evaluation team's recommendation, the institution sends a formal written response to the commission, with copies to the team chair and each team member. This response is the institution's commentary on the team's findings. It becomes part of the official record of the evaluation and an integral part of subsequent review processes, including the next evaluation. It also identifies the institution's choice of review process for evaluations for continued candidacy, continued accreditation, and focused visits.