Baker University Reaccreditation Process
Fall 2011 Accreditation FAQs
What is accreditation?
Accreditation certifies that the college or university meets or exceeds identified criteria that define academic integrity and rigor, fiscal responsibility, and coordinated oversight of activities.
Institutional accreditation by a recognized regional accrediting body is necessary for any institution of higher education to utilize federal financial aid for students. Accreditation also serves to ensure the quality of the degrees conferred and directly influences the opportunities available to graduates.
In addition to overall institutional accreditation, some programs have specialized accreditation processes that evaluate the programs curriculum and course content against specific disciplinary standards. At Baker, programs with specialized accreditation include business, music, education and nursing.
Who/what is HLC?
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is the accrediting body for higher education for the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (of which Baker is a charter member). HLC utilizes a peer-review process, thus the accreditation reviewers are faculty and administrators from other institutions in the North Central Association.
How often do schools need to be reaccredited?
The number of years between reaccreditation is set by the accrediting body following the previous reaccreditation. Currently, HLC has two accrediting programs: the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). Baker is part of the PEAQ program, which typically has a comprehensive accreditation visit every 10 years.
What are the criteria for accreditation?
The criteria for accreditation are established by HLC and detail aspects of the institution, both academic and administrative, that are examined by the reviewers in determining the health of the school and its suitability for continued accreditation. The five criteria are as follows:
- Mission and integrity
- Planning for the future
- Student learning and effective teaching
- Acquisition, discovery, and application of knowledge
- Engagement and service
Each of the criteria contains four or five core components that provide more specificity regarding the elements to be reviewed.
What is the self-study?
The self-study is a required component of the accreditation process. The university is expected to work as a community to gather evidence that shows that the institution meets the criteria for accreditation and the core components. In addition, the self-study requires an analysis of the institution’s strengths and weaknesses. As a whole, the self-study is an opportunity for the university to reflect on its accomplishments and areas for improvement.
What happens during the campus visit?
As part of the reaccreditation process, HLC sends a team of peer reviewers (typically five team members for a school of our size) to visit the campus. The team receives a copy of the self-study at least eight weeks before the visit. The campus visit allows the team to confirm the evidence presented in the self-study and to develop a richer understanding of the institution. While on campus, the reviewers are allowed to see any document (even confidential files), visit any facility and talk to any person they choose. The visit typically starts on a Monday morning, and concludes with the team visiting with the president on Wednesday morning to share their initial conclusions. A schedule of meetings with individuals and groups is usually developed several weeks in advance of the visit.
When will we know the final decision?
Following the visit, the team will provide a report to the Higher Learning Commission regarding its recommendations for continued accreditation and any follow-up action to be taken. This report will be provided to the institution about eight weeks after the visit. The institution then has the opportunity to correct any “errors of fact.” A final version of the report is provided to the institution, at which point the institution may write a response to the report. The report and institutional response then proceed to the next level of review. Most report reviews are conducted by a readers panel (shorter time frame), but in some circumstances (including at the request of the institution) the report goes to a Review Committee. The outcome from this next level of review proceeds to the Institutional Actions Committee and then to the Board of Trustees of the Higher Learning Commission for final approval. All together, the review process will take several months.
What are the possible outcomes of the process?
The final decision from the HLC Board will contain a primary accreditation decision. That decision generally (except for seriously troubled institutions) specifies a number of years that the institution will remain accredited until HLC will need to revisit the institution’s accreditation status (e.g., accreditation for 10 years). In addition, the decision will specify follow-up actions that must be taken to maintain accreditation during that period of time. Follow-up actions may include the following:
- One or more progress reports: These are intended to keep the commission informed about changes or specific projects that the university has promised to undertake.
- One or more monitoring reports: These reports similarly inform the commission about changes or projects that university is undertaking. However, in the case of monitoring reports, the commission has specified additional actions to be taken if the changes or projects are not completed as expected.
- A focused visit: In the case of a focused visit, the commission will send an additional review team to the campus within the accreditation period (e.g., 5 years into a 10-year accreditation period) to examine specific aspects of the institution that were identified as problematic by the original team.
More information about accreditation is available at: http://www.ncahlc.org/HLC-Institutions/how-institutions-are-accredited.html