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Accreditation

By Tashnah T. Dixon

Huntington University is accredited by an organization known as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This accrediting body is the largest of its kind and oversees the institutions in 19 states across the United States.

The HLC sets standards for the schools that they supervise “to ensure that institutions have a baseline of quality education, as well as that there is compliance with federal regulations,” according to Mike Wanous, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.

These standards are captured through five criteria, which are:

Mission

Integrity — Ethical and Responsible Conduct

Teaching and Learning — Quality, Resources and Support

Teaching and Learning — Evaluation and Improvement Resources

Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.

These five, known as the Criteria for Accreditation, are the standards by which the commission decides whether or not an institution should be granted accreditation or reinstatement of accreditation. Under the HLC, institutions are reviewed and accredited (accordingly) every ten years, with a review process also occurring in the fourth year after accreditation.

Accreditation is a process of self-regulation and screening through peer or professional review that is used to ensure there is quality improvement in higher education. This process seeks to reflect three core values of higher education, all of which are crucial to academic quality — institutional autonomy, academic freedom and peer and professional review.

Today, more than seven thousand colleges and universities and more than twenty thousand programs offered to approximately twenty-four million students are willing to be reviewed for accreditation by 19 institutional accreditors and 61 programmatic accreditors. The accreditation process is majorly funded by colleges, universities and programs, and is independent of the government by design. Because of this independence, the accreditation process relies heavily on the members of the institutes of higher education to partake in self-studies and assessments, to participate in peer and professional reviewers and serve on accrediting organizations’ decision-making bodies.

The government only oversees the accreditation process primarily through what is called “recognition.” Organizations seeking accreditation must be reviewed at least every five years by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to a review by the advisory committee, institutions have to agree to partake in the federal “Program Participation Agreement.” This requires the school to abide by federal obligations and submit information to the federal government.

HU’s last accreditation was in the 2013-2014 period, so it is in the process of a fourth-year review for the 2017-2018 period. Because these reviews are heavily reliant on self-studies and peer reviews, the university is required to submit a detailed 100 plus page argument, called the Assurance Argument, with evidence to show the school’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation.

HU’s Assurance Argument was submitted on Friday, February 9, 2018 after a strenuous five-stage process that began in the summer of 2017. The first of these stages is the original writing of the Assurance Argument. HU’s Assurance Argument has five primary authors from different disciplines and programs — one for each criterion.

For this submission, Dr. Mike Cook, Dr. Ruth Nalliah, Dr. Todd Martin, Dr. Mike Wanous, and Dr. Ann Mcpherren were the primary authors. The next four stages are the editing and altering of the full document. It is conducted first by Dr. Mike Wanous, then Dr. Becky Benjamin, then Sherilyn Emberton, university president, and lastly through Grammarly, the online writing aid.

Along with this Assurance Argument, a trained team of five of the institution’s peers will also visit the campus to conduct the second half of the review process. This team will be on campus on March 12 and 13, and Wanous encourages students to participate in the open forums and activities surrounding these visits.

He states that students will be able to “ask questions and share their campus experiences with the review team.”

These activities will give students opportunities to have an active role in the review process of the university by offering critique and suggestions. Wanous summarizes the accreditation process as “constantly evaluating, as it is a continuous quality improvement.”

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