University Accreditation

commencement president speech



What is university accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary, independent review of educational programs to determine that the education provided is of uniform and sound quality. Being awarded accreditation ensures that an institution has been evaluated and that it met set standards of quality determined by the accrediting organization granting the accreditation. A college or university's accreditation is maintained by continued adherence to the set criteria.

What are the regional accreditation agencies?
There are 6 geographic regions of the United States with an agency that accredits college and university higher education programs:

What other types of college accreditation are there?
Generally, large well-known universities (e.g., Harvard and Princeton) and statewide colleges are regionally accredited. Smaller, private colleges may be nationally accredited. Programs of study that are regulated by national or state licensing boards may require specialized or professional accreditation. For example, the School of Education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the America. The nursing program and the social work program are also accredited by licensing boards. The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintain directories of nationally recognized and specialized accrediting agencies.
The U.S. Secretary of Education also maintains a database to check institution accreditation and lists approximately 6,900 postsecondary educational institutions and programs, each of which is accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

When will the HLC team visit Viterbo University?
President Artman has petitioned the HLC/NCA to schedule the site visit for October, 2008.

Who will be on the HLC team that will visit Viterbo University?
The campus will be visited by a peer review team of trained consultant evaluators. These are administrators, staff people, and faculty who have been accepted to the Peer Review Corps by the HLC. All will have gone through training for such visits and will be familiar with the new Criteria. President Artman will have the opportunity to review the team makeup suggested by the HLC and if appropriate, recommend changes.

What will the HLC team do during the visit?
The team will already have received the complete campus Self-Study Report and will have had access to documents (handbooks, catalogs, etc.) on the web or in electronic formats. During the visit, they will be seeking to validate the content of the report in terms of the strengths we have declared and data that support them, as well as concerns that need attention or issues that may confront us in the future. Team members will have meetings with key individuals and groups from across the campus and will have open meetings that are less structured. These activities will take place in the fall, 2008, and the team will make an Exit Report to the campus on their preliminary findings.

How will the findings be reported?
In both the initial draft and the later, full written report, the HLC team will write an Assurance section that addresses the Criteria and Core Components for accreditation. The team will note the Components that have been met, any that have not been, and any qualifications or concerns regarding them. In addition, the team will write an Advancement section in their role as consultants to offer advice to the campus about issues that might be of concern and ways in which Viterbo University might seek to approach or address those issues. President Artman should receive a draft of the written report within six weeks of the visit. He will have a chance to correct factual errors, and the final report will be submitted to the HLC no more than nine weeks after the visit.

What kinds of recommendations might the team make?
The team may simply recommend continued accreditation with no recommended follow-up focus visits or reports before the next scheduled visit in 2018. If an institution is in serious trouble, the team could recommend probation or even withdrawal of accreditation. In between there is a range of possible actions, including required progress reports on how the institution is dealing with particular issues, monitoring reports dealing with specific issues that require careful and ongoing attention, and contingency reports dealing with changes taking place that affect the mission or nature of the institution. It is likely that some kind of follow-up activity will be recommended. (Under the new Criteria, HLC staff estimate that 85% of institutions will have some kind of activity required.) One new option that the HLC is currently discussing is establishing an Institute on Assessment that could give institutions a chance to confer and collaborate with each other on a voluntary basis.

What will happen to the report when the visit is over?
The Viterbo University community will look carefully at the report, both for the validation of the things that we are doing well and for advice about ways in which we can improve what we are doing. Particular issues may be referred to appropriate committees and offices for examination and action. The campus will establish an ongoing body that will bring all of our accreditation, program review, assessment and planning activities together so that we can avoid duplication and work toward the future in processes that are mutually informed and collaborative.

What do we hope to learn from this process?
The self-study process is an opportunity to examine the extent to which every unit, department, school, and off-campus site meets the needs of our various constituent groups. In addition, the process of conducting a self study develops networks across units, departments, schools, and off-campus sites that can be used to achieve more effectively the Viterbo University mission in the future.