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HLC Review FAQs

What are the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the North Central Association (NCA)?

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.”

What criteria does the HLC use in accrediting colleges and universities?

The Criteria for Accreditation are organized under five major headings. Each criterion has three elements: Criterion Statement, Core Components, and examples of evidence. WATC is using the Revised Criteria for Accreditation that was approved by the HLC Board of Trustees (February 24, 2012).

Note: The Revised Criteria for Accreditation adopted February 2012 will be effective for all accredited institutions on January 1, 2013 and for all non-affiliated institutions and candidates on September 1, 2012. For more information about the new Criteria for Accreditation, download the Criteria Booklet.

Criterion One: Mission
Criterion Two: Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
Criterion Three: Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources and Support
Criterion Four: Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
Criterion Five: Resources, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness

How long has WATC been accredited by the HLC/NCA?

WATC received full accreditation from the Council on Occupational Education in 2001. In 2002 the Kansas Board of Regents established a policy enabling all degree-granting institutions in Kansas to achieve accreditation from HLC-NCA. In 2004 the Preliminary Information Form seeking HLC-NCA accreditation was prepared and submitted. In 2006, WATC received candidacy status with HLC-NCA and in 2008 WATC received accreditation status from HLC-NCA.

How is WATC preparing for the 2014 re-accreditation visit?

An HLC Steering Committee was appointed in February 2012. The Steering Committee consists of the President of the College (Dr. Tony Kinkel), and four co-chairs (Sheree Utash, Self-Study Coordinator; Scott Lucas; Beth Buchholz and Denise Pfeifer). There are five criterion subcommittee’s that represent each of the five criteria for accreditation.  Each of the five criterion subcommittees are led by four co-chairs represented by executive leadership, program directors/deans and faculty. Each criterion subcommittee has 15 – 16 team members represented by staff and faculty.

When will WATC’s next HLC re-accreditation site visit take place?

WATC’s self-study report will be submitted to the HLC in January 2014. An evaluation team is scheduled to visit campus in February – March 2014 (date to be determined). Additional information is available in the Reaccreditation Timeline developed by the HLC Steering Committee.

How is the re-accreditation review team selected?

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.

What is the purpose of the self-study report and process?

The self-study report demonstrates the college’s commitment to peer review. In addition to providing an overview of the institution at this time, it summarizes the college’s understanding of the most significant issues raised in the last re-accreditation review and evaluates how the institution responded to them.

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 WATC self-study has been to conduct a meaningful and transparent evaluation that will help move the institution forward in a positive direction.

Why is HLC accreditation important?

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.

In addition:

  • 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 College.

Could WATC be denied re-accreditation?

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.