Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and how is it related to 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.
Why is HLC accreditation important?
While many academic agencies review and accredit particular programs of study (education, nursing, mathematics, etc.), HLC is responsible for assuring that colleges and universities in the north-central region meet standards defined by a uniform set of Criteria for Accreditation. HLC accreditation is an assurance to the public that a higher learning institution is properly prepared to do its job.
What does HLC look for when it accredits colleges and universities?
In 2003 the Higher Learning Commission adopted a set of five new criteria for accreditation. They went into effect in academic year 2004-2005. The new criteria relate to:
- Mission and Integrity
- Preparing for the Future
- Student Learning and Effective Teaching
- Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
- Engagement and Service
More detailed articulation of these criteria and examples of evidence that would support their various "core components" can be found in the criteria and HLC Handbook of Accreditation.
How long has Minot State University been accredited by NCA/HLC?
MSU received its initial accreditation from NCA in 1917. Accreditation was subsequently granted for the period 1925-1934 and has been renewed regularly in 10-year periods ever since. The last site visit resulted in accreditation through Academic Year 2007-2008.
When will Minot State University's next HLC re-accreditation site visit take place?
MSU undertook its present self-study during academic year 2005-2006 and began preparing a report document based on the new criteria in Fall Semester 2006. The university will submit its final draft of that report to HLC in early February 2008. An evaluation team from HLC is scheduled to visit the campus between March 31 and April 2, 2008. More detailed information on the sequence of events relating to the self-study process can be found in the timeline.
How is the university preparing for the 2008 re-accreditation visit?
A 25-person Steering Committee and a Task Force for review of each of the five Criteria for Accreditation were formed in Spring Semester 2006. Their fundamental purposes are to draft a self-study report and to help prepare the campus community for the 2008 site visit. More detailed information on the Steering Committee and other matters relating to the self-study team and its work can be found on the committee and news pages.
Who will be on the HLC site visit team?
The campus will be visited 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. President Fuller, acting on behalf of the Steering Committee, has already given HLC a list of desirable experience and knowledge characteristics for the team. In Fall Semester 2007 an opportunity to reply to proposed team makeup as it has been suggested by HLC, and at that time also to recommend any changes we believe should be made.
Just what will the site team do during its visit?
The team will already have received the complete Minot State University 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. Most of these activities will take place on Monday and Tuesday, March 31 and April 1. On Wednesday, April 2, the team will make an Exit Report to the campus about its preliminary findings.
How will the findings be reported?
In both an initial draft and a subsequent written report, the HLC team will write an "Assurance" section that addresses the Criteria and Core Components for accreditation. The team will note the Core Components that have been met, any that have not been met, and any qualifications or concerns regarding them. In its role as a consulting agency, the HLC team will also write an "Advancement" section, offering advice about issues that it finds may be of concern and ways in which it believes MSU might seek to address those issues. President Fuller should receive a draft of the written team report within six weeks of the visit - about the time of commencement exercises in May 2008. He will have a chance to correct factual errors, and the final team report will be submitted to HLC no more than nine weeks after the site visit.
What kinds of recommendations might the team make?
The team may simply recommend continued accreditation, with no recommended follow with no recommended follow up activities before the next scheduled visit (for us that would be in academic year 2017-2018). If an institution is in serious trouble, a team may recommend "probation" or even withdrawal of accreditation. Between these extremes exists a range of possible actions, including required "progress reports" on particular issues, or "monitoring reports" dealing with any issues that require ongoing attentionor or "contingency reports" dealing with changes taking place that affect the mission or nature of an institution. It is likely in our case that some kind of follow-up activity will be recommended, because under the new Criteria for Accreditation, HLC staff estimate that 85% of institutions have some kind of follow-up activity required.
What happens to the team's report when the site visit is over?
As an institution we will need to look carefully at the report, both for validation of the things that we are doing well and for advice about ways we can improve what we are doing. Particular issues may be referred to appropriate campus committees or offices for action. In Fall 2006 an Archiving Task Force was convened to examine ways the university can ensure that the next HLC self-study has continuous, up-to-date, and useful evidence material already on hand. The university may even want to consider establishing mechanisms that will bring all of its accreditation, program review, assessment, and planning processes together in such a way as to avoid duplication of processes that are mutually informed and could be more collaboratively managed.
What do we hope to gain from this process?
We hope, above all, that the visit will confirm that MSU is fulfilling its declared mission. We also hope to receive good advice about ways in which we can better meet and advance our mission. We hope that as an institution we will learn more about ourselves. Above all, we seek advice that will help us to realize our declared vision for our second 100 years -- becoming one of the premier public, regional universities in the "great" Great Plains.