CHADRON – Twenty Chadron State College faculty and staff members joined 4,000 other colleagues during the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) North Central Region conference in Chicago, April 16-19.
HLC, which was founded in 1895, accredits degree-granting post-secondary education institutions in 19 states, including Chadron State College. Its conference is the main opportunity higher education institutions have to participate in sessions annually conducted by HLC staff regarding accreditation and reaffirmation processes and expectations, learn from the successes and failures of other institutions, and discuss trends in higher education such as assessment, quality standards and transparency.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Charles Snare knows requesting 20 people to participate in weekend sessions, while continuing to meet their day-to-day obligations is asking a lot. However, the reaffirmation of accreditation requirements have been altered and expectations have increased. CSC, which will host an HLC peer review in April 2017, has more than 35 faculty and staff members engaged in six committees focusing solely on the college’s reaffirmation. In addition, there are other committees and individuals collecting, reviewing and condensing evidence for the visit.
“Accreditation has to be a collaborative effort across campus in order to demonstrate that we meet certain standards as developed by our peers,” Snare said. “Also, federal funding is important because without accreditation we wouldn’t be eligible to receive federal funds. For institutions that means students can’t receive federal financial aid.”
HLC acknowledges the importance of federal financial aid on its website: “The federal government has a distinct interest in the role of accreditation in assuring quality in higher education for the students who benefit from federal financial aid programs. By being recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) as a gatekeeper agency, the Commission agrees to fulfill specific federally defined responsibilities within the accreditation processes.”
More than $14.2 million was awarded to CSC students in federal and state financial aid in 2014-15. Also in 2014-15, Federal Title IV funds benefited 53.4 percent of undergraduate students and 24.1 percent of graduate students.
In advance of the HLC conference, the deans and Director of Assessment organized the sessions for faculty and staff to attend in order to cover the necessary areas. A debriefing meeting after the conference was also conducted to share information and provide a coherent and intentional plan for the summer.
“We can’t plan for the future if enough of us don’t have an understanding of the context we live in. As an institution we need to be aware of what is going on from an external environment and we want as many people as possible at Chadron State to understand that,” Snare said. “After the debriefing, one of the major things we learned is there is widespread agreement that there is a set of things we are doing pretty well. There are areas to improve and these will be targeted for the upcoming year. We started planning for this in 2013 and we are prepared. However, for CSC to bring this process to a successful conclusion it is imperative we have people throughout the institution who are willing to lead. We’re only as strong as the team we build.”
For more information about CSC’s accreditation, visit: http://www.csc.edu/vpaa/archivedvpaareleases/index.csc and http://csc.edu/about/accreditation/index.csc and https://www.hlcommission.org/
—Alex Helmbrecht, Director of College Relations