What is Accreditation?
In the United States, colleges and universities voluntarily seek accreditation from nongovernmental bodies. There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized. The Higher Learning Commission conducts institutional accreditation. The Commission has developed resources for individuals to better understand the role of accreditation in U.S. higher education.
Institutional accreditation is provided by regional and national associations of schools and colleges. There are six regional associations, each named after the region in which it operates (Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, Western). The regional associations are independent of one another, but they cooperate extensively and acknowledge one anotherís accreditation. Several national associations focus on particular kinds of institutions (for example, trade and technical colleges, and religious colleges and universities). An institutional accrediting agency evaluates an entire educational organization in terms of its mission and the agencyís standards or criteria.
What is The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)?
The Higher Learning Commission is an independent corporation and one of two commission members of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), which is one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region.
Why is Accreditation Important?
Accreditation by a regional accrediting body recognized by the U. S. Department of Education serves several purposes. Accreditation provides assurance to stakeholders (citizens, students, parents, legislators) that the institution meets clear quality standards for educational and financial performance, and that it is reasonable to assume the institution will continue to do so. This quality assurance by a federally-recognized body also meets requirements necessary for the institution to receive and manage federal financial aid funds. The accreditation process also provides a periodic opportunity and incentive for the institution to review, assess, and advance the quality of its educational and financial operations.
How does UM-Dearborn Maintain Accreditation?
To ensure continued academic excellence, accreditation requires periodic institutional and program reviews. The accreditation process also provides an opportunity to the University to assess our own successes and challenges over time, see how we compare to our peers, and make better decisions when allocating resources. Besides assessing formal education activities, the HLC evaluates such things as governance and administration, financial stability, admissions and student services, institutional resources, student learning, institutional effectiveness, and relationships with internal and external constituencies.
How is HLC Re-accreditation Related to Program Accreditation?
In addition to institutional accreditation, many programs at the University of Michigan-Dearborn have received specialized accreditation, also called program accreditation, which is often associated with national professional associations or with specific disciplines. These specialized accreditations are used as a part of the larger campus-wide presentation to HLC.
Accreditation and the Self-Study Process
The last formal review of UM-Dearborn institutional accreditation was conducted in 2003. As a campus, we will participate in a comprehensive review by the HLC during the fall of 2013. In preparation for this visit by external reviewers, UM-Dearborn has been conducting a self-study of programs and processes, in accordance with the new criteria of accreditation as established by the HLC in February of 2012:
2. Ethical and Responsible Conduct
3. Teaching and Learning - Quality, Resources, and Support
4. Teaching and Learning - Evaluation and Improvement
5. Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness
This self-study process will culminate in a report that will be submitted to the HLC in the spring of 2013. The process of self-study effort has involved a large number of faculty, staff, and students from around the University, including broad membership that is representative of most constituent groups and key administrative leadership. Last year, these groups engaged in work assembling information to be used in the creation of a self-study document. As the self-study process progresses, we will be seeking more assistance and feedback on the drafts that have been written. If you have an interest in assisting in this effort going forward, or if you have any questions on the process, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or consult the Higher Learning Commission website.
What is the purpose of the self-study report and process?
The self-study report demonstrates the University's commitment to peer review. In addition to providing an overview of the institution at this time, it summarizes the University's understanding of the most significant issues raised in the last reaccreditation review and evaluates how the institution responded to them. After UM-Dearborn's last self-study and vision in 2003, the University was required to submit a Progress Monitoring Report on the General Education program and its assessment, which it did in June of 2005. 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, especially in relation to Vision 2020 and the strategic process.
Each individual faculty and staff member, and student, has a very important role to play in the re-accreditation process:
- Read the draft self-study report and submit any questions or comments you may have via the e-mail link on the re-accreditation web site when posted.
- Attend the Forums and events where the self-study report and Vision 2020 will be discussed.
- Review UM-Dearbornís missions and goals for student learning.
- Consider the contributions you are making to the University's mission, including outreach.
- Be prepared to talk about your perceptions and your experiences with members of the re-accreditation review team.