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Accreditation Questions and Answers

What is college accreditation?

It is an independent review of an institution’s educational programs. It helps to ensure that the programs meet high quality standards. Accreditation also helps to ensure that the institution meets the standards established by the accrediting body. North Park University adheres to the standards set by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

What is the Higher Learning Commission, NCA?

The Commission is a member of one of the six regional associations of schools, colleges and universities in the United States. The remaining five agencies are the Middle States, New England, Northwest, Southern and Western Association. As with all of the above accreditation agencies, the Higher Learning Commission evaluates the entire institution and its programs collectively in terms of the institution’s mission and the standards or criteria established by agency.

The HLC and other regional accrediting agencies are responsible for assuring that colleges and universities meet certain standards in terms of their missions, operations, and activities in teaching and student learning, as well as the discovery and promotion of knowledge and service.

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation helps to ensure that a college or university is eligible to participate in state and federal financial aid programs to assist students towards obtaining their education. For many graduate programs, accreditation is a prerequisite for many applicants

What is a self-study?

A self-study is periodic, rigorous, comprehensive review and analysis of an institution’s strengths and weakness. Its purposes are vital to both the institution’s external and internal constituencies. Accreditation is merited based on an institution’s ability to meet the criteria and established standards.

What is the value of accreditation?

Accreditation provides both public certification of acceptable institutional quality, and an opportunity and incentive for self-improvement in the accredited organization. The Commission reaches the conclusion that a college or university meets the criteria only after the organization opens itself to outside examination by experienced evaluators familiar with accrediting requirements and higher education. The process of accreditation provides the accredited organization with an opportunity for critical self-analysis, leading to improvement in quality, as well as the consultation and advice of persons from outside organizations.

What will the accrediting commission do?

Overall, accrediting agencies have are two purposes: one is to gauge the performance of an institution or program in relation to its over arching mission; the other is to promote improvement in the quality of the institution’s programs and membership institutions. The HLC offers two programs for maintaining accredited status, The Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ), and the Academic Quality Improvement (AQIP).

The Commission will also assess the institution’s educational programs and activities. The assessment process is further extended to the institution’s governance and administration; financial stability; admissions; student services; institutional resources; and student learning and institutional effectiveness.

What does the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) entail?

The PEAQ process is a five step comprehensive evaluation:

  1. The institution completes a self-study and prepares a report of its findings.
  2. A team of Consultant Evaluators from the Commission conduct a comprehensive visit, followed by a report and recommendations.
  3. The self-study, team report and recommendations, and other documents are reviewed by the Commission’s Review Committee.
  4. The Instructional Actions Council (IAC) acts on the Readers Panel’s recommendation.
  5. The Commission’s Board of Trustees validates the findings of the IAC Review Committee while also rendering a final decision.

What does the HLC look for when it accredits colleges and universities?

The Commission has established five Criteria statements, as outlined below, each including its Core Components. An institution must present reasonable and representative evidence of meeting each Criterion.

Criterion One: Mission and Integrity
Criterion Two: Preparing for the Future
Criterion Three: Student Learning and Effective Teaching
Criterion Four: Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge
Criterion Five: Engagement and Service

Why are we being visited for re-accreditation?

The last full accreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission, NCA to North Park University was in 2001. Reaccreditation usually takes place in a ten-year cycle. Currently, our re-accreditation visit is schedule for November 2010.

How will the findings be reported?

The Commission’s team of Consultant Evaluators will draft a team report, consisting of two sections: the Assurance section clearly articulates the degree to which North Park University meets each Criterion and the Core Components for accreditation; the Advancement section provides recommendations and advice for the future, as well as approaches or strategies for addressing issues identified within the section. The latter section also highlights the accomplishments of the institution. A draft copy of the report is available to the President within a six week time period following the team’s visit.

North Park's compass in the center of campus.