The Higher Learning Commission will be returning to AU this February for the institutional accreditation process.
Dr. Marie Morris said that, as part of the accreditation process, AU will be posting in the local newspaper, social media and alumni outlets what they call third-party comment. Anyone in the community will be able to submit an opinion of AU to the Higher Learning Commission.
“Something really important is the student opinion survey,” Morris said.
“On Nov. 5, all students will get an email from President Pistole that will explain that we are having this accreditation and that the HLC is seeking student opinion,” she said. “There will be a link for students to complete a five-minute, anonymous survey, and all of the commission will go directly to the HLC. We’ll get them, and the visiting team will get them, just before they come to visit.”
Morris said that students will get a reminder email on Nov. 9, and the survey will be open until Nov. 14. The survey is going out to more than 1,600 students.
“I really encourage students to respond because it’s important for your education, it’s important that we have a positive evaluation and that we get good feedback on areas that we can improve,” Morris said. “Like I said, it’s very important for things like federal financial aid.”
There are 19 states in the regional accrediting body.
“It’s a peer review process, and it’s important because it helps to ensure the quality of the institution and if the institution is healthy,” Morris said. “The Department of Education recognizes that, and when they do, we are eligible to receive federal financial aid, which is really important to our students.”
Morris said that every 10 years the HLC does a comprehensive review and an on-site visit.
“The institution writes an assurance argument that is no more than 35,000 words long addressing five main criteria,” Morris said.
“There’s a criterion for the mission of the school, integrity, that we are who we say we are, and that our publications are accurate,” she said. “There’s a criterion on the assessment of the academic curriculums and the co-curricular programs. The last criterion is resources and planning and that you have the resources to support your mission.”
The visiting team that was assigned will come to campus and will read the argument. Morris said that the argument has to be submitted by January, and the team will come to campus in February having read the argument in order to verify it.
“Between the 10-year visits, we update our assurance arguments every four years,” Morris said. “The team doesn’t visit then, but they kind of peek in to make sure we’re still doing what we say we’re doing.
“The institution also does a quality initiative project, and the project that we did this last time resulted in complete revision of the core curriculum, which is what we have now, and revision of the advising process. That was kind of a fun project to work on,” she said.
AU received its initial accreditation in 1946.
“I am so thankful to Dean Olt, who was the dean at the time and who really encouraged the institution to get accreditation,” Morris said. “It’s been maintained all that time, which is really great.”
Morris also said that this year has been the “year of accreditation,” as many of the departments have been undergoing accreditation recently or will be soon.
“Next week, we actually have an accrediting team on campus from the Association of Theological Schools to accredit the seminary. Also next week, we are going to have a visiting team from the Accreditation Board of Engineering on campus for accreditation of electrical and computer engineering.
“Last year, we had a visit for mechanical engineering, and we received word this past August that the program was fully accredited,” Morris said.
Morris wants to greatly encourage students to participate in the student survey because the accreditation process has a huge impact on our institution as well as some great benefits for the students.