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Preparation underway for accreditation process

December 13, 2007

A team of seven people from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (HLC/NCA) will visit UW-River Falls this spring to determine if the University is meeting the criteria to be re-accredited.

UWRF received its ten-year re-accreditation in 1998, so the University is preparing for the coming year’s review process.

“UW-River Falls has been continually accredited for many years, likely back into the 1930s, when such public assurance processes were being established,” Chancellor Don Betz said.

Accreditation is a central component to the functionality of a respected university and has a significant impact on students.

“Although accreditation is a voluntary process, it is required for an institution to be qualified to participate in federal student financial aid programs,” according to the UWRF Institutional Self-Study Web site. “Accreditation also provides an indication of institutional quality that allows students to transfer and have their credits accepted by other universities and graduate programs.”

The HLC/NCA is an organization dedicated to keeping universities in the United States in check, making sure they are meeting specific standards to qualify them as an accredited institution. The Commission is composed of “more than a thousand carefully trained educators, from all types of colleges and universities,” according to the HLC/NCA overview pamphlet.

Seven of these people will come to UWRF in April.

“What they do is make sure you’re providing quality educational experiences for your students,” Gorden Hedahl, professor of theatre and coordinator of the Institutional Self-Study, said.

Hedahl and over 50 other people have been working on the Institutional Self-Study since the summer of 2005. The final product of their combined efforts will be a 200-page report, summarizing how the University meets the criteria laid out by the HLC/NCA to be an accredited institution.

The Commission has specific criteria that universities must meet: mission and integrity, preparing for the future, student learning, and effective teaching, acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge and engagement and service. There are also sub-standards outlined under each of the five aforementioned criteria.

“At UWRF, many committees and task forces have been working on this document,” Betz said.

Hedahl is working on the final draft of the Institutional Self-Study report, which will cite specific examples of how UWRF complies with the criteria.

“It’s really to tell what you’ve done for the last ten years and what you’re going to do for the next five,” Hedahl said.

The report will go out at the end of January, but the third draft is available online at http://www.uwrf.edu/nca/.

“They [the HLC/NCA] have three months to look at the publication and then they come to campus to see what’s going on,” Hedahl said.

When the Commission visits campus they will be provided with a room filled with resources, both electronic and hard copy, which back up the report.

“We’ll have a real good idea after that campus visit how things are going,” Hedahl said. “We’d like that they understand we’re doing good work here, and hopefully the self-study and their visit will confirm that.”

David Trechter, another member of the planning team, said he recognizes the opportunities that the process provides.

“Not only will we know ourselves better after this process is complete but it tells us where our strengths and challenges lie,” Trechter said in an e-mail interview. “There is a lot of really good work going on here and high levels of achievement by both faculty and students.”