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University will receive 10-year reaccreditation

May 2, 2008

UW-River Falls will receive a 10-year reaccreditation to the Higher Learning Commission following a positive review by a seven-member review team that visited campus April 21-23.

The Higher Learning Commission is the only accrediting body that reviews an entire campus. Accreditation by the HLC is required in order for a campus to receive federal funding for student financial aid and grants for research.

“If you lose your accreditation it affects your reputation, and you can’t get financial aid,” UWRF Chancellor Don Betz said.

Following their three-day visit, the HLC review team recommended that UWRF receive the full 10 years of continuing accreditation, the maximum that the commission allows.

“This is as encouraging and confirming of a report that I could hope for,” Betz said.

The team also included no focused visits in its review. A focused visit occurs when the HLC sees a particular problem area at a university and sends a team to address that issue.

“A lot of universities are getting follow ups that are focused on a specific area,” Gorden Hedahl, captain of the university’s self-study process, said. “But we have no focused visits or follow ups for 10 years.”

The team did cite two concerns that they want addressed before the next accreditation in 10 years. One focuses on academic teaching staff, their salaries, terms of employments and other conditions. The other is the institutionalization of assessment, according to an email from the Chancellor. Associate Dean Brad Caskey said that both concerns were already beginning to be addressed before the team arrived.

“We have a committee structured for next year to address [teaching academic staff],” Caskey said.

The team cited eight strengths during their visit: the high quality of the UWRF self-study, the student-centered nature of the institution, the widely accepted and effected strategic plan, the “motivated, dedicated and highly competent faculty, staff and administration,” the campus dedication to serving the St. Croix Valley, the institution’s focus on sustainability and the University’s commitment to shared governance, according to an e-mail from the Chancellor.

“The reason why I’m so pleased by this is because it’s an inordinarily long list,” Betz said. “Having two concerns and eight strengths is very unusual.”

Betz said that the HLC team members made special note of the attendance rates during the open meetings.

“It was an amazing demonstration of a good dialogue,” Betz said. “They found a lot of genuineness and a lot of energy.”

The HLC team also cited four weaknesses in their review. Weaknesses are issues noted by the team that they understand are not under the direct control of the University.

“[We] did not create these circumstances, but [we are] living with them and working with them,” Betz said.

The weaknesses include deferred maintenance, salary considerations, instructional space considerations, and economic challenges into the foreseeable future, according to an e-mail from the Chancellor.

Caskey said that the report will be read by the UW-System Regents and legislators who will look at the weaknesses of the university.

“This document is a reflection of us,” Caskey said.

There will be a campus reception at the University Center on May 13 to celebrate the accomplishment.

“If we would have had the chance to write our own summary, we couldn’t have written it any more positive,” Caskey said. “Every person should be proud of this place and what they do.”