Grand Valley State University 2006-2008
Accreditation is a familiar word to those of us who work in the academic environment, yet it is not a frequent word that is heard on a daily basis. The word has begun to take on a "life" at the Grand Valley State University campus, actually, call it a buzz word, "reaccreditation". The actual event only takes a few days but the process takes many months of preparation. Grand Valley is engaged in the reaccreditation process and will be preparing for a "site-visit" in October 2008. So, what's the buzz? This process takes place every ten years at institutions of higher learning and 2008 is our year to participate in a self-study and an evaluation by our peers. Grand Valley was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools for undergraduate programs in 1968 received accreditation at the master's level in 1979.
Institutional accreditation involves evaluation of an entire organization. The accreditation is for the whole, not the parts. The various components that are evaluated include the formal educational activities, governance and administration, financial stability, admissions and student personnel services, resources, student academic achievement, organizational effectiveness, and relationships with outside constituencies.
The agencies responsible for accreditation are nongovernmental bodies. In GVSU's case our accreditating body is the HLC-NCA.
The HLC assigns each affiliated organization a staff liaison, GVSU's liaison is Dr. Robert Appleson. He is our connection to the HLC and the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) evaluation process.
The HLC provides information and service to the affiliated organizations as well as the public. The main resource we will use is the information available on the website, www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org, specifically the Handbook of Accreditation.
The peer review process involves the actual site team. There are more than a thousand people who work as evaluators, this group is called the Peer Review Corps. They are volunteers who have marked knowledge and direct experience with higher education and are dedicated to educational excellence.
There are two forms of affiliation with the HLC. The pre-accreditation status is called Candidate Status and the other affiliation is Accredited Status. All affiliated organizations voluntarily meet obligations of affiliation. These obligations include activities such as periodic reviews, submitting required reports, completing annual reports, hosting required or requested visits, and paying dues and fees. Failure to fulfill these obligations can result in the loss of affiliation
Overview of the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) process:
Grand Valley State University has chosen to continue using the (PEAQ) self-study process. This is a five-step comprehensive evaluation process that determines continued accredited status. Here is an overview of that process from an HLC brochure.
- The organization engages in a self-study process for approximately two years and prepares a report of its findings in accordance with Commission expectations.
- The Commission sends an evaluation team of consultant-evaluators to conduct a comprehensive visit for continued accreditation and to write a report containing the team's recommendation.
- The documents relating to the comprehensive visit are reviewed by a Readers Panel or, in some situations, a Review Committee.
- The Institutional Actions Council (IAC) takes action on the Readers Panel's recommendation. (If a Review Committee reviewed the visit, the Review Committee takes action.)
- The Board of Trustees validates the IAC or Review Committee, finalizing the action.
The Criteria for Accreditation as a Context for Evaluation
The Criteria for Accreditation are organized under five major headings.
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
Each Criterion has three elements: Criterion Statement, Core Components, and Examples of Evidence. The Criteria Statements define necessary attributes of an organization accredited by the Commission. An organization must be judged to have met each of the Criteria to merit accreditation. An organization addresses each Core Component as it presents reasonable and representative evidence of meeting a Criterion. The Examples of Evidence illustrate the types of evidence an organization might present in addressing a Core Component. The Criteria are intentionally general so that accreditation decisions focus on the particulars of each organization, rather than on trying to make it fit a pre- established mold. The widely different purposes and scopes of colleges and universities demand criteria that are broad enough to encompass diversity and support innovation, but clear enough to ensure acceptable quality. The Criteria Statements and Core Components are presented here. Visit the Commission's Web site to view the "Examples of Evidence".
Obligations of Affiliation
In addition to meeting the Criteria for Accreditation, all affiliated organizations voluntarily agree to meet obligations of affiliation, including undergoing periodic reviews, submitting required reports, completing annual reports, hosting other required or requested visits, and paying dues and fees. Every organization must have its accreditation reaffirmed not later than ten years following each subsequent reaffirmation. Accredited status is not for a specific period of time but is a continuing relationship with the Commission that is subject to periodic review. The Commission may require focused visits or reports between comprehensive visits; it regularly examines organizational annual reports and other information to see whether changes have occurred (or are anticipated) that would necessitate a change in the timing of the next evaluation. In addition, an organization is required to notify the Commission in writing before initiating any change that might alter its relationship with the Commission and to obtain approval before initiating the change.
Information Available to the Public
The Commission publishes the names of affiliated organizations on its Web site. In certain situations, the Commission may issue a Public Disclosure Notice to explain a particular relationship with an organization. The Commission maintains a Statement of Affiliation Status (SAS) and an Organizational Profile (OP) on each affiliated organization. The SAS contains a summary of the organization's official relationship with the Commission. The OP contains information on organizational characteristics taken from the annual report provided by each organization to the Commission. In the future, the Commission will provide public access to SAS and OP information through its Web site.