Why does our 2019 Accreditation matter?
If accreditation sounds exciting to you, read on! If it doesn't sound exciting, that's all the more reason to keep reading.
What all of us absolutely need to know
Henry Ford College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This very important accreditation means we get to keep providing education to our students.
President Kavalhuna reminds us that without accreditation, we cannot continue to operate. It's that simple.
Accreditation requires all of us. It's not just about academics; it's about the structure and operation of the entire College. So that includes you, no matter what your specific job is here.
What do we have to do?
To maintain our accreditation, the College is required to, among other things:
1. Submit a document called an Assurance Argument
2. Host a site visit from a team of HLC peer reviewers, every 4th and 10th year. We're operating under the HLC’s Standard Pathway 10-Year Cycle.
The HLC peer review team is scheduled to come to HFC the week of Nov. 17, 2019.
During that week, the visit team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the College to determine whether HFC:
1. Meets certain quality standards (referred to as Criteria for Accreditation).
2. Is engaged in continuous improvement.
Accreditation provides assurance to the public and our stakeholders that HFC is properly prepared to carry out its mission, now and in the future.
The HLC focuses on a broad spectrum of topics, including governance, administration, mission, students, facilities, finances, resources, and planning. Every employee and department at HFC plays an integral role in helping the College achieve accreditation. The accreditation process is designed to ensure that all areas of the College --not just the academic areas -- meet certain standards and expectations.
Accreditation brings us -- students, faculty, and staff -- a lot of benefits
Students can afford to study here. Perhaps the most significant benefit of accreditation is that it allows students to use federal financial aid to fund their education at HFC. Students cannot use federal financial aid (including Pell grants) to pay for their education at non-accredited institutions. Since more than half the student population at HFC uses some form of federal aid, the College would lose at least half of our enrollment, much of our public support, and probably most of our faculty, if we were not accredited. Money, jobs, and access would all be lost.
Students can transfer. Another benefit is accreditation also helps facilitate transfer opportunities. Many students choose HFC as their starting point before transferring to a four-year college or university. HFC has developed course equivalencies, transfer guides, and articulation agreements with other educational institutions to make the transfer process easier, but most accredited colleges and universities will only accept transfer credits from other accredited institutions. HFC’s accredited status helps students to achieve their goal of transferring to earn more advance degrees.
It makes us think about what's important. One benefit that is often overlooked is that accreditation encourages us to pause and evaluate our successes, challenges, opportunities for change, and possibilities for improvement. We are all extremely busy with day-to-day college operations. This can make it difficult to step back and see the big picture. Pausing for reflection can feel like a luxury that we cannot afford. As it turns out, pausing for reflection is essential to our current operations, and to our future success. The accreditation process not only encourages reflection, but it requires it. Reflection will allow us to become stronger as an institution.
It is cause for celebration and collaboration. Accreditation is an occasion for celebrating what we are doing well and for learning about the ways in which different areas of the College intersect and contribute to our successes. Complete the accreditation review process means learning more about the institution and the commitment of our colleagues and students.
The Higher Learning Commission is a regional accreditation agency. While it is not directly affiliated with the federal government, it is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a body qualified to accredit degree-granting colleges and universities in the North Central region of the United States.
The North Central region is one of six different U.S. regions in which accreditation agencies operate. With 19 states considered part of the North Central region, HLC is the largest accrediting agency in the country. The regional accreditation agencies have similar standards for accrediting colleges and universities.
The Assurance Argument and you
All HFC faculty and staff will have access to the Assurance Argument document that we will submit to the HLC prior to the on-site visit in November. Although the report will be lengthy in total, it will include shorter summaries for the Criteria for Accreditation.
We strongly recommend that all faculty and staff familiarize yourselves with the summaries, and think about how your position at HFC supports each of the required criteria.
As we move through the accreditation process this year, regular communications will be sent out college-wide to keep you informed of our progress, and to let you know how you can participate.