For the first time in 10 years, the University of Northern Iowa’s campus will be visited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in March 29-30 in order to reaffirm the university’s accreditation. The re-accreditation process ensures the university is meeting proper standards and criteria specified by the HLC and ensuring student success. Maintaining accreditation assures the university will receive federal funding, such as grants and subsidized loans. It is also necessary for the university to be accredited so that students can transfer credits and pursue graduate programs.
The re-accreditation process involves more than just the site visit. Part of the preparation has included the composition of an assurance argument, laying out for the HLC how the university is meeting the standards for a higher learning institution. The assurance argument has taken three years to write and was submitted in late February to the HLC.
Professor of political science and co-chair of the HLC Steering Committee Scott Peters noted the hard work that many people have put into the composition of the argument.
“We had six different committees working on that process over that time period,” Peters said. “All told, over 100 people across campus helped out with this. Faculty, staff and students have been working on this for several years.”
“It’s a substantial piece of work,” he continued. “Thirty four thousand words, over 1,000 pieces of evident that we cited along the way. We also have to show that we comply with various federal regulations, and then the last part of it is the site visit.”
Director of Institutional Research & Effectiveness and co-chair of the HLC Steering Committee Kristin Moser encourages students to participate in the site visit on March 29.
“It’s just really important from an HLC perspective to see that students are active and engaged,” Moser said. “We really want student voices to be heard, so we sent out a student opinion survey that was shared with the HLC review team. It’s important for them to be involved because we want to demonstrate just how great our students are. We are telling this story, we are sharing the experiences for our students on campus, we are talking about the quality of the programming, but it’s important for student voices to be heard in that conversation.
A student forum will be held on March 29 as part of the site visit. Although in person seats have been filled for the event, student still have the opportunity to provide feedback to the HLC reviewer during the forum over Zoom from 1-2 p.m. The Zoom link will be emailed to the student body in the coming weeks.
If students, faculty or staff want more information regarding the HLC visit and accreditation process, they can visit accreditation.uni.edu. The website includes videos explaining criteria the university must meet, an executive summary of the assurance argument and preparatory questions for faculty, staff and students for the forum.
To further educate the campus on the HLC, the committee is hosting an Ultimate UNI Team Challenge trivia event to test knowledge about the HLC. Teams must be between three to six players and represent an office or unit on-campus. Winners of the trivia contest will win a free catered lunch. Registration ends March 19, and teams must contact Erika Gonzalez-Smith at [email protected] in order to participate.