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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is formal recognition of the quality of an educational program or institution. There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized.
Institutional accreditation is granted by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Institutional accreditation results from a positive evaluation of the entire institution. The evaluation encompasses everything from admissions to educational activities and student learning, as well as overall institutional effectiveness, governance, administration, financial stability, student services, institutional resources, and relationships with internal and external constituencies.
Specialized accreditation, also called program accreditation, is conducted by national professional accrediting bodies and focuses on particular schools or programs within an institution. At Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the School of Business, including undergraduate and graduate programs, is accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) additionally all baccalaureate programs in the School of Business are accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs. In the School of Education and Professional Studies the social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). The Department of Education and affiliated programs (i.e., music, art, integrated language arts) are currently seeking national accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). In the School of Natural and Social Sciences, the nursing program is seeking national accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Back to the top
What is The Higher Learning Commission?
Institutional accreditation is provided by regional associations of schools and colleges (each named after the region in which it operates Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, Western). The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) and is empowered to conduct accrediting activities for degree-granting organizations of higher education. Specifically, it grants membership to educational institutions in the nineteen-state North Central region: Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The Commissions mission statement is succinct, yet directive: Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning. The Higher Learning Commission is committed to developing and maintaining high standards of excellence. The HLC was previously referred to as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Back to the top
How does accreditation work?
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has developed Criteria for Accreditation by which an institution is reviewed for quality. The Criteria for Accreditation are as follows:
Mission and Integrity - The organization operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students.
Preparing for the Future - The organizations allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.
Student Learning and Effective Teaching - The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.
Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge - The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff, and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice, and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission.
Engagement and Service - As called for by its mission, the organization identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value.
Source: Handbook on Accreditation http://www.ncahlc.org/download/Handbook03.pdf The Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association
The comprehensive evaluation process of both initial accreditation and reaccreditation through The HLC is predicated on the processes of institutional self-study and peer evaluation. An institution undertakes a self analysis or Self-Study based on the standards of the accrediting organization (HLC). Once completed, the institutional self study is submitted to a professional staff member of The Higher Learning Commission, who, with institutional input, selects a team of consultant-evaluators. The consultant-evaluators review the self study, make a comprehensive site visit to the institution and make a recommendation to The HLC. The HLC, through its decision making bodies, acts on the recommendation and makes a judgment about whether the institution has met the accreditation standards. This process must be repeated with satisfactory results anywhere from every three to ten years for an institution or program to retain its accreditation. Back to the top
What is The Higher Learning Commission Self-Study?
Prior to applying for reaccreditation, the institution engages in a study of its own effectiveness in achieving its mission. The Self-Study, typically extending for approximately two years, is an opportunity for the institution to engage in a comprehensive self-examination of how well it is meeting its identified goals and to put into place changes or plans for improvements. In this process, the institution evaluates itself based on the Criteria for Accreditation established by the accrediting body, The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) . The Self Study is conducted through a concerted effort involving individuals from the entire campus community. An HLC Steering Committee coordinates the self study process with the assistance of seven subcommittees and multiple project teams for each subcommittee. In an effort to ensure broad participation in our institutional self-assessment, these working groups include representatives from the faculty, staff, student body, and administration. At the end of the self-study the institution prepares a Self-Study Report for The HLC to use as a basis for evaluating the institution. Back to the top
How can I become involved in the self-study process at Mount Vernon Nazarene University?
To become involved in the self-study process, you may contact Professor Brenita Nicholas, the self-study coordinator. Back to the top
What is a comprehensive visit?
The Higher Learning Commission consultant-evaluators will make a three day visit to our institution to review and confirm that what we stated in the Self-Study is accurate. They will be reviewing documents, interviewing various members of the campus community, checking patterns of evidence and confirming our processes and infrastructure.
The team will have received the complete Self-Study Report six to eight weeks before the visit and will have had access to documents via the web site. During the visit, they will be seeking to validate the content of the report in terms of the strengths we have declared and data that support them, as well as concerns that need attention or issues that may confront us in the future. Team members will have meetings with key individuals and representative groups from across the university. While most of these activities will take place on our main campus in Mount Vernon, team members will also be visiting some or all of the off campus sites at which Adult and Graduate Studies programs are offered. Prior to leaving the campus, the team will make an Exit Report to key administrative officers on their preliminary findings. Back to the top
When is the comprehensive visit?
The consultant-evaluators will arrive on our campus Sunday, February 15, 2009. The site visit will take place Monday February 16 - Wednesday February 18, 2009. Back to the top
Who are the consultant-evaluators?
Consultant evaluators are administrators and faculty members from other universities under the aegis of The Higher Learning Commission. They have been highly trained in using the criteria for accreditation in reviewing the quality of academic institutions. As the name implies, they are to both evaluate institutional quality at Mount Vernon Nazarene University and to make recommendations as to ways in which we can continue to improve.
Unlike the accreditation process in many countries, this is a peer review process. Neither state nor the federal government have any role in the process as it is carried out in the United States. We are being evaluated by our colleagues from other institutions.
There may be some consultant-evaluators from other Christian institutions, but probably most of the consultant-evaluators will not be from Christian institutions. Back to the top
Will the consultant-evaluators meet with other faculty, staff and students?
There will be open forums for faculty, staff, and students to speak with the consultant-evaluators. Forum schedules and locations will be distributed prior to the visit. The consultant-evaluators might also stop individuals on campus to ask general questions about their experience at the university. They will introduce themselves to you as members of The Higher Learning Commission team visiting the campus. Back to the top
What types of questions will the consultant-evaluators ask?
The consultant-evaluators will gather a broad array of perspectives regarding Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) from students, faculty, staff, and administrators. They may ask members of the university community to share their understanding of the schools mission and/or to describe MVNU based on their own experiences. They may also ask questions about an area they consider being within the individuals area of expertise. Back to the top
How will the findings be reported?
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) will write a report that addresses the Criteria for Accreditation set forth by The HLC, along with the core components for each criterion. The first section of the report is referred to as the Assurance section. In this section, for each core component the team will note whether or not that component has been met, along with any questions or concerns regarding it. The report also includes an Advancement section, which is used to offer advice to the University about issues that might be of concern. The President should receive a draft of the report within six weeks of the visit. He will have an opportunity to correct factual errors, with the final report being submitted to The HLC no more than nine weeks after the site visit. Back to the top
What kinds of recommendations might the site visit team make in regard to the reaccreditation of Mount Vernon Nazarene University?
The team has several possible recommendations it can make with regard to the reaccreditation of Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU). The recommendation we seek is for reaccreditation for another ten years (the maximum) with no follow up reports or focused visits required.
The team can also recommend reaccreditation for ten years with various kinds of follow up reports or focused visits. These are sometimes required to follow-up on matters with which the team had questions and wants to ensure MVNU is working to improve. On MVNUs last comprehensive visit, the team recommended reaccreditation for ten years with a follow up visit required to address some areas in graduate education. Those concerns have since been addressed.
If the teams concerns are significant, it may recommend that MVNU be reaccredited for a shorter period of time than ten years at which time another comprehensive visit might be scheduled. MVNU has always been reaccredited for the full ten years.
While more severe recommendations are possible, they are highly unlikely with MVNUs very positive accreditation history with The Higher Learning Commission. Back to the top
Is Mount Vernon Nazarene University accredited?
Yes. Since Mount Vernon Nazarene University is in Ohio, it is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Mount Vernon Nazarene College was first granted candidacy as a two-year associate degree conferring institution in 1970 and was granted accreditation in 1972 from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, now HLC. Accreditation was extended to the bachelors degree level in 1974 with Mount Vernon Nazarene University being continuously accredited since that time. MVNUs last reaccreditation site visit was in 1999. Back to the top
Why is accreditation important to Mount Vernon Nazarene University?
Institutional accreditation has two fundamental purposes: quality assurance and institutional improvement.
Related to quality assurance, institutional accreditation provides recognition that an institution meets certain quality standards. Meeting these standards provides some assurance that credits and degrees earned will be respected other educational institutions, thus facilitating the transferability of coursework. It also provides access to student financial aid and certain federal funding opportunities.
Related to institutional improvement, the Self-Study provides a means and opportunity to identify our strengths and challenges. Accreditation is a recognition that the university has gone through the evaluation process and developed a strategy to strengthen our programs. Accreditation is a dimension of an institution that prospective students, other educational institutions, and employers examine to assure quality educational programming. Back to the top
What is Mount Vernon Nazarene University's timeline for reaccreditation?
Following are key events for this process:
Where can I get more information on accreditation?
- Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) will conduct a thorough self-evaluation of its operations resulting in a formal Self-Study that will be submitted to The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) . The self-study process will span fall 2007 fall 2008.
- In fall 2008, MVNU will submit its self-study to The HLC for evaluation.
- A team of consultant-evaluators will make a comprehensive site visit to MVNU in spring 2009.
- The recommendation of the evaluation team for reaccreditation will be presented and considered by the Review Committee of The HLC.
- The recommendation of the Review Committee will be presented and acted upon by the Board of Trustees of The Higher Learning Commission. It is this body that actually grants and renews accreditation. It is expected that MVNU will receive official notice of its status in summer 2009.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools web site: www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org
Comments or Questions?
Questions and/or comments are welcome and encouraged. Please direct them to Professor Brenita Nicholas, the self-study coordinator. Back to the top