Last week, a team of peer reviewers from the Higher Learning Commission was in Carbondale and Springfield as part of our 10-year accreditation review. The close of the two-day visit wasn’t the beginning of the accreditation process, however, and it is not the end.
Before I talk about our accreditation journey, I would like to touch on the importance of accreditation to the university.
SIU has been continuously accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) – now the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) — since 1913. Accreditation authorizes the university to receive federal funding, more than $100 million annually through Pell Grants, Stafford Loans and research grants from federal agencies. It is also mandatory for the accreditation of many of our programs that lead to professional licensure.
Accreditation is also external validation of the university that underscores the quality education that the university’s stakeholders expect. Similarly, HLC accreditation lays the foundation for the National Research Council’s rankings of graduate degree programs, and without accreditation, the university would never be featured in the U.S. News and World Report, the Princeton Review, and the Peterson’s Guide whose annual surveys of institutions circulate widely in the popular press.
In short, accreditation is a signal to our many stakeholders that we are worthy of their confidence and support.
A three-year process
For SIU Carbondale, the accreditation process began more than three years ago when a team from across the university began gathering information for our “assurance argument,” a detailed document that outlines how the university meets criteria in five areas:
- Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
- Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
- Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
- Resources, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness
The core team and subcommittees that developed the argument did an outstanding job, detailing our strengths and progress while being frank about our challenges and the steps we have taken to address them. The assurance argument is an impressive document that tells a remarkable story about SIU. I encourage you to read it.
Waiting for the 0utcome
Leading up to and following the accreditation team’s visit, the university provided a great deal of documentation culled from all over campus. The HLC accreditation team has more work ahead, including reviewing the visit and documentation, reaching its conclusions, and drafting its report, which may include praise, constructive criticism, or anything in between. We are optimistic, but we must wait until we receive a final report in the next few months before we know the full outcome.
That doesn’t prevent me from sharing that the engagement of faculty, staff and students in the accreditation process was remarkable, and I believe that the accreditation team took notice. The listening sessions on various topics were full – in most cases standing room only – and the discussion throughout the two-day visit was open and respectful. In short, we demonstrated that we are a campus that is engaged in its future.
I thank everyone who took part in the process. I want to especially acknowledge associate provost for academic programs Lizette Chevalier and the core team, including Ras Michael Brown, Judy Davie, Julie Dunston, Michael Eichholz, Andrea Imre, Kim Little, Christie McIntyre and Julie Partridge and Ruth Anne Rehfeldt. I am also grateful to the many faculty and staff who worked with them on the criteria and steering committees, provided information when it was requested, and participated in the listening sessions and other meetings.
Thank you. I am proud and honored to work with all of you.