POWELL, Wyo. - Northwest College learned Wednesday morning, Nov. 17, that it met all criteria for continuing accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
A five-member HLC team was on campus beginning Monday, Nov. 15, to assess NWC’s self-study efforts toward reaccreditation.
In a verbal presentation just before leaving campus, the team leader informed NWC officials that even though the college met all criteria, the team needs additional time to review and look for all the supporting documents to help it determine if any follow-up actions are necessary.
The evaluation team will communicate its specific recommendations in a written communication to NWC President Paul Prestwich. It’s anticipated the report will be received in four-six weeks. The college will have an opportunity then to address any errors in fact.
“We’re interpreting this preliminary report as a positive assessment,” Prestwich said afterward. “This is wonderful news for the college and validates its strength and success. While we would’ve preferred to learn right away the length of our reaccreditation cycle, we appreciate the thoroughness with which this team undertook its evaluation responsibilities.”
Four areas of positive observations were identified in the verbal report: NWC’s strong commitment to student learning, responsiveness and good working relationship with the community, dynamic residential life program, and well-resourced creativeness in making sure students continue their education.
Specific evidence included the college’s Trapper Scholarship Program, state-of-the-art equipment for classroom instruction and support, dedicated faculty and staff, recent library renovation, committed board of trustees, supportive community, active foundation board and commitment from employees in support of the foundation, well-maintained facilities, stable financing, human resources and grants.
When identifying areas for improvement, the team leader told college officials there were no surprises because they all “came across in your honest self-study evaluation.”
First on the list is the institution’s process related to shared governance. The team leader said, “There is a need to have an attitude change [to correct an attitude] that has plagued the institution for over 10 years. You need to enhance collegiality and unity across the entire institution.”
The team recommended the development of planning, integration and implementation in various planning processes, saying, “It’s important that the integration of planning, assessment and budgeting close the loop.”
The college was also encouraged to better utilize data in the decision-making process. It was noted that the recent hiring of an institutional researcher will aid in this area.
The team also indicated that it will respond to requests received during the visit for further consultation on shared governance and assessment of student learning.
The visit culminated four years of research, information gathering, analysis and writing of a lengthy self-study report.
The HLC is one of six accrediting agencies in the U.S. that provide institutional accreditation on a regional basis. It accredits approximately 1,100 institutions of higher education in a 19-state region and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Accreditation is an assurance to the public that an institution is properly prepared to do its job. The HLC and the other accrediting agencies have been designated as the gatekeepers for federal funds in higher education; unaccredited schools are not eligible for many kinds of federal support.