P O W E L L, W y o. - Wheels are in full motion at Northwest College as it prepares for reaccreditation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
In a voluntary peer review process, the HLC evaluates how well colleges and universities meet objectives, according to Duane Fish, NWC professor of communication who chairs the college's accreditation executive committee.
"Accreditation indicates to other colleges and universities-and to the public-that we meet established criteria and will likely continue to meet them," Fish said. Criteria revolve around student academic achievement, financial stability and relationships with outside constituencies.
"Without accreditation," Fish added, "we can't ensure that transfer institutions will accept our students' credits, nor can we administer federal financial aid to students. . .basic elements at the core of any institution of higher education."
NWC falls within a 19-state region covered by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The HLC evaluates such things as governance, administration, financial stability, admissions and student services, institutional resources and effectiveness, student learning, and relationships with constituents. After several months of research and self-evaluation by a large cross-section of NWC faculty and staff, drafts are being created which respond to the following HLC criteria.
The NWC Accreditation Executive Committee added budget, resources and facilities as a sixth area of study. Associate Professor of English Renee Dechert is author of the "self-study" document that will respond to the criteria.
"Critical self-analysis is a huge part of the accreditation process because it leads to improving quality," Fish emphasized. "Our last HLC visit was in 2001 when NWC received a 10-year accreditation-the maximum. Obviously, we're aiming for that again."
An HLC team of three-five consultant evaluators will prepare its recommendation to the HLC after a visit to NWC scheduled during the 2010-11 academic year.