Faculty and Staff - Preparing for Site Visit
Mission of the Higher Learning Commission
Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning
Five Criteria for Accreditation
Criterion One: Mission and Integrity
The institution operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff and students.
Criterion Two: Preparing for the Future
The institution’s 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.
Criterion Three: Student Learning and Effective Teaching
The institution provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.
Criterion Four: Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
The institution 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.
Criterion Five: Engagement and Service
As called for by its mission, the institution identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value
Preparation for Reaccreditation
Winona State University hosted a Peer Review Team from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) March 19-21, 2012. Although this was not the final step in accreditation, it represented a key juncture in the process. In preparation for this event, Winona State University undertook the following actions:
- Fall 2007: WSU’s HLC Steering Committee formed
- April 2008: Members of the HLC Steering Committee attend the HLC’s 113th Annual Meeting.
- August 2008: HLC Steering Committee created Assessment Plan templates as guidance and sub-committees formed
- August 2008 – April 2011: Numerous workshops held across campus in regard to HLC preparation and assessment plans
- October 2008: Request for information sent to programs and units
- October 2008-December 2011: Programs and units gathered information and compiled their individual reports
- April 2009: Members of the HLC Steering Committee attended HLC’s 114th Annual Meeting
- October 2009: HLC liaison, Dr. Robert Appleson visited WSU and provided feedback on our progress and Self Study Outline.
- September 2010 – April 2011: University Mission Statement is reviewed and revised
- October 2010: Self-Study Survey administered campus wide.
- January – April 2011: HLC Steering Committee compiled information into self-study report draft
- April 2011: Members of the HLC Steering Committee attended HLC’s 116th Annual Meeting
- Summer 2011: Self-study report drafted and reviewed by external editor
- September – October 2011: Draft reviewed by constituency groups across campus
- January 2012: Self Study Report sent to Accreditation Team.
- March 19-21, 2012: HLC on-campus visit
Why are HLC accreditation and the self-study report important?
Winona State University was first accredited by the North Central Association as a teacher-training institution in 1913. Comprehensive evaluations are now conducted every ten years by the Higher Learning Commission. Winona State University last comprehensive review occurred in 2000-2001.
The Higher Learning Commission is the newly named branch of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). In the past, it was known as the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.
The new name is streamlined, but also reflects a shift in higher education toward accountability for student learning. Like the other five regional accrediting agencies in the nation (Middle States, Northwest, New England, Southern, and Western Associations), HLC is responsible for assuring that college and universities meet set criteria in the areas of their missions, operations, activities in teaching and learning, discovery and promotion of knowledge and service.
Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission serves as an assurance to the public that an institution is properly prepared to do its job and committed to sustaining a high level of accountability to its students and the greater community. At the local level, the self-study process often informs an institution, stimulating analysis of strengths and challenges, identifying areas for improvement, and opening up new possibilities. At the national level, accrediting institutions like the Higher Learning Commission have been designated as “gatekeepers” for quality assurance and disbursement of federal funds in higher education. For additional advantages, consider:
- An accredited institution is eligible to apply for federal grants, loans, and other federal funds, including research funds.
- Students are eligible for federal (and in some instances state) grants and loans.
- Degrees from an accredited institution may be important to graduate programs or employers.
- Students are eligible to take state licensure examinations in many professional fields.
- Students can transfer credits to other accredited institutions.
How did faculty and staff get ready for the HLC Peer Review Team?
- Reviewed Winona State University’s mission statement and reflect upon their role in carrying out the institution’s mission.
- Participated in the institution’s self-study feedback sessions which will occur for multiple constituent groups.
- Read and reflected upon the self-study-report. Pay particular attention to outlined strengths and challenges included within the report.
- Were prepared to articulate their perceptions and experiences with the HLC review team should they have the opportunity to interact with one or more of the team members during the site visit.
What happened during the HLC Peer Review Team visit?
During the spring semester of 2012, the campus was visited by a team of trained HLC consultant evaluators, composed of faculty, administration, and staff of HLC institutions that formally have been accepted by the Peer Review Corps of the HLC. Prior to their visit, the team received Winona State University’s Self-Study Report (available in January of 2012). The team also reviewed documents and data made available to them through the web or other electronic formats. During the visit, the team sought to validate the self-study report in terms of articulated strengths and identified challenges or concerns. The team met with key personnel and constituent groups across the campus. The team also held less structured open meetings with the campus community.