by Kevin Pink
Information Director, Indian Hills Community College
In about a month a team made up of academic and student affairs administrators from different colleges and universities will visit Indian Hills Community College to assess the quality of education at IHCC by reviewing documentation and meeting with numerous committees. The visiting team will spend two days familiarizing themselves with all facets of Indian Hills as part of the regular Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation process.
Why is it important that Indian Hills is accredited by the HLC? Vice President for Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Matt Thompson explains. “We are required to maintain accreditation in order to receive federal student aid. This process of going through a rigorous two-and-a-half years of self-study provides us with an opportunity to assess areas that we can improve on as an institution. Our faculty and staff take a careful look at the work we do on a daily basis to serve students and the communities of our ten-county area.”
Formal preparation for the HLC visit, scheduled for Dec. 2 and 3, began back in the spring of 2017 with monthly meetings to review the Criterion for re-accreditation. It continued with the formation of Criterion committees tasked with providing evidence of IHCC’s compliance with the five Criterion that were established. The committees met throughout 2018 and submitted documentation and evidence in November of last year. Then the real work began – writing the Assurance Argument that demonstrates compliance with HLC’s standards.
That argument is more than 100 pages long. However, the most significant component of it is the evidence attached to keywords and phrases within the document. “We estimate there are approximately 300 pieces of evidence attached,” Thompson said. “They range from marketing materials to financial audit reviews to assessment plans and tools to course syllabi. It is truly a comprehensive picture of how we operate.”
Thompson stated he hopes the visit team will help Indian Hills identify areas where the college can improve. “It is important for us to take a close look at what we do very well for our students and communities and to find areas where we can improve. We want the team to meet the quality people we have on our campuses, including our students, and learn how we are meeting the education and training needs of our ten-county region.”
Indian Hills went through an accreditation visit by the North Central Association back in 1976. The Higher Learning Commission grew out of the higher education division of the North Central Association. So IHCC has been hosting visits similar to the upcoming one for more than 40 years.
Accreditation is good for 10 years. Thompson points out that even after accreditation is granted, though, annual reporting is still required and there will be another significant report to submit in the fourth year of the accreditation cycle. Following the submission of that report Indian Hills will select a quality initiative to complete during years five-through-nine. “It seems the work never ends,” according to Thompson.
“It has been an incredible process with so many faculty and staff contributing to the effort,” the IHCC VP said. “We are fortunate to work with talented and team-oriented people and we have seen the very best in our IHCC family since we started in 2017. We look forward to completing our work on this big project and then continuing to meet the needs of the students and communities we serve.”
(This is a monthly column, provided by Indian Hills Community College)