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HLC Assurance Review process underway

October 23, 2017

NIU is embarking on a new phase of accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and university leaders are asking the NIU community to participate.

Accreditation by the HLC is a key way that NIU publicly demonstrates its commitment to quality and accountability to those the university serves. As part of that process, the university is beginning to collect documentation of activities over the past four years.

Linda Saborio, University Council executive secretary and Faculty Senate president, is one of 40 members of a team comprised of faculty and staff volunteers from across campus who are assuming this step in the accreditation process. She said the HLC Assurance Review provides NIU with the opportunity to assess the quality and effectiveness of NIU’s research and educational programs, leadership and mission so that the university can address any challenges and reaffirm its commitment to offering high-quality education.

“For faculty, it is important to maintain, or even exceed, standards of quality as determined by the HLC. The accreditation sends a statement to the public that we are an institution committed to high values, and this can impact our ability to recruit and retain exceptional faculty, staff and students,” Saborio said.

The university was reaccredited by the HLC for 10 years (until 2024), the maximum period possible. Following that process in 2014, NIU transitioned into the least restrictive HLC pathway, called the Open Pathway, for maintaining accreditation. NIU’s next requirement within the Open Pathway is to complete an Assurance Review, due Monday, June 18, 2018.

During this step, the university must develop an assurance argument that includes documentation demonstrating how NIU fulfills each of the five accreditation criteria and the associated 21 core components. The five criteria are Mission; Ethical and Responsible Conduct; Teaching and Learning–Quality, Resources, and Support; Teaching and Learning–Evaluation and Improvement; and Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness.

“From my perspective, the HLC assurance review process is an important opportunity for NIU to reflect collectively on the progress we’ve made toward achieving our institutional goals and provide evidence that illustrates our successes,” said Jason Rhode, director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. “The subcommittee members are working diligently on the significant task of documenting our progress institutionally since our last accreditation self-study in 2013, and collecting tangible examples of how we are continually striving to realize our mission and vision.”

Currently, the NIU teams associated with these criteria are collecting evidence that covers the period from Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2017, for the assurance argument. While the team of 40 volunteers is taking on this task, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness asks that the entire NIU community actively participate in the process and be ready to respond to requests for information.

The team is also requesting that division websites and organizational charts are up to date because HLC peer reviewers do not make a site visit during this step in the process, so they are dependent on what they can glean from the websites during their review process.

For more information on the assurance review process, please contact Carolinda Douglass, vice provost for Institutional Effectiveness, at 815-753-0492 or [email protected].