Divisions may be contacted as HLC Assurance Review enters final stages

The internal team guiding NIU through an Assurance Review may need some final feedback from divisions across campus as the Higher Learning Commission inspects the university’s report over the next month.

Four years ago, the commission reaccredited Northern Illinois University for the maximum period possible through 2024, after which NIU transitioned into the least restrictive track, the HLC Open Pathway. An Assurance Review is the first major institutional report in the Open Pathway’s 10-year cycle, requiring the university to complete a written assurance argument by June 25 for the period covering January 2014 through December 2017.

With the team submitting its final findings at the end of last week (June 15), the report has entered a lockdown period through July 23. However, offices around campus may receive tight-turnaround requests for additional evidence through that deadline as a group of peer reviewers evaluates NIU’s documentation to make recommendations to the HLC regarding accreditation.

“In 2014, they wanted to see a greater alignment of our resource allocation with our mission and priorities,” said Carolinda Douglass, vice provost for Institutional Effectiveness and NIU’s accreditation liaison officer to the HLC. “The themes that have emerged since then have included program prioritization, NIU Plus, diversity, engagement and transparency. More than 50 people were involved in writing the 35,000-word argument, with more than 1,000 pieces of associated evidence.”

The HLC will examine NIU’s assurance narrative for adherence to 21 core components linked to five accreditation criteria:

  • Mission
  • Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
  • Teaching and Learning—Quality, Resources and Support
  • Teaching and Learning—Evaluation and Improvement
  • Resources, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness

“Through this process, we are able to bring to light the outstanding experience we provide our students academically as well as outside of the classroom,” said Kelly Wesener Michael, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, who helped author the assurance argument as part of the criteria group for Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct.  “What is demonstrated throughout this process is that we are part of an amazing team who provides an exceptional education at a student-centered university.”

NIU will have a chance to respond to the HLC’s peer review before the team passes its proposals along to the commission’s Institutional Actions Council for action. The university then will receive a final report on the review this fall.

“What we’re hoping for is to get the all-clear through 2024, when the HLC will come for an on-site visit,” Douglass said.

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