This fall, Chatfield College will undergo a site visit and review in order to maintain our accreditation. Although the College has been regionally accredited with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1971, it must periodically renew its accreditation to address changes within higher education and to confirm our continued commitment to providing a high quality education. Our most recent reaccreditation was in 2011.
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities demonstrate that their programs, course offerings, instructors, student services, and facilities, all meet accepted standards for quality within higher education. The process is made up of several steps that include a peer review, and an assurance argument. The assurance argument is a lengthy document that describes how the college meets standards for accreditation and offers evidence for on-going improvement and self-study. The peer review is made up of a team of educators and administrators from other colleges who compare what was written in the assurance argument with what takes place at the school. Peer reviewers will make a visit at the end of October this year to both the Over-the-Rhine and Brown County locations. They will talk to students, faculty, and staff, and observe classes and other activities throughout the day.
Although the criteria for accreditation have been recently revised, the accreditation process is nothing new. The first accrediting body was established in 1900. Initially, its purpose was to help colleges compare courses and identify which credits could be accepted for transfer. Accreditation still serves this function, allowing students to easily transfer credits between qualified institutions and complete their degree. As a college education became more desirable and accessible, the number of new schools continued to grow. While the role of higher education expanded, accrediting organizations became progressively concerned with setting common standards for quality. The increase of for-profit colleges and degree-mills in recent years underscores the need for common standards and an external review process in higher education. The degree a student earns needs to be a consistent and accurate reflection of the skills and knowledge they acquired in the course of their studies. By maintaining accreditation, colleges and universities make it possible for their students’ degrees to be taken seriously by employers, other institutions of higher learning, and the United States Department of Education (USDE).
The USDE relies on the decisions of independent non-profit accrediting commissions, like HLC, to determine which schools offer a high quality education. Only accredited schools are eligible to receive federal student aid funds in payment for student tuition. A student can qualify for Pell grants, or direct loans from the government, but they can only spend this money at schools that the government considers to be worth the expense. Accreditation then, is a process which not only gives value to the institution and the degrees they award, but also provides financial opportunities for students wishing to attend college.
As October approaches, you may be asked to participate in the accreditation process. If you work at or attend Chatfield, you may already be involved and not even know it! For instance, students and faculty are already familiar with course evaluations. These are one way in which the College engages in a continuous review of quality in individual course sections. Faculty also participates in surveys each term to identify strengths and innovations in teaching. Staff and even board members participate in meetings intended to review and evaluate curriculum and student programming. Right now, there is another opportunity to participate in the accreditation process. You can submit comments directly to the HLC through the Higher Learning Commission’s homepage. The information you offer can help HLC and Chatfield better understand how to serve your needs and the needs of our community.