HLC/NCA Self-Study Frequently Asked Questions

Accreditation and the Self-Study Process

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is a process that helps to ensure high academic quality in accredited institutions.  Institutions voluntarily seek accreditation in the United States whereas in some countries the government carries out the accreditation function.  In our system accreditation is provided by six peer professional organizations that are distributed geographically throughout the United States.  SCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)/North Central Association (NCA), http://www.ncahlc.org/.  The NCA region covers 19 states.  SCC was granted initial candidacy status in 1987 and granted initial accreditation in 1991.

Approximately every 10 years SCC goes through an intensive self-evaluation as part of our reaccreditation by the HLC/NCA.  This thorough self-study provides an opportunity for SCC to evaluate the quality of what it is doing and to make sure we are focused on achieving our mission.  This process results in a Self-Study Report that includes SCC’s self-evaluation with respect to fulfilling the five HLC/NCA Criteria for Accreditation, http://www.ncahlc.org/information-for-institutions/criteria-for-accreditation.html. The Self-Study Report focuses on presenting evidence that SCC meets the Criteria.  After the SCC Self-Study Report is sent to the HLC/NCA, an evaluation team visits the college to validate the findings in the report.  The SCC site visit will be held November 7-9, 2011.

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation by recognized accrediting agencies provides the public with the assurance that the college meets the requirements of the accrediting bodies and meets their quality standards.  Verification of fulfillment of HLC/NCA standards is important to our students, current and potential, and all our other constituencies.  Accreditation is also important for financial aid and transfer options for students and the college’s eligibility for grants.  The accrediting process gives the college an opportunity to do an intensive review of its strengths and weaknesses and to use this information to direct its continuous improvement efforts.

Who is SCC’s HLC/NCA liaison?

Our HLC/NCA liaison is Dr. Robert Appleson.  He is the vice president for accreditation relations at the HLC/NCA.

What does the HLC/NCA evaluate?

The HLC/NCA reviews all aspects of our college including academic programs, financial, administrative, student services, facilities, etc.  It accredits the college as a whole, but not individual programs.  The college is evaluated as to how well it meets the five HLC/NCA Criteria for Accreditation as demonstrated by the evidence presented, how successfully it is fulfilling its specific mission, and its ability to continue to fulfill its mission into the future.

What criteria does the HLC/NCA use to evaluate SCC?

  • Mission and Integrity:  The organization operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff and students.
  • Preparing for the Future:  The organization’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.
  • Student Learning and Effective Teaching:  The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.
  • Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge: The organization 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.
  • Engagement and Service:  As called for by its mission, the organization identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value.

How is SCC preparing for reaccreditation?

Self-Study Steering Committee began work on the Self-Study in fall 2009.  Six criterion subcommittees representing many different departments and employment categories began work on evaluating SCC with respect to the different HLC/NCA Criteria for Accreditation.   The subcommittees are collecting evidence from all over the campus that SCC meets the Criteria and are identifying ways that we can improve. The opportunities for improvement identified in the final Self-Study Report will be used in the strategic planning process and used by various departments in their planning and improvement efforts. The Self-Study Report will be completed by the end of the summer of 2011 and sent out to the HLC/NCA evaluation team in early fall 2011 so that they can review it prior to their visit November 7-9, 2011.

Who has been involved in the Self-Study?

The NCA steering committee and criterion subcommittees include seventy-seven Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and student members.  Information is being collected from hundreds of faculty, staff, students and our community as the criterion subcommittees collect evidence related to the HLC/NCA Criteria for Accreditation.  In addition, the entire college community will be involved in a planning scenario analysis at All-College Day on September 7, 2010, which will provide additional information for the Self-Study.

What are SCC’s goals for the Self-Study?

  1. Evaluate the college’s effectiveness in realizing our vision, accomplishing our mission and demonstrating our values.
  2. Use a data-informed approach to identify our weaknesses, evaluate our strengths, acknowledge our challenges and maximize our opportunities.
  3. Integrate the self-study findings into our strategic planning, budgeting and assessment processes.
  4. Share findings with the college community and initiate organizational improvement.

What is the HLC/NCA site visit on November 7-9, 2011 all about?

A team of consultant evaluators selected by the HLC/NCA will visit SCC to validate our Self-Study Report.  We expect the team to be made up of about five administrators and staff from other colleges that are members of NCA.  The evaluation team will have reviewed our Self-Study Report and other documentation about the college prior to the visit.  Upon their arrival the team members will want to meet with all segments of the college community.  Some of these meetings will take place in small groups and others with individuals.  Many of the meetings will be scheduled in advance, but the evaluation team may decide to schedule additional meetings and interviews after they arrive.  The campus community will need to keep schedules as flexible as possible while the team is on campus to accommodate additional meetings requested by the evaluation team.

What questions may the evaluation team ask? 
What information should I share?

The evaluation team will be observing campus operations and speaking to many people across the campus.  They will be talking with many faculty, staff, students and administrators either in small groups or as individuals.  They will also be reviewing great amounts of documents located in our physical resource room and online via our virtual resource room.

The questions most likely to be asked will relate to the HLC/NCA Criteria for Accreditation.  Here are some possible questions:

  • What is the college’s mission and how does it relate to your role at the college?
  • What is the mission of your program/department?  How does its mission relate to the college’s mission?
  • What is your vision for the future of your program/department and how does that relate to the college’s vision for the future?
  • How do you measure whether or not you are achieving your mission and objectives?  Example: How do you assess student learning?
  • How do your assessments of your activities direct your efforts at continuous improvement?
  • How do you engage in strategic planning at the unit/departmental, area and college level and how is your unit/department plan related to the college plan?
  • How do you interact with the community the college serves and other stakeholders?

Please answer all questions candidly and thoughtfully.  We will be identifying opportunities for improvements in our Self-Study so the evaluation team will be aware of them.  The communication between the evaluation team and our faculty, staff and students will provide excellent evidence that we fulfill the HLC/NCA Criteria for Accreditation.  Since the evaluation team is made up of consultant evaluators, they serve a valuable consulting function as well as evaluating our college.

How should I prepare for the evaluation team site visit?

The best way to prepare for the site visit is to review the Self-Study Report when it is completed.  If your time is limited, you might review the executive summary that will be created and the sections of the document that related directly to your department or area.

If you have any specific questions about the report, contact Teddy Norris, tnorris@stchas.edu or Barbara Keim, bkeim@stchas.edu.

Who are the members of the evaluation team?

To be determined:  The HLC/NCA will send the list of team members in the summer of 2011.  After the team members have been confirmed, their names and positions will be posted on our HLC Web page.

What happens after the site visit?

After their three-day visit the evaluation team will document their visit in an official report which will be submitted to the HLC/NCA and will include their observations and recommendations.  The college will receive the official report approximately six weeks after the visit.