Northwestern will go through the accreditation process this fall for the first time since 2005. Once every 10 years, the Higher Learning Commission, an organization involved with accreditation, partners with NW to go through the process of becoming reaccredited.
Accreditation is a title all colleges and universities in the United States seek. The label provides NW with the credibility necessary to receive a valid degree. Several different groups exist to work with colleges to make sure colleges are fulfilling their mission statements, teaching effectively and providing valid degrees.
In preparation for the visit of the Higher Learning Commission in November, NW has put together a committee to create an extensive 100-page report. The report displays an argument proving the ways NW has held true to their mission.
“The committee writes an argument showing we follow through with our mission statement,” said Michael Wallinga, co-chair of the accreditation committee. “We find our strengths and weaknesses, then own where we need to improve with a plan to be better next time.”
Once the report has been fully written, it will be sent in to the Higher Learning Commission for review. The commission will then come to campus Nov. 9-10. While here, the commission will be conducting interviews with various faculty, staff and students to get a better understanding of how NW is doing as a school.
“This process is incredibly important for holding all colleges accountable,” Wallinga said. “It really provides the school with confidence in experience and shows that we follow through with what we say. When students help, it helps provide good feedback.”
Part of student feedback comes through the surveys that have reached students’ inboxes in the previous couple of weeks. The Higher Learning Commission put together the survey in hopes of receiving honest feedback.
“It’s important to know that NW doesn’t see the feedback,” Wallinga said. “The students probably have a better idea of what the survey looks like because the committee doesn’t see the questions or results. The Higher Learning Commission completely creates and monitors the survey. The only role NW plays is that we sent out the survey.”
Along with the visit to campus and the report the committee built, the survey results help determine whether or not NW receives accreditation. After their visit in November, the commission will go back to their headquarters and review the research and findings. By December, NW will know whether or not accreditation has been granted.
Students are not the only ones on campus who benefit from the accreditation process. Faculty and staff benefit, too.
“In the process of writing this 100-page report, the committee felt really affirmed,” Wallinga said. “As faculty, we all go off in our own directions, but don’t really see what the rest of campus is doing. I was impressed to see the things other areas of campus are doing.”
The process will continue throughout the next two months, and the college will receive the committee’s decision by December.