UND faculty and administrators are now undertaking a comprehensive review of the university in preparation for its required reaccreditation process.
That process comes around once every 10 years for universities, and requires a self-assessment that is years-long in the making. Writing teams are seeking out references and compiling sources to create an “assurance argument” which will be presented to the Higher Learning Commission, a college and university accrediting organization. HLC covers universities in a 19-state area, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
“I am proud of the work happening across the entire campus as part of the HLC reaffirmation process,” UND President Andrew Armacost told UND Today. “This is an important evaluation of our university that will help showcase the great things happening at UND and provide learning opportunities for our growth as a campus.”
According to UND Today, the university has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education through this process since 1913. UND was last reaccredited in 2014.
Six volunteer writing teams made up of 33 faculty and staff members are scouring the campus for evidence related to the teams’ respective goals. They’ll conduct a headcount of the university, and essentially document everything that has happened at UND for the last 10 years. The writing teams will ultimately create a document that cannot exceed 35,000 words, which is about 90 pages of single-spaced type. Once completed, HLC peer reviewers will visit the campus in 2024.
Those reviewers will evaluate UND on the following five criteria and their subsections, as well as a sixth section focusing on compliance with Department of Education rules about student financial aid and sexual discrimination:
Adherence to mission
Ethical and responsible conduct
Resources and support for teaching and learning
Evaluation and improvement of teaching and learning
Resources, planning and institutional effectiveness
The process of seeking volunteers to make up the writing teams got started in earnest in April 2020, said Tim Burrows, director of university assessment and accreditation. Now they are looking to document evidence that shows UND is “actually giving students a quality education.”
The executive committee overseeing the accreditation process is made up of Burrows; UND Registrar Scott Correll; Deborah Worley, professor of Education, Health and Behavior, and Ryan Zerr, associate dean for curriculum at the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of mathematics.
HLC also conducts a mid-term look into the universities it accredits. UND’s last mid-term was completed in 2018, which uncovered no issues that needed to be addressed. However, it isn’t uncommon for issues to crop up for universities, Burrows said.
In 2014, at UND’s last complete evaluation, feedback from HLC included the need for all academic departments to “engage in assessment of learning within programs of study.”
At that time, Burrows said, not all departments were assessing how students were achieving the learning goals set out in a particular course of study. In response, the university created an assessment protocol.
“UND has worked to resolve this issue by implementing an assessment management system, which allows the university assessment committee to ensure that all programs are engaging in program level assessment in a quality manner,” Burrows told the Herald.
UND spokesperson David Dodds said faculty and administrators don’t take the accreditation process for granted. If a university’s accreditation is in question, it could potentially jeopardize its ability to accept federal student loans, and students would not be eligible to receive Pell Grants
“(Accreditation) is so important to the health and longevity of (the) university,” Dodds said. “There's a lot riding on it.”