Case Western Reserve University doesn’t only give out tests. Sometimes the institution has to take them as well.
CWRU is currently undergoing a process of accreditation under the Higher Learning Commission, an independent body focused on two main purposes: to continue advancing the quality of universities and to assure quality still exists. More specifically, CWRU falls under the North Central Region of the Higher Learning Commission, which consists of 19 states, including Ohio.
According to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Donald L. Feke, CWRU being accredited is vital to receiving financial aid from the state and federal government and having recognizable transfer credit which could be used at other universities. Feke spearheads a committee here to ensure that the university stays accredited and up to par with the Higher Learning Commission’s standards.
The process occurs every 10 years. The university’s last accreditation occurred in 2005, meaning it is quickly approaching our due date for another.
Traditionally, in year six of the 10 year cycle, there is a check-up, similar to real accreditation. For CWRU’s check-up, along with the last strategic planning activity, the committee made several recommendations for the university to move forward, including focusing on building interdisciplinary alliances. This came with the plan to create new research collaborations and new academic programs.
Specifically, there is a new social justice collaboration, involving a variety of different faculty programs. There are numerous courses developing and even a minor in social justice.
The difficulty behind the accreditation process derives from its all-or-nothing type grading, with a variety of parameters set forth. However, if a school fails one parameter, it fails them all. The Higher Learning Commission looks at a variety of questions when determining an institution’s accreditation: Does the university have an identifiable mission? What about integrity? When students are recruited, is CWRU being truthful in what it advertises?
Feke seeks to examine other vital questions which students may often overlook as well, such as how does the university deal with student complaints? Does CWRU take them seriously? In terms of financial aid, is the university using it and awarding it properly?
All these facts about the integrity of the university must be compiled into an “assurance argument,” a composition that proves CWRU has in fact satisfied all the core components of the Higher Learning Commission and federal compliance regulations.
After the “argument” is created and submitted, a team of independent reviewers of the Higher Learning Commission will look at this document and visit the campus April 13–14, 2015. These reviewers are here to hold open forums and meet with faculty, staff and students. Ultimately, they check the evidence presented in these arguments.
At the end of the day, Feke is interested in being transparent and open to what the rest of the campus has to say. His end goal is to look for students interested in giving their feedback.
The report will hopefully be available by the end of this year, ready for student and campus comments.
This is a big project with a big process. It started in the 2011–2012 school year with gathering documents. The spring and summer of 2013 were spent looking at areas where CWRU needed to produce more reports. The next endeavor of the committee will be synthesizing this information and really putting together the assurance argument.
When asked about the ultimate goal of the accreditation, Feke noted, “If all goes well, we stay out of headlines, our students get their degrees and these degrees will be meaningful.”