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HLC Visit Questions and Answers

The following questions and answers provide an overview of what will happen before, during, and after the HLC Comprehensive Visit in 2020.

When is SWOSU’s next accreditation visit?

SWOSU’s next comprehensive visit is October 5-6, 2020. SWOSU has been accredited since 1949.

What is HLC?

The Higher Learning Commission is an independent accrediting organization and serves as one of six regional accreditors in the University States. HLC is one of the largest accreditors and evaluates universities in a 19-state region throughout the north central and mid-central portion of the nation.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

Accreditation is the primary means of assuring and advancing the quality of education in institutions of higher education. The importance of accreditation is tied to: 1) Public support. Accreditation serves as the primary reliable authority for support from the private sector; 2) Federal financial aid. A university cannot get federal financial aid if it is not accredited; and 3) Acceptance of transfer credits. Other universities cannot accept the transfer credits of a university that is not regionally accredited.

What is the process of a comprehensive evaluation visit?

SWOSU is on a 10-year accreditation cycle. It last received a 10-year accreditation from HLC in 2010. On October 5-6, 2020, a team of approximately seven HLC peer reviewers will visit SWOSU for an on-site evaluation of SWOSU’s efforts to meet HLC Criteria for Accreditation. These peer reviewers will be a team of administrators, faculty members, and staff members from peer institutions. Before they visit, they will review SWOSU’s Assurance Argument, Federal Compliance Filing, and Student Opinion Survey.

What will happen during the visit?

During the visit, the team of Peer Reviewers will meet with administrators, students, staff members, faculty members, RUSO board members, alumni, and community members in both formal meetings and open forums, and informally as they walk across campus. The team will seek to verify the information SWOSU provided in the Assurance Argument. They will also review SWOSU’s policies, procedures, and other documents.

What is the Assurance Argument?

The Assurance Argument is a 35,000-word online “argument” that states how SWOSU meets each of the five HLC Criteria for Accreditation. The argument also links to hundreds of relevant evidence. Fifty SWOSU staff, faculty, and administrators have spent two years developing this argument.

What is the Federal Compliance Filing?

The Federal Compliance Filing proves that SWOSU follows U.S. Department of Education requirements and best practices in operating an institution of higher education.

What is the Student Opinion Survey?

In April 2020, HLC will make available a Student Opinion Survey for SWOSU students to provide feedback about the university.

What is the result of the visit?

Based on their analysis of documents and interviews, the Peer Review team will determine whether SWOSU meets the standards for continued accreditation. In the final day of the on-campus visit, the team will give an exit report to share its preliminary findings with the President. Within two months after the visit, SWOSU will receive the Peer Reviewers’ written report, which will provide SWOSU with evaluative feedback about how effectively the institution meets the Creditor for Accreditation. The Peer Reviewers may simply identify our current strengths and challenges and recommend continued accreditation until the four-year accreditation review in 2024. Or, the team could require a focused follow-up visit sooner if significant concerns are identified. The team could also recommend other kinds of progress reports or monitoring reports. The feedback SWOSU receives will be shared with both the RUSO board and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

How has SWOSU prepared for the HLC visit?

Preparations have been underway for several years. Many efforts have come from recommendations provided after HLC’s 2010 visit. Fifty people serve on criterion teams that have worked on the Assurance Argument since December 2018. This work has included evaluating SWOSU’s methods of meeting individual criteria, gathering and preparing evidence, creating evidence documents when needed, and identifying gaps that need to be addressed. As a result of this work, some new efforts have been created that will operate well beyond the accreditation visit. Outside reviewers have helped review the Assurance Argument. Accreditation Liaison Officer has presented the overview of the accreditation process to all faculty during the fall workshop, staff members, alumni groups, and community groups throughout 2018 and 2019. A timeline for completion of the Assurance Argument was established and followed.

What should all SWOSU staff, faculty, and administrators do in preparation for the visit?

  • Be familiar with the HLC Criteria for Accreditation. The criteria is located in a link on this page
  • Read the Assurance Argument once it is completed. It should be completed by summer 2020 and a link will be provided for all employees.
  • Be prepared to describe the ways in which you participated in the accreditation process, whether it involved writing parts of the Assurance Argument or helping collect evidence.
  • Be familiar with your own department’s assessment and continuous improvement processes.
  • Consider how you are involved in SWOSU’s decision-making efforts at SWOSU, ranging from assessment to budgeting to campus improvement.
  • Be familiar with SWOSU’s mission and strategic plan and how it relates to your work.

What is expected of me during the visit?

  • You may be asked to attend certain meetings with the reviewers. Before the meeting, anticipate questions as they relate to how your work is related to helping SWOSU meet HLC Criteria.
  • You will be invited to attend open forums. You are not required to attend. At the forums, be prepared to describe how SWOSU meets its mission, how your department assesses its efforts, and how SWOSU overall strives to create a quality learning environment.
  • You may also be approached for a general conversation by a Peer Reviewer. Be prepared to give your individual insight on how SWOSU strives to be a premiere institution.