By Matthew Cheatham, Staff Writer
16 February 2022
The Higher Learning Commission is an institutional accrediting agency of the United States, having accredited approximately 1,000 schools in the central United States. Recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the HLC decides whether a university is fit to continue its operations.
When a school loses accreditation, they typically close due because students are then unable to have federally backed loans. Employers also often don’t consider applications from students who attended universities without accreditation.
Evaluations are done every 10 years, with the fourth year being a midpoint check-in. This year will mark four years for Ouachita’s necessary evaluation. A team of five individuals, made of faculty from other universities who have had HLC training, will be on campus March 14-15.
The HLC Assurance Review Committee has been hard at work to prepare for this critical time. Committee members Deborah Root, Stan Poole, Matt Douglass, Monica Hardin, Keldon Henley, Caitlin Hetzel, Tim Knight, Rachel Pool, Doug Reed, Margaret Reed and Jason Tolbert gave extensive time and effort to plan for the evaluation. Dr. Deborah Root serves as the head of HLC Assurance Review Committee at Ouachita.
“I appreciate the work of the committee over the last 18 months. I also appreciate the faculty, staff and students who have responded to emails and provided input for the writing of the argument. The document submitted reflects the hard work and contributions of everyone on this campus,” Root said.
Along with a 40,000-word document, the committee must also submit 200 links supporting their evidence.
“The importance of the HLC cannot be overlooked and serves as a reminder for the goals and direction that the campus aims for. The HLC process for accreditation is valuable because it allows us to review what we are doing as an institution in every facet of a university. We evaluate everything involved in the educational experience from teaching and learning to finances and strategic planning. All of this is done in light of who Ouachita is– our mission, vision, and values,” Root said.
There will be open meetings available for faculty and staff to attend during the two-day visit, with times still to be announced. These meetings are not required and classes are not expected to be canceled for them, but attendance and participation are helpful.
Students can expect HLC members to ask questions throughout their stay. Questions may be related to Ouachita’s strengths, campus morale, changes happening on campus and Ouachita’s mission statement.
More information related to the HLC and their upcoming visit can be found at home.obu.edu/hlc/.