HLC Accreditation: Insights from the 2022 Annual Conference

April 28, 2022
HLC Accreditation: Insights from the 2022 Annual Conference
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Did you know that the Higher Learning Commission holds annual conventions just like all other regional, national and international accreditation agencies? During an HLC Annual Conference, the usually discussed topics have to do with new development and trends in the higher education and accreditation spaces.

This year, the 2022 HLC Annual Conference was held from April 1st to April 5th in Chicago, IL. The conference’s focus was the theme of “evolving together”. There were over 2,000 attendees, including myself - which was a huge success in light of the recently gone COVID-19 lockdowns.

I’d like to dedicate this post to sharing with you some of the insights from the speakers’ presentations, as well as the key points that were discussed during the convention. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any further questions via my email or by phone.

The Overview

The opening of the conference was kicked off with an introduction by HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley and HLC Board Chair Rita Hartung Cheng. Some of the topics mentioned included the current challenges in the higher education sector, as well as the possible opportunities ahead.

The importance of the role of HLC’s community was equally discussed. The session primarily focused on the current state and future direction of the organization in light of the COVID-19 and the impact it has made on education. It was emphasized that the shift of the education sector towards e-learning represented both a great opportunity and a challenge.

On Sunday morning, the plenary session was conducted by Jeff Duncan-Andrade from California State University and focused on "Equity and Equality", Jeff challenged us to consider how we can anchor ourselves to where we are most needed to address the unique needs of our communities — the very pathways to sustaining social change and academic opportunity right at our doorsteps. The session was highly engaging and emotional and all attendees came out of it pondering how they can implement these concepts in their institutions.

At the end of the plenary session, the attendees parted ways to choose the parallel sessions that they would like to attend which is always a very challenging selection process.

I’ve tried attending as many sessions as possible for the most up-to-date insights and industry trends, especially considering that HLC has now started to accredit institutions from all over the U.S which has brought many new dynamics into the field.

A Selection of My Favorite Sessions

When I’m attending accreditation conferences, I make sure to focus on successful accrediting university presentations so that I’m able to transfer their experience to my clients who are just starting their accreditation journeys.

The following are successful examples of implementing great plans for each of the crucial components of an accreditation: Program Review, Assessment, and Strategic Planning.

Program Review: Miami University

There are over 16,000 undergraduate and 2,500 post-graduate students currently enrolled at Miami University. The institution has a very strict and highly selective admission process whereas only 35 percent of state students are admitted each year.

At the HLC conference this year, Professor Stacy Lowery Bretz and the senior Associate Provost Dr. Carolyn Haynes presented the university’s newest strategy of implementing an institution-wide review of the academic program portfolio.

The committee at the university adopted highly effective strategies of data transparency and continuous data analysis - both of which involved all teams, including deans, faculty, and department chairs.

The action plans were developed based on initial review and feedback, and have specific goals in place with a 3 to 4-year timeline for implementation. Some of these goals included advancing research and equity and implementing new policies that are aligned with the university's norms.

My favorite part of the presentation was when Dr. Stacy shared five important lessons that she and her colleagues have learned from this experience:

  • Remember that there is no “secret plan” for eliminating programs
  • Ensure to maintain a steady timeline, while allocating time for support and consultation
  • Provide clear definitions of the strategic goals metrics, while not forgetting to include tons of examples
  • Make sure to involve the Office of Provost and Dean in your feedback
  • Recognize and celebrate accomplishments

Strategic Review: Mid-State Technical College

The President Dr. Shell Mondeik, the Vice President Dr. Deb. Stencil and the Director of Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Beth Ellie were the three presenters during this session.

The presentation was centered around a few topics, namely the College’s five-year strategic plan, the creation of a team action plan, the setup of an annual budget, monitoring key results, and further reporting to the board on those results before the final evaluation of the process.

One of the main messages that were brought up during the session was about the importance of the components of the key strategic planning: SWOT analysis and survey feedback collection, data analysis, stakeholder feedback, and final implementation of the strategic plan.

Assessment: Southeast Community College

This session was a little different from the ones above. The presenters started by explaining how they failed to meet the HLC standards. They further acted upon this by changing their approach. They’ve systematically struggled to meet the planning-related and the assessment core component for twenty years until 2017. This is when they have started to heavily invest in Accreditation, Institutional Research and Planning Infrastructure.

The presenters discussed how they focused on analyzing the assessment data by asking a set of questions like what’s particularly interesting about this data? What can it tell them about their work and students? And most importantly, how the information within can help out in the process?

As a result of this approach, SCC succeeded in meeting the HLC standards.

Final Words

As a takeaway message, I want to emphasize this: if you’re currently pursuing accreditation for your institution or are planning to, remember that it’s a great idea to participate in as many conferences as possible, depending on your time and budget.

Not only do conferences help you to learn more about this industry, but they also provide you with unique networking opportunities.

Think about this: the Higher Learning Commission accreditation majorly depends on peer evaluation. This means the approval of your accreditation is determined by other professionals and academics in the field. Needless to say, the best place to meet these people and foster long-term relationships is an annual accreditation meeting like the one HLC hosted this year.

Therefore, my advice to you is to be proactive and mark your calendars well in advance for the next year’s annual HLC conference that dates from March 24 to March 28th. If you wish to attend other events hosted by HLC, feel free to check this link.

And if you plan to open your university or college in the USA, we can help. Get in touch with us today.

For personalized guidance, feel free to reach out to Expert Education Consultants via email at info@experteduconsult.com with any questions you may have. This service is complimentary.

To explore customized solutions tailored to your specific needs, schedule a personalized one-on-one paid consultation with Dr. Sandra Norderhaug here.

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