What is Accreditation?
There are two levels of accreditation of higher learning in the United States, institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation is provided by one of seven regional accrediting bodies authorized by the U.S. Dept. of Education. Institutional accreditation allows an institution to receive federal funds and grants, its students to receive guaranteed student loans and grants, and its credits to be accepted in transfer by other schools. LCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association. The HLC’s website explains accreditation as:
In the United States, colleges and universities voluntarily seek accreditation from nongovernmental bodies. There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized. The Higher Learning Commission conducts institutional accreditation. The Commission has developed resources for individuals to better understand the role of accreditation in U.S. higher education.
Institutional accreditation is provided by regional and national associations of schools and colleges. There are six regional associations, each named after the region in which it operates (Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, Western). The regional associations are independent of one another, but they cooperate extensively and acknowledge one another’s accreditation. Several national associations focus on particular kinds of institutions (for example, trade and technical colleges, and religious colleges and universities). An institutional accrediting agency evaluates an entire educational organization in terms of its mission and the agency’s standards or criteria.
The Commission publishes an Overview booklet that provides brief general information about the accreditation of higher learning organizations by The Higher Learning Commission, the Criteria for Accreditation, frequently asked questions, and resources.
Colleges and Universities Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
The Commission accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities in nineteen states. The states are Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Search the Higher Learning Commission’s Directory of Institutions
Resources for the Public
The Directory of Institutions has a Statement of Affiliation Status and an Organizational Profile for each institution. The Statement of Affiliation Status contains a summary of the institution’s official relationship with the Commission. The Organizational Profile contains information on the college or university’s characteristics taken from the annual report submitted by the institution to the Commission. The Commission has a compiled some additional resources for the public.
The U.S. Dept. of Education also explains accreditation on it’s website.
The second level, programmatic accreditation, is done by a wide variety of discipline- and profession-specific associations and organizations. Programmatic accreditation is only for the academic program involved, not the institution as a whole. It may be required for students of that program to be licensed after graduation (such as for NLNAC for nursing) or it may simply be a testament of high-quality program (such as AACSB accreditation of 4-yr. business schools)
What is AQIP?
AQIP stands for Academic Quality Improvement Process. It is one path to accreditation offered by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central States Association. From the Higher Learning Commission website for AQIP:
Launched in July 1999 with a generous grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commission’s Academic Quality Improvement Program infuses the principles and benefits of continuous improvement into the culture of colleges and universities by providing an alternative process through which an already-accredited institution can maintain its accreditation. An institution in AQIP demonstrates how it meets accreditation standards and expectations through a sequence of events that align with the ongoing activities of an institution striving to improve its performance.
The Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) provides an alternative evaluation process for organizations already accredited by the Commission. AQIP is structured around quality improvement principles and processes and involves a structured set of goal-setting, networking, and accountability activities. AQIP uses direct, cost-effective processes including AQIP’s Strategy Forums, Systems Appraisals, and various other services.
Read the Commission’s Introduction to AQIP.
A central part of the AQIP process is that LCC always be engaged in at least 3-4 AQIP Action Projects. Action Projects are generally 6-12 month quality-improvement initiatives. These projects create a foundation for an institution’s improvement initiatives and demonstrate the vitality of its commitment to quality. In the academic year 2011-12, the Strategic Challenges project is one of LCC’s official AQIP Action Projects.