Below are frequently asked questions regarding the accreditation process, criteria and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). These and other topics may be found throughout the HLC web pages, including the purpose of accreditation, related events and activities, the college's HLC committee team membership, and more.
If you do not find what you are looking for, please submit your question(s) by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What are the next steps in the process leading up to the Accreditation visit in December 2019?
During 2017-18, Criterion teams were formed and charged with identifying evidence that demonstrates how GateWay meets Accreditation Criteria. Teams collected existing evidence from across the college in addition to identifying where there was a lack of evidence.
Beginning Fall 2018, the college HLC oversight team (HLC Tri-Chairs, Dr. Maria Wise [Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs], and the project manager) will link the evidence to the draft assurance arguments. In addition, college Criterion teams and all GateWay employees will be asked to review drafts of the five assurance arguments and provide feedback to the HLC Tri-Chairs and Dr. Maria Wise.
Faculty and staff will be asked to assist with addressing any evidence gaps identified.
For complete updates, and to view the HLC timeline please click here.
2. This is the first I have heard of HLC. What are the key parts faculty and staff are responsible for?
The Higher Learning Commission sets forth five criteria which impact the college community as a whole. GateWay employees may be responsible for components within any of the five criterion. It is important that all employees familiarize themselves with the HLC re-accreditation process including components and sub-components describing the five Criterion.
While Teaching and Learning is an integral component of all criteria, it is most evident in Criteria 3 and 4. Faculty and instructors are primarily responsible for ensuring the quality of the teaching and learning environments in their classrooms and programs.
Depending on job responsibilities, staff will impact one or more of the five criterion. During Fall 2018, members of the college HLC committee will visit all college departments to discuss which criteria are most applicable to the work conducted.
Click here for a listing of the HLC Criteria.
3. Will the visiting team go to all campuses?
The decision on which campuses to visit is at the discretion of a group of peer reviewers conducting an evaluation on behalf of HLC, known as the HLC peer review team. These decisions are often made after they have reviewed the assurance argument and based on areas they want to review as part of the visit. It will be communicated shortly before the actual visit date. At this time, planning is moving forward with the assumption that all campuses will be visited by at least one visiting team member.
4. Central City just had a visit, will that report be part of the larger HLC report or separate?
The college recently underwent a Multi-Location Site Visit due to the large number of off-campus locations in which a GateWay student may complete 50% or more of a certificate/degree program without attending the Washington Campus. Four of the GateWay sites participated in the visit: Central City Campus and three of the Apprenticeship Program sites. This type of site visit is required every five years because of the number of off-campus locations – 15 in total. The visit report does become part of our official record with HLC and will be included in the institutional documentation that HLC provides to the peer reviewers in preparation for visiting our college. The report will not be part of the larger accreditation report, resulting from the December 2019 visit.
5. What do you want from us for "evidence?"
Any evidence that you believe aligns with Criterion components and demonstrates how GateWay meets that specific criterion. If you are not sure, reach out to an HLC team lead.
6. How often do we go through accreditation?
In the past, GateWay would undergo a visit every 10 years. GateWay underwent the last reaffirmation of accreditation visit in 2010 and received re-accreditation for 10 years; the maximum number of years allowed.
Following the 2020 visit, GateWay will follow the HLC Open Pathways model, which is designed so that colleges are continuously focused on accreditation criteria. Under this model, there will be a Year 4 Assurance Argument submission and virtual review (2024); a quality initiative to begin by Year 7 (2027), and a face-to-face visit (2030).
7. If we fail in one area, do we fail the entire visit?
No. If there is a specific area where the peer review team recommends improvement or requires a follow-up report, that will be based on a specific component or criteria.
8. What can we do to help prepare for the visit?
Be knowledgeable about the college, your department and our students. Understand the vision, mission and values of GateWay, as well as how you and your area support the mission of student success.
9. How will we include students in this process?
In Fall 2018, we will be working with student leaders and student clubs to inform and educate them about the Higher Learning Commission, the pending visit, and reasons why accreditation is important. Students will be invited by HLC to complete a student opinions survey as part of the visit. Additionally, students will be invited to read the assurance argument draft and to provide feedback.
10. Since HLC was just here for the visit at Central City, will it be included in the next visit?
The recent HLC visit to Central City resulted from an “Off-Site Location” visit, which occurs every five years and is separate from the college accreditation visit. Despite that visit, the upcoming visit will still focus on the institution as a whole; including all of its sites. However, it will be up to the peer review team to determine if they want to visit the location.
11. What should we do if we find we are missing something that is needed for compliance?
The HLC Criterion teams are currently collecting evidence and as part of that process will be looking to identify where we have gaps in processes, systems and evidence. Once the gaps are identified, we will determine how to bridge and address the gap. Key stakeholders from across the college will be engaged in the work to address gaps and missing evidence.
12. How does HLC establish the criterion that the college is required to address?
The criterion is, in part, determined based on regulations that govern the practices of Higher Education Institutions. They work closely with the U.S. Department of Education as well as other federal agencies to ensure that policies and practices are established and in the best interest of the student. Many of the criteria can also be linked to best practices in the teaching and learning environment. Feedback from students, industry and the community help inform HLC criteria as well.
13. What is the difference between HLC accreditation and individual program accreditation?
Individual program accreditation assesses at the program level for a specific industry, whereas the Higher Learning Commission assess the organization as a whole -- its policies, practices and programming. HLC accreditation is the entity that makes it possible for us to issue Federal Financial Aid and issue transferable certificates and degrees.
14. Are the clock-hour programs included in the HLC process?
Yes. Because many of the clock-hour programs are eligible for Federal Financial Aid, the Higher Learning Commission is required to provide some degree of review.
15. Why is HLC accreditation important to me as an employee?
HLC Accreditation is the credential which authorizes GateWay to 1) offer federal financial aid, 2) offer credit that is transferable to other community colleges and universities, and 3) offer certificates and degrees.
As employees, we take pride in providing quality education and services to GateWay students and our community. The accreditation process is an opportunity for all employees to showcase the accomplishments of individual units and the college as a community.
16. What role do adjunct faculty have in the accreditation process?
At GateWay, approximately 49% of course offerings are taught by adjunct faculty. The role of adjunct faculty is critical in relation to Criteria Four: Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement, which aligns with the assessment of student learning in the classroom. Adjunct faculty can support the accreditation process by fostering an environment that continuously assesses and strengthens student learning in their classrooms.