JulieAnnMortimer.com

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is a subgroup of a larger Midwest accreditation association, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. There are four accreditation groups which report to the federal Department of Education and which are separated geographically into the east coast, west coast, southern states, and the Midwest. The HLC is the largest group spanning from Virginia to Arizona and is based in Chicago. Its role is to insure that all universities within this region are meeting mandated quality and effectiveness standards.  Accreditation status is linked to federal grants and financial aid.  Governors State University (GSU) was last accredited ten years ago and will be undergoing the HLC review process again in November of 2009. 
Higher Learning Commission 
GSU has a three tier plan to prepare for the arrival of the
HLC.  Dr. Eric Martin and Dr. Ann Vendrely are overseeing the planning as
executive co-chairs. Since February, they have been working with a
steering committee and five subcommittees. Each subcommittee will focus on
one aspect of the University that the HLC will be evaluating. These
criteria include mission and integrity, preparing for the future, student
learning and effective teaching, acquisition and application of knowledge, and
engagement and service.
A major component of the accreditation process is
evaluating the school's mission statement. The GSU mission statement is
currently being revised and will be posted throughout the school in fall, once
it is approved by GSU’s Board of Trustees. A mission statement describes
the goals and motivations of the university. The HLC’s accreditation
committee will compare GSU's mission to its daily efforts and activities to
insure that they are aligned. For example, if GSU's mission was to attract
students from the surrounding community but the majority of GSU funds were
spent on international student recruitment, there would be an inconsistency in
the University's mission which would require explanation. 
Though fall of 2009 seems distant, students will see and
hear about HLC preparation this fall, if not already. Look for the revised
mission statement in the cafeteria, hallways and classrooms. Attend the
HLC information meetings; the next one is scheduled for October. Most
importantly it is never too late to get involved in the process, the HLC
committees are still looking for more student volunteers to share their input
into this accreditation process. Please contact either Drs. Martin or Dr. Vendrely
if you are interested in learning more.  

Though the HLC is evaluating the University, this is an
opportunity to "validate what's happening at GSU and enable the University
to identify weakness for continued improvement," according to Dr. Eric Martin. 
The University will be able to learn and grow.  There may also be an
opportunity to increase the University's online programming by means of a parallel
HLC process.

In fall of 2009 the HLC will send 5 to 7 Consultant
Evaluators (CEs). These individuals are volunteers from outside of
Illinois, have gone through rigorous evaluation training and work as university
administrators. Students may be approached by these individuals in the
cafeteria, before class or in the hallways. The CE's may ask about your
experience at GSU or to explain the schools' mission. The GSU committees
will be asking students to join focus groups and participate in individual
interviews.
There are still opportunities for students to get
involved in the accreditation process.  The subcommittees consist of
faculty from all departments, administrators and students. Students
volunteered at the last HLC information meeting in April because it was an
opportunity to share their experiences as GSU students and their insights into
GSU's strengths and weaknesses.  Participating in this type of forum is an
excellent opportunity for any students who want to make an impact at GSU, gain
valuable communications experience, or prepare for a career that requires group
collaboration.
Phoenix Newspaper, Governors State University, University Park, IL