Joint Project between The Higher Learning Commission/NCA and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education
Goals of the Project
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) offers to its long-term, stable four-year and two-year members the option of creating a customized self-study process. The goal of such customization is to help a college or university integrate specific institutional commitments or projects directly into the processes for gaining continuing accreditation from the Commission. Many HLC members have signaled a strong interest in participating in the Foundations of Excellence (FOE) program created and tested by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI). Almost half of the four-year institutions that participated as Founding Institutions in the pilot testing of the Foundations of Excellence model were institutions accredited by the Commission. Three of the ten two-year colleges that pilot-tested the two-year model also were HLC institutions. An initial project to create both four-year and two-year models, also supported by JNGI, involved over three hundred campuses, many of which are HLC institutions.
One of HLCs strategic priorities is to expand the Commission's range of services to assure and advance quality in higher learning. By offering the option to colleges and universities to integrate into their accreditation process their desire to focus attention on evaluating and improving their students' first-year experience or the transfer student experience, the Commission would expand its range of service to support a special emphasis on these topics. This joint JNGI/HLC project is made possible by a grant from Lumina Foundation for Education.
Application Requirements for the JNGI/HLC First-Year Project
- Contact the Commission staff liaison assigned to the institution about interest in this project.
- The opportunity to participate in this project will be offered first to institutions in the PEAQ program that request participation as part of a special emphasis option. AQIP institutions may choose, in consultation with AQIP staff, to translate participation into an identified action goal.
- Applying PEAQ institutions will meet the expectations outlined for the customized accreditation review process. Acceptance consists of a formal MOU signed by the institution and the Commission. Note the requirement that the self-study process also include a study of how the institution meets the Commission's Criteria for Accreditation.
- All HLC institutions accepted by the JNGI will make use of stipulated survey data, a requisite part of Foundations of Excellence.
Expectations of Institutions Participating in the JNGI/HLC Project
- Participation includes using web-based materials owned by JNGI as well as other commercial instruments or first-year / transfer focus self-study tools that might be useful to participants. Participating institutions will follow all of the expectations set by JNGI.
- All participating institutions will send a team to attend a cohort start-up meeting of two days. Of this two day period, 75 percent of the content would be the standard JNGI introduction to its self-study and improvement planning process; the remaining 25 percent of the time would be spent adapting this more generic process to the HLC customized self-study or to AQIP processes.
- PEAQ participating institutions will host a pre-visit by the team chair as well as by the comprehensive team charged with conducting a special emphasis evaluation.
- All participating institutions will report annually on their progress in implementing the plan; the agreement to report will start with the PEAQ on-site visit and will continue for two years beyond that visit or, for AQIP participants, will follow an agreed-upon AQIP schedule.
- All participating institutions agree to participate in the evaluation processes created by HLC and JNGI.
- Participating institutions accept the following fee structure:
- The JNGI price per institution for the first year of the process, set by JNGI.
- Each participating campus will be required to administer two surveys for data collection purposes. Survey administration costs are included in the FOE fee.
- Extra costs for the FOE program will be cost-recovery for travel and accommodations at the Foundations of Excellence Launch meeting, and selection of additional and optional services not covered in the base fee.
- The Commission will charge its standard PEAQ fees for the chair pre-visit and the on-site comprehensive visit. Those fees depend on the actual costs of the pre-visit and the size of the team. HLC staff support may include as appropriate an on-campus visit conducted for the standard Commission fee. AQIP institutions will pay the fees for the existing AQIP processes involved, as appropriate, in Strategy Forums and Annual Report Reviews.
- All participating institutions will pay a nominal fee for the feedback reports.
The Commission Commitment
- All participating institutions will receive the Commission staff support currently provided through AQIP or PEAQ.
- The Commission will provide programs supportive of this project at the Annual Meeting.
- HLC will follow its common PEAQ practices of consulting with participating institutions on the makeup of the team, and will collaborate with JNGI to create a pool of evaluators to support the special emphasis component of the visit. This may mean that members of the team will come from outside the region. While JNGI may recommend appropriate individuals, final selection and training of the team will remain the responsibility of The Higher Learning Commission.
- Following the model of AQIP action plans, the Commission will provide participating institutions with feedback on each annual report.
- HLC will retain the sole responsibility for its final accrediting actions.
- JNGI and HLC will produce periodically a written summary and analysis of the evaluation processes embedded in the project. At the conclusion of the three years, a formal evaluation report will be provided to all appropriate constituents, including the HLC Board of Trustees and participating institutions.
JNGI/HLC Project Application Process
Sample MOU: Commission and Institution
For more information, go to http://www.fyfoundations.org.