MU pursues continuous accreditation
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 23:10
Miami University is among twenty institutions participating in an accreditation initiative that attempts to define and examine the meaning of a college degree.
From ivy leagues to community colleges, institutions nationwide are subject to scrutiny over whether the education a student receives is worth the rising cost.
Carolyn Haynes, interim associate provost for undergraduate studies is spearheading the process of re-affirming Miami’s accreditation with the assistance of Cecilia Shore, director of the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching and University Assessment.
“In a larger sense, [accreditation is] part of a national dialogue about what a college degree should mean,” Shore said.
According to Haynes, accreditation is a voluntary, peer review process that universities undergo every ten years.
The process of applying for re-accreditation every decade serves four main purposes including assuring quality to the public, easing student transfer between institutions, providing institutions with access to federal financial aid and certifying a graduate’s credentials to employers.
“The process provides colleges and universities with an opportunity for reflection, honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, along with a chance to develop strategies for continued improvement,” Haynes said.
Shore said there is sense of national concern about whether students and parents are getting their money’s worth.
“We want to ask what should students be able to do with a degree that sets them apart from someone who doesn’t have one,” she said.
Miami, like most public universities in Ohio, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges roughly every 10 years, according to Shore.
The accreditation process is voluntary and varies by region. Miami’s last accreditation was in 2005.
“In order for us to receive federal funding and aid, we need to be accredited,” Shore said.
In the past, the review has allowed HLC to examine whether an institution meets five criteria including a clear mission, its ethics, its quality of education, responsibility for and evaluation of education and the sufficiency of the institutions resources.
Miami has continually been accredited through this process since 1913, however, Shore said this is undergoing change.
In 2011, President David Hodge committed Miami to be one of twenty institutions across the nation to pioneer “Open Pathways” which is said to be a more streamlined, continuous and electronic means for re-affirmation of accreditation. Open Pathways consists of an assurance process and an improvement process.
Miami, along with the other institutions who agreed to pilot the Open Pathways option for reaffirmation of accreditation, will take on a special improvement project, which involves evaluating the usefulness of the recently founded Degree Qualifications Profile, developed by the Lumina Foundation.
“Other than a small report with basic demographics, the accrediting body didn’t interact with universities between that 10 year time,” Shore said, adding that the new process incudes reports every year and larger reports at different points throughout the 10 year period.
Shore said the initiative came at an especially convenient time for Miami as the university is undergoing a plan to redesign, so that the issues can be discussed can be applied to that.
“Already, we are joining in a national dialogue and providing valuable information for the Miami Redesign Team,” she said.
Miami’s accreditation committee will report regularly to the HLC and cohort members about the experiences with the Degree Qualification Profile and the new Open Pathway process as they prepare for an accreditation visit in 2015.
“We believe that by engaging in these approaches, we will gain significant insights into the efficacy of the Degree Qualifications Profile for Miami University and other similar institutions,” Haynes said.