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Office of Academic Affairs

Anne Alexander

1000 E. University Ave

Dept. 3302

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307 766-4286

Fax: 307 766-2606

Email: aalex@uwyo.edu

Background on HLC Regional Accreditation for UW

Institutions of higher education in the U.S. seek accreditation through two types of accreditation agencies, institutional and specialized. Institutional accreditation agencies are classified as regional and national.

  • National accreditation associations focus on certain types of colleges such as trade and technical institutions, or religious colleges such as seminaries and bible colleges.
  • Regional accreditation agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit degree granting colleges and universities.

There are six regions of the U.S. in which the regional agencies operate. Regional accreditation validates the quality of an institution as a whole and evaluates multiple aspects of an institution ranging from its academic offerings, governance and administration, mission, finances, and resources. 

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is UW’s regional accreditation agency.  It accredits degree-granting institutions of higher education across 19 states in the North Central region of the United States. Institutions that HLC accredits are evaluated against HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, a set of standards that institutions must meet to receive and/or maintain accredited status.  Accreditation from HLC allows UW to offer academic programs that are eligible for Title IV funding – that is, federal financial aid.  This means our regional accreditation is absolutely critical to our ability to offer robust, rigorous academic programs to students.

HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation reflect a set of guiding values. The accreditation process is based on a system of peer review. Approximately 1,300 educators from institutions of higher education serve as peer reviewers conducting accreditation evaluations for other institutions. Peer reviewers also serve on committees that make up the decision-making bodies of the accreditation process.

UW’s accreditation by the HLC dates back to 1915.  Our last re-accreditation visit was in 2009, when we were accredited for 10 years.  Upon completion of that re-accreditation cycle, UW was admitted by HLC to the Open Pathway to re-accreditation, featuring a 10-year reaffirmation cycle where quality assurance and quality improvement are both addressed.  This requires UW to provide to HLC with annual updates on institutional programs, locations, and finances, a major quality improvement project effort (QIP) conducted midway through our re-accreditation cycle addressing an bold goal, and a comprehensive quality assurance report supported by direct evidence, called the Assurance Argument, at the end of our accreditation cycle, supporting the peer review visit.    The full cycle for the Open Pathway allows us to treat accreditation not as a one-time event, but an opportunity to assure institutional quality for our students on an on-going basis, and to continuously improve in alignment with our strategic plan and land-grant mission.

In 2015, UW submitted our QIP proposal to HLC.  Our QIP proposal focused upon the implementation of our First Year Seminar (FYS), which was at that time newly-formulated as part of our new general education University Studies Program.  Our QIP proposal was the establishment and implementation of the FYS.  This included developing and offering enough FYS sections, within one year, that met the learning outcomes approved by the Faculty Senate; gathering data on the implementation of the FYS from faculty and students; and analyzing the project’s implementation, making adjustments to emerging problems and providing for FYS-system corrections in real time.  Our project report was submitted to HLC in January of 2017, and accepted and approved by HLC in March of 2017

Now, we’ve arrived at the time when we need to be planning and preparing for the final stage of our 10-year Open Pathway – the comprehensive site visit, supported by the Assurance Argument and evidence.


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Office of Academic Affairs

Anne Alexander

1000 E. University Ave

Dept. 3302

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307 766-4286

Fax: 307 766-2606

Email: aalex@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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