Lawrence re-evaluated by NCA

Dylan Reed-Maxfield

The North Central Association, a government-chartered body responsible for accrediting educational institutions, will be conducting a review of Lawrence during the 2008-2009 school year. Each accredited institution in the nation must undergo an evaluation by a similar organization, of which five others exist throughout the U.S., every 10 years.
The process begins with Lawrence conducting a thorough self-study based on criteria published by the Higher Learning Commission, the specific branch of the NCA that deals with colleges and universities.
The HLC’s list consists of five main criteria, each with several sub-points. The criteria are mission and integrity, preparing for the future, student learning and effective teaching, acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge and engagement and service.
Throughout the categories, there is an emphasis on everything being connected in some way to a strong, clearly articulated mission.
The self-study is already in progress, and will receive more work over the summer. A draft will be released on campus this fall, at which time input and suggestions from the Lawrence community will be considered and revisions will be made. The study will be submitted in December of this year, and the review process will culminate with a visit by a four-member team of HLC evaluators February 23-25, 2009.
According to Associate Dean of the Faculty Nancy Wall, the evaluators are “people who have been in higher education for many years. Lots of them are presidents and deans from other universities.”
The focus of the evaluators’ visit will depend on what the HLC determines to be important based on the self-study submitted by Lawrence.
Although preparing the study will be a lot of work for the Lawrence administration, Wall believes there is more to be gained from it than simply accreditation by the NCA.
“It’s a chance for us to take a look at ourselves and celebrate what we’re doing well, as well as recognize the opportunity for improvements,” she said.
Although she was relatively new at Lawrence 10 years ago when the last review took place, Wall remembers that several changes were implemented as a result: The faculty mentoring program, the strategic plan for the institution, a revised financial aid policy and the freshman studies writing assessment program are all direct consequences of the 1998-1999 NCA review and all are still in effect at Lawrence.
Wall wished to emphasize that the accreditation process is a routine thing that all schools must undergo. More information regarding the self-study and what the review involves will be available in the fall.