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IVCCD’s accreditation process & next steps

Dr. Lisa Breja Mark MonroeBy Dr. Lisa Breja & Mark Monroe

Continued accreditation is required for colleges to keep their doors open and offer classes to students. The process of accreditation means that an institution undergoes regular reviews and meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality. Continued accreditation also allows colleges to receive federal and state financial aid, which is a significant source of funds for students.

There are two basic types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic accreditation.  Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) is accredited by the Iowa Department of Education and by the Higher Learning Commission. Some programs, such as those in health occupations, undergo additional accreditation by professional agencies.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is one of six regional accreditors in the U.S. IVCCD participates in a 10-year accreditation cycle with HLC which includes annual reporting of student and financial data, mid-cycle review process, a multi-year improvement project, and a comprehensive review and visit.

IVCCD recently completed the mid-cycle review process and has embarked upon a four-year improvement project which will focus on student learning assessment at Ellsworth and Marshalltown Community Colleges.

HLC conducted a mid-cycle review in August 2019 to determine whether IVCCD met the minimum standards of quality. To prepare, faculty, staff and administrators prepared an extensive self-study and provided over 500 documents demonstrating how the colleges were meeting the standards. A review team evaluated the documentation and recommended continued accreditation. As part of the continued accreditation, the District is required to submit an interim report in December 2021 to provide an update on the program review process and student learning assessment.

To further Iowa Valley’s commitment to student learning, we have enrolled in the Higher Learning Commission’s Assessment Academy, a four-year commitment. We sent a team to a three-day academy in Chicago to learn what other schools are doing, and to make plans for projects that drive improvement in student learning outcomes. We will return to Chicago in two years to learn more and make plans for the final two years of the academy. Our project is to shift from a culture of teaching to a culture of student learning, which may seem like semantics … but it is not. It is changing from a culture that says “I know what the students need, and I’m going to teach them” to one where faculty constantly monitor how students are doing and adjust how we teach to improve their learning. This idea is not foreign to faculty. Some of us already embody this culture, but every institution can improve, and we are no exception.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement of academic quality is a key part of maintaining accreditation. Monitoring student progress, making improvements to courses and programs, and striving toward academic excellence are happening on a daily basis in our colleges to ensure continued accreditation.

Dr. Lisa Breja is the Institutional Researcher and HLC Accreditation Liaison Officer for Iowa Valley Community College District and Mark Monroe is a Math Faculty Member at Marshalltown Community College.

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